Swedish poet and writer Agnes Török has been on a journey to discover the truth about happiness. At some point on her path she met Burning Eye and together we produced her brand new collection Happiness is an Art Form available from our webstore from today. Agnes very kindly took some time out to write a guest blog on her new release….
What is Happiness Is An Art Form About?
This book is about a lot of different things. Some quite difficult things. Like being stuck in hospital (don’t get kidney infection, it turns out kidneys are kind of important – take care of your kidneys people!), but meeting the coolest old ladies ever to rock hospital gowns. About coping with mental ill-health. About living in a political world that is sometimes infuriating and isolating.
But it is also about a lot of joyful things. Things like having a big, crazy family. Things like loving chocolate cake. Things like learning to love yourself. And about days when all you want to do is stay in and drink (tea).
As much as it is a book about personal experiences and journeys, it is also a book about statistics and facts. About politics and economics. About the science of happiness and what would happen if we took it seriously. Nothing big really. We’d just, sort of, have to change the world.
Here’s a sneak peak of one of the poems, made into video by BBC:
How did write a book about the science of happiness?
Before this book was a book, it was a lot of different things. First, it was an idea. An idea that there must be things I could do to be happier in my daily life and to understand happiness better. It was an idea that led to me spending a year living according to current happiness research, to do my own academic research on happiness, and to start asking a lot of people a lot of questions.
After this book was a TED talk, it became an award-winning one-woman spoken word show. It was called ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It – Take This Survey’. It toured festivals for science, wellbeing and arts, winning praise along the way.
When this book had already been an idea, and a TED talk, and a spoken word show, and was in the process of becoming a book, it also became a workshop series. The workshop series was called The Wellbeing Writing Workshops, and it mixed exercises from arts therapies and happiness research with good old writing prompts into a seven-week course focused on boosting coping mechanisms.
And that’s when I realised that happiness was an art form. When I realised just how much of a difference writing and creating had made to me and other people struggling with mental ill-health. Whether it’s dealing with stress or daily anxiety, or with bigger and scarier diagnosis, having a creative outlet can make such a difference. Which is why Happiness Is An Art Form doesn’t just include poems, but writing prompts as well. It isn’t just a way to see my writing, but also a way to use your own.
In other words, this book is the end of a long line of learning, but also only the beginning. A point where my learning is passed on, and yours can continue with a few more tips along the way.
What kind of art form is happiness?
The kind you can invent, and create, and decide for yourself. The kind you make anew every day, whatever challenges come your way. The kind you need support from others to master.
And the kind where creative tools and personal outlets can make a big bloody difference. Because no one is happy all the time. And everyone struggles at least sometime. Some of us, a lot of the time. But we can all get a bit more help so that we don’t need to struggle quite so often. The book is the best tricks I’ve learned. The way I’m trying to master my happiness. And some exercises and thought experiments to add to yours too.
That’s way the last part of the book is full of writing exercises and other forms of please-try-this-at-home. Because it’s possible that what I’ve learned from all this research and all this living according to it might just, in some small way, apply to your learning about happiness too.
I’ll be going on tour with the book, launching it at Edinburgh International Book Festival on August 16th (today! Get tickets https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/whats-on/agnes-toeroek-chimwemwe-undi) and then at a few stops across the UK. I am so excited to show this BEAUTIFUL (thanks, Burning Eye!) book and perform the new and old poems in it to brand new audiences.
I will also be continuing to release online poetry videos through my crowdfunding platform on Patreon, releasing one new poem every month. Have your say on what the next one should be by subscribing on (link: https://www.patreon.com/AgnesTorokPoet ).
More news will be releasing over the next short while, so do keep a look out on the social media channels
What’s your top happiness tip?
It’s never weak to ask for help, and always makes other people feel happy to be needed. So if you’re having a rough time, or just have some good news – share it with the people close to you. Happiness is a collaborative art form. We get the best results when we work at it together.