Poetry in Healthcare
March 31, 2017
Poetry in Healthcare
By Diane Kaufman
I am a poet and a child psychiatrist. Beginning in childhood and all the way through my now senior years, I have found poetry to be a life saver. It is a paradox that poetry written in words can help convey that which feels beyond mere words to express. Poetry is like magic. It casts its spell by using language in unique ways through a concentration of resonating elements such as but not limited to sound, rhythm, structure, imagery, energy, and intention.
When a teenage patient of mine tragically turned to suicide to relieve her pain, I found myself thinking of her (she remained always close in my thoughts), when given the exercise to write a “poetic progress note” during an online course about creativity. That is how the poem, “What Makes Us” was born into the world. It is a poem about suicide that aims to prevent suicide. The poem was written on Memorial Day 2016. How appropriate. The meaning we give to our memories or perhaps our memories give to us, and how we use our life experiences, no matter what the pain, to grow ourselves further in healing ways, can be a gift of poetry.
When I read that a woman’s ex-boyfriend had thrown acid in her face and she might go blind, as if her being attacked might not be merely enough violence to warrant a headline, as domestic violence is so commonplace, I was galvanized to write a poem. Or put another way, the poem was galvanized to have me write it. I had been reading of women being assaulted and women being murdered by their ex-boyfriends, lovers and husbands for years. I found myself within the last six months saving articles about women being hurt and dying. All those stories of these women, all those words and images stirred wildly inside me. A chaos trying to organize itself into some kind of meaning, even if that meaning is called “meaninglessness,” at least now it has a shape, a container, and can be shared with self and others. This is how “Love’s Cry” entered the world. It is a poem about domestic violence that has such powerful energy. The poem wants to do good in the world. The sickness which is violence must be cured. It must be prevented from ever happening. I found images to go with the poem and collaborated with other artists to have it become embodied as a poem video to prevent domestic violence. “Love’s Cry” needs to be heard around the world.
I had written the poem, “To All Hearts That Break” and could hear a song within the poem. The poem was about the tragic deaths of Bobbi Kristina Brown and her mother, Whitney Houston. I felt heartbroken for them. Addiction and violence were part of their lives. I have experienced loss of loved ones in my life, and perhaps this, too, shaped the poem that emerged. In collaboration with a church art’s ministry, the poem became a beautiful song. Through good fortune, I met Adam McInnis, a musician, audio producer, and videographer. The poem-song was then transformed into a visual experience: “I’m Here ~ Remembrance of Love.” “I’m Here” is so sad and yet at the same time so spiritually uplifting. How can this be? Poetry helps us experience the “opposites” such that a synthesis can take place. A new sensation of knowing has come to us from wellsprings within. Such is the gift of creativity.
I am inspired by the art of poetry. Writing poetry helps us slow down time so that we are able to reflect, and share our story of being human with others. We all have joy and pain. We are all now alive. One day we will be sick. For many that day is now. We are all destined to die. All this is the human experience. Poetry helps us to heal when we are sick and helps us heal when we are well. Poetry is a medicine that is free of charge, available to all, and can help heal the world.
For more by the author, please visit the following:
What Makes Us: https://youtu.be/byxG8c793t8
Love's Cry: https://youtu.be/s12-UADSaOA
I'm here - Remembrance of Love: https://youtu.be/sumU1nhOmOc
Author website: www.artsmedicineforhealthandhealing.com