span one’s lifetime. Either way, the objective here is to create something that is true to the story, that maintains the voice of the interview, and that, at the same time, speaks to something much larger about life, about all people. Then I will print out the poem, frame it, and hand it to the participant. We will read the poem out loud. Sometimes the participant reads the poem, sometimes I do. Other times we take turns in reading it. This performance of the poem, I have discovered, can be extremely crucial to the experience of the participant, because this is where his or her story comes alive and in a way that he or she had never imagined. Suddenly they see their story is not only their story but many other people’s—they notice something in it that touches them deeply, and I believe this is when the most important task of healing occurs. This moment of becoming a part of something universal. Also, no matter how sad or heartbreaking their story is, the poem cannot risk to be sentimental, so they can see that there is some universal value and theme in the narrative of their lives. (Of course, all this is coming from my experiences at the Mayo Clinic, but I’m certain that it’ll be very similar to this.) Then, finally, we will share the poem, pictures, and hopefully a video on the blog so that people around the world can read their story. And, if anyone is moved by the story and wants to help the person or family, they will be more than welcome to do so. That way, hopefully, at least some of the families I meet will get some tangible support as well.
What about poetry do you think can create healing? Poetry is deeply intimate and cosmic at once. Poetry is the synergy of the personal and the universe. Also, poetry is very close to music—not just in terms of rhyme and meter—but in terms of cadence and lines. All of this makes poetry an art form that is our story but also everyone else’s. There are only words on the page, but we can’t help but feel the music as we read it. All of this, in my opinion, facilitates the healing effect in poetry.
What has poetry meant to you in your life? Poetry for me is like a friend who is extremely difficult to please but who loves you more than anything else. It’s a meditation on the self, the everyday, and the cosmos. Above all though, poetry is prayer.
Do you have any stories about when poetry has helped you heal? I wouldn’t necessarily say that poetry has helped me heal, but there have been times when the only way I could express my feelings was through poetry. For example, when the first quake struck Nepal on April 25, I couldn’t express in any other way but through words.
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Published on Jan 12, 2016
Winter is here, but adventure awaits! Strike up a conversation, spark a new interest, or slip into something familiar in this issue of Stowa...