Beyond poetry’s elegant use of language, it has the power to heal. Deeply.
John Fox explores this capacity in Poetic Medicine. Through the use of poetry, writers/readers can gain access to the restorative power of creativity. This a different tack than the general premise of art therapy, in which psychology is used to interpret and shape work. Fox believes in the inherent power contained in the actual process of writing, in naming and describing one's own reality.
In the chapter When God Sighs, healing from loss, illness and death are explored, with the idea that writing can be a vehicle to confront and transform our feelings about these difficult subjects. Through this process of naming and claiming, I've written about childhood abuse, and through poetry and scripting performance, tried create something hopefully, universal in its scope.
In Poems of Witness in a Conflicted World, Fox uses the chapter to call on writers/readers to look at social issues, take a stand and publicly comment on them. The idea of bearing witness is taken to a new level, as Fox insists that the writer can be a be a challenge to the status quo, and should take on that role as challenger as an explicit responsibility. Again, in asking an audience to take a hard look at the culture-wide ambivalence toward violence, I try to echo Fox's sentiments in personally bearing witness and asking others to share in that. The cultural issue of violence and our ambivalent, voyeuristic relationship to it continues to be a theme for me, and I hope to create dialogs with the audience on these issues.
Throughout the book, Fox uses works by famous and unknown writers to illustrate how poetry sheds light on dark places and shapes hearts and minds. While the book also contains writing exercises, its strength is its call to writers and readers to root themselves in the beauty, the struggles, and the daily life that surrounds them. I found the general perspective, his direct writing style, and excerpts of a vast range of poetry an incredible resource. It reinforced why I write, the reason I choose the subject matter I choose, and my understanding of who is my audience.
Poetic Medicine Bag: (From the Poetic Medicine website)
Exercise 3: Prayer Poems
Prayer is a way to communicate with the Divine.
Prayer is a way to love the spirit of whatever is dear to you. Prayer is a way to let your heart cry out. Prayer is a way to come exactly as you are to the Unknown, the mystery of it all. Bring to your prayer what is raw, what is sublime. Prayer is a way to welcome a wider vision of life for you. Are you aware of the silence that your prayer words join with? Prayer is words strung like beads on the thread of your silence.
What fertile silence do you long to enter? How does this kind of silence effect your world?
How does divine guidance respond to your plea for help? What oppressive silence do you want to break? And by saying what? Who reaches your heart in those times when no one else can?
What are you in awe of? What do you want to praise? What awakens your heart to great joy?
Try writing a prayer of your own. Here is an example:
Pour my eternity
into the chalice of today
Let me drink, drink, drink
my journeys down
and travel the night on three white horses
I with a rose
dangling from my mouth
a star in each eye
a sun in my heart
and the moon to give my crossroads light.