There is a reason poets often say, ‘Poetry saved my life,’ for often the blank page is the only one listening to the soul’s suffering, the only one registering the story completely, the only one receiving all softly and without condemnation,” --Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Many of us remember lines from our favorite poems that we first learned in high school English classes. Maybe it was Robert Frost’s call to exploration, “I took the (road) less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.” Or perhaps it was William Henley’s empowering words: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” Or Emily Dickinson’s hopeful image: “Hope is the thing with feathers, That perches in the soul” Or Dylan Thomas’s call to fight death: “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Poetry has long been a form that can express the range of human experience. Poets have explored positive topics such as health, happiness, hope, faith, belonging, love. Poets have also explored the darker topics—loss, grief, anger, death, pain, fear. From Aristotle to the Biblical psalms, from Shakespeare to free verse and now to slam poetry, rap, hip hop, open mic poetry readings, poetry remains an alive, diverse, evolving form and practice.
So how can writing poetry be therapeutic? It can help us to define ourselves, to explore our issues and to develop a voice from which to speak honestly. Poetry can help us to have a written record of our thoughts and feelings to reflect on. It can also help us to find deeper meaning and purpose in our experiences. Finally, poetry can help to create form out of our sometimes chaotic and messy lives.
My background: I am a therapist, writer and teacher. I have two master’s degrees—one in writing and one in counseling. I taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center for over ten years. I now have been a therapist for over ten years. I combine my two passions of poetry and therapy and offer individual, groups and workshops on poetry therapy and healing through writing.
How does poetry therapy work in practice? As a poetry therapist, I will bring poems to our sessions that I feel fit the current issues or struggles you are having. Together we will read the poem(s), reflect on content, images, meaning. Then I will have ideas/suggestions for writing based on the poem chosen. Sessions typically include reading a poem and writing but also each session includes time to talk, and to process life issues.
Who is a good fit for poetry therapy? Writers, poets, musicians, artists, deep thinkers. Creative people who feel stuck. Those who love metaphor, imagery, story, lyric. People who want to explore alternate ways to heal.
Interested? Drop me a note and let me know you would like to explore poetry therapy!
Wanna try a poetry therapy exercise? First read Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” poem. Then take one line from the poem that resonates with you or your life, write it down at the top of your page and begin to write about that idea. Good luck!
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.