Poetry Therapy Autumn 19

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Poetry Therapy The Irish Poetry Therapy Network Journal Volume 4: Issue 2: Autumn 2019 Volume 1: Issue 2: Autumn 2016

IPTN Belfast Conference : 12 October ‘19

The Hippocrates Poetry Initiative

Action Week New York, New York

Report from Dr Shelley Tracey: IPTN’s new chair

IPTN Irish Poetry Therapy Network 1


Editorial Dear Readers,

Editorial Theresa Kelly p.2

Welcome to the Autumn 2019 issue of Poetry Therapy, produced by the Irish Poetry Therapy Network (IPTN).

The Hippocrates Poetry Initiative Paula Cunningham p.3

We are very happy to include a piece by Paula Cunningham on The Hippocrates Poetry Initiative, where she introduces us to this poetry and medicine initiative, and to some of her poems. Paula is our keynote speaker at the upcoming IPTN conference in Belfast, where attendees can chat with Paula and learn more about her work.

Action Week New York Part I Ger Campbell p.4

Message From New IPTN Chair Shelley Tracey p.6

Ger Campbell gives us Part 1 of her overview of Action Week New York run in association with iaPoetry, and Dr Shelley Tracey, who is the incoming IPTN Chair, gives us some interesting insight into her own introduction to Poetry Therapy.

Book Review: Poetry As Healer Jack J. Leedy M.D.

Theresa Kelly p.7 Contact Us IPTN Conference: Poetry as Healer p.8

Email: irishpoetrytherapynetwork @gmail.com

Blog: www.irishpoetytherapynetwork. blogspot.ie

Cover Photo: Courtesy Shelley Tracey

Carol Boland shares with us plans for the upcoming IPTN Conference and news about coming events. We also have a book review on Poetry As Healer edited by Jack J. Leedy MD. We hope you find this issue interesting. As always, we invite readers to submit articles, book/poetry/film reviews and workshops relating to the area of poetry therapy and how it supports the personal development and therapeutic development of the individual. Theresa Kelly PTP IAHIP/IACP


The Hippocrates Poetry Initiative A History of Snow It was wild sudden. Her daddy phoned me to work. She was that hot he just had a sheet over her. I felt the heat before I lifted the sheet and seen the rash. You’d never forget that rash. People say to me ‘How would you know?’ and I just say ‘You’d know if you seen it.’ Purple.

By Paula Cunningham .

The Hippocrates Poetry Initiative for Poetry and Medicine was established in 2009. It provides an international forum exploring the interface between poetry and medicine. A two-day symposium is held annually, where the Hippocrates Poetry Prize and awards are presented. I’ve been lucky to be a prizewinner on two occasions and one of the winning poems. A History of Snow, is featured At the time of writing, I worked as a dentist, treating adults and children with disabilities and complex medical problems. I took a comprehensive medical history at each new encounter; this sometimes elicited stories which were rich, urgent, and charged. My poem attempts to capture something of this - an anonymised and re-imagined amalgam of stories I’d heard. Snow is a potent symbol. I particularly thought of Gabriel Conroy standing by the window in James Joyce’s story ‘The Dead’ and I had fun shoehorning as many other allusions as possible into the final stanzas, making it a history of snow in that sense also. It was important to me to capture the working-class Belfast vernacular and this presented a challenge: to be authentic without being patronizing.

The wee spots and these big blotches like birthmarks – everywhere only her face. Her wee lady and all. I phoned and they said do the glass test. I pressed really hard and her bawling, but it didn’t change so we brung her up. There was this old man in the queue very wheezy, he said to the girl ‘I want them to see this child before they see me.’ And within two minutes we’re in the ambulance. She was bouncing up and down on the trolley, you wouldn’t believe it. Like something out of the Exorcist. The doctor come and he told us prepare for the worst. She’s a bit of hearing loss, that’s all, in big rooms, like, but she’s grand. They say it’ll all come right, the ear adjusts. Her daddy brung her snow in a lunchbox – she’d never seen it before. They’d pushed her cot right up to the window, the flakes sweeping past like confetti, a bit of a rose in her cheeks, and her all eyes. The cars in the car park were buried in minutes, it was one snowy evening, the whole of the country froze. She’d been in four weeks and I mind she was eating an orange –

Paula Cunningham is the Keynote Speaker at our Healing Through Poetry Conference on 12th October ’19. She lives in Belfast. A Dog called Chance, and Heimlich's Manoeuvre, published by smith|doorstop, were shortlisted for the FentonAldeburgh, Seamus Heaney Centre, and Strong Shine Prizes. She was 2nd in the 2014 Costa Short Story Award, and currently holds an award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Check out Hippocrates at: http://hippocratespoetry.org

a mandarin one of the nurses had peeled. That’s when I knew she really was on the mend. They said if we’d even been five minutes later. I think of that old man yet. Paula Cunningham


New York, New York

and this was her first encounter with the use of poetry therapy. Her attendance added a sense of excitement and the room was filled to capacity.

Ger Campbell reviews Action Week - A Writing Retreat

A Reading with Erica Jong

Although Action Week was advertised in the brochures as a ‘Writing Retreat’, the term Action Week was still used by attendees. So, once again, I attended a fun-filled and intensive set of workshops in July 2019, guaranteed to promote creativity and discussion. The event was hosted by Lila Weisberger, master mentor in poetry therapy. The venue was Lila’s apartment in the Upper East Side, Manhattan. The following is a brief account of some of what was on offer. Telling Healing with Lila Weisberger


This workshop allowed for an exploration of different aspects of mourning which is temporary and grief which remains with us. We looked at ‘resolved grief’ which is healthy and ‘unresolved grief’ which is unhealthy. Poems and articles provided us with a focus for our writing. The writing shared by participants was deeply moving. Erica Jong, author and activist, also attended Lila’s workshop

It was quite a privilege to meet Erica Jong and listen to her recount some of her past encounters and adventures, which were also most entertaining. She read from Erica and Lila her latest poetry collection titled ‘The World Began With Yes’. Erica explained that some of the poems were taken from poetry written decades ago and some had come about as a result of her work as an activist. She believes that it is poetry that helps keep us alive and helps wake us up. All participants were gifted with a signed copy of ‘The World Began with Yes’. Erica has a large presence, filled with a deep passion for her causes and a lust for life. Nature As with Jill Teague


Jill’s workshop was held in a quiet secluded corner of Central


Park. The use of the Medicine Wheel and animal totem cards are some of the methods used by Jill as a means of helping us connect with the natural environment. We began by sitting together in a group and Jill provided us with handouts and explained the concept of nature as healer. Each person then moved away from the group to engage in ‘alone time’. The aim of ‘alone time’ is to heighten awareness through observation, listening and sensing. David Whyte uses the phrase “alert aloneness”. This involves being fully present, but relying on the wisdom of our own company. I found this a most useful way of connecting with feelings through the process of observation, listening and stillness. A House Called Tomorrow: The Poetry Challenge with Alejandra Monroy As well as being a poetry therapist, Ale, from Mexico, is also a teacher. She teaches at second level and explained how she had encouraged her pupils to sign up for a week long poetry challenge. The pupils received a daily e-mail with a stanza from a poem by Alberto Rios. It also included an activity

that challenged the students to explore personal experiences. The responses were posted on line, which led to further discussions. Ale provided us with all of the excerpts that she had posted on a daily basis. The challenges involved writing a letter to the poet Alberto Rios, writing a six-word story based on what people would say about you when you died. The workshop was a testament to Ale’s creativity providing us with lots of different ideas in the use of poetry therapy with clients. The River with Ger Campbell


The workshop began with a guided imagery. The purpose was to imagine your life as a river starting as a tiny stream, bubbling up, growing, branching out and finally meeting the sea at journey’s end. Two of David Whyte’s poems were used: The Seven Streams and Where Many Rivers Meet. I combined the two poems into one in a reading. I read the first half of Where Many Rivers Meet then Jill Teague read the first half of The Seven Streams. We then read the second half of the poems. The use of an Irish accent and a Welsh accent reading the poems as one poem provided a strong Celtic sound which suited the chosen poems. Prompts were provided to write from. I wasn’t sure how the process of two poems and two voices would work, but I had enough faith in the group to take the risk and it worked.

Part 2 of ‘New York, New York’ will be included in our spring issue.

Coming Events Let the Voices be Heard -

The Hero’s with Sharon Groth


Sharon Groth is currently training as a poetry therapist and provided us with an exceptional workshop. The workshop was in three parts: Part One: The call to adventure. Part two: Slaying your dragon. Part three: Coming home. The call to adventure can be looked at from many perspectives, such as life changing events that precipitate change, or crossing a threshold to function at a higher level. The slaying of the dragon might be a crisis or the ability to cope with life changing events. Through our writing we explored the type of resources needed in order to slay your dragon. Also, what are the consequences if you fail to slay your dragon? The final section looks at the hero’s return. What type of new skills and strategies have been gained? What lessons have been learned? What happens if the hero cannot settle back into his/her previous existence? As a group we went on an adventure together and followed prompts that resulted in very honest and in-depth sharing.


IACP Conference Congrats to David Madden, who is presenting a paper at the IACP conference ‘Let the Voices be Heard’ in Belfast on Thursday 10th October '19. His subject is 'Treating oppression and discrimination: The use of poetry therapy with women'. Apart from his expertise and qualifications, David is also an iaPoetry PTP trainee with Ger Campbell of IPTN. Check out the IACP website for more details of the conference.

Lifelines Sat, 12 October 2019@ 8pm Quaker Meeting House Monkstown, Dublin - €20 Poetry, music and conversation exploring the power of poetry to provide solace and insight into the experience of serious illness and loss. Hosted by author Liz McManus. Readings by poets Jane Clarke, Katie Donovan and Geraldine Mitchell as well as from the work of the late Shirley McClure. Panel discussion on role of poetry and creative expression in supporting people through serious illness and life’s inevitable losses. Music by Eamon Sweeney and Cormac Breatnach. All funds raised will go to Our Lady's Hospice & Care Services Blackrock Hospice.

My first encounter with IPTN and the domain of Poetry Therapy in Ireland was at the 2013 Poetry Therapy convention in Maynooth, which had the title of ‘Precious Jewels and Broken Vases: Finding a Map by Exploring Poetry through Creative Writing.’ The value of poetry, as reflected in this title, has been affirmed by many writers. In her Poetry Handbook, Mary Oliver states:

A Message from new IPTN Chair, Dr Shelley Tracey

‘Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry’. (1)

I feel privileged to be writing this message in my new role as Chair of the Irish Poetry Therapy Network. I am glad to step into the well-travelled shoes of previous Chairs and into the flourishing world of Poetry Therapy in Ireland. As the first qualified Poetry Therapy Practitioner in the North of Ireland, I join a group of experienced colleagues in the South. Our poetry therapy practice takes place in a range of contexts: in the community; in mental health settings; in schools; with individuals; in supervision sessions; in private practice; in the health service; in prison and probation; and with groups dealing with grief, loss and other issues. The IPTN promotes awareness of Poetry Therapy and shares knowledge and practice though seminars, various workshops, information sessions and annual conferences. You can find more information about the IPTN on our website.

According to Jane Hirshfield, ‘Poetry’s work is not simply the recording of inner and outer perceptions, it makes by words and music new possibilities of perceiving. Distinctive realms appear to us when we look and hear by poem-light.’ (2) In my experience as a Poetry Therapy Practitioner, looking and hearing by ‘poem-light’ can be transformative for clients, whatever their challenges. Poetry therapy is a member of the family of Expressive Arts Therapies, which includes Art, Music and Drama Therapy. Poetry therapy involves responding to poems, stories and images to enhance self-expression, self-confidence and the ability to deal with various life issues. Rich Furman and his colleagues define poetry therapy as ‘The structured and therapeutic use of reading and writing poems that seeks to draw out the innate resources and healing power that lie within each individual’ (p.146) (3)


I look forward to working with this group of poetry therapy professionals and, in October, chairing the first Poetry Therapy Conference in Belfast.

REFERENCES (1)Mary Oliver, A Poetry Handbook, Mariner Books, 1994. (2)Jane Hirshfield, Ten WindowsHow great poems transform the world, Penguin Random House 2017 (3)Rich Furman Eleanor Pepi Downey Robert L. Jackson and Kimberly Bender, ‘Poetry Therapy as a Tool for Strengths-Based Practice’, in Advances in Social Work, pages 146- 157.

Dr Shelley Tracey (PTP) is a poet, educator and researcher with an interest in the origins and development of creativity. She has extensive experience of facilitating creative writing and creativity workshops in formal education, lifelong learning, and voluntary and community settings. In 2012, she participated in the Poetry in Motion Project for the Community Arts Partnership, Northern Ireland. Her academic publications include a chapter on textpoems in The Art of Poetic Inquiry (2012), edited by S. Thomas, A. L. Cole and S. Stewart (Backalong Books). Articles about engaging adult literacy learners in poetry to enhance their voice were in LEARNing Landscapes Fine Print and RaPAL Journal. Shelley’s poems have been published in a variety of anthologies, including Abridged, Artemis, Ringing the Changes and Quantum Leap.

Book Review

Poetry as Healer Jack J. Leedy, M.D. Reviewed by Theresa Kelly Poetry as Healer is a collection of essays dealing with the Why, How and Where poetry therapy is conducted. The contributors to the volume include psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and social workers. In his introduction, Leedy maps the path that poetry therapy has followed down the centuries from the Stone Age shaman who began by incorporating poetry into their rituals, moving to the Greek and Roman period and on to modern poetry therapy. In Part I the contributors deal with Why – Why use poetry in therapy. In Sue Robinson and Jean Mowbray’s essay they write of their

experience overseeing and facilitating the publication of The Tatler – a literary publication from the patients at the Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital. Patients were encouraged to submit their own pieces of writing and before long increasing numbers of patients submitted their poetry. As the project progressed so did the understanding of the medical staff working with these patients. Staff began to see the deeper impact the actual writing of poetry had on the participants and how such writing appeared to be uniquely suited to serve the psychotherapeutic goal. In Part II, the writers look at the How of poetry therapy. The topics covered in this section include the exploration of the unconscious through poetry therapy, looking at the principles of poetry therapy. They look at how poetry can act as a communication tool within psychotherapy and how poetry therapy can be used as a tool of group therapy. Part III looks at Where, where Poetry Therapy can be conducted. These essays cover locations from a prison to a rehabilitation group, or just in the therapist’s office. This is a very useful handbook on poetry therapy and, depending on the clientele you are working with, you can dip in and dip out of as appropriate.


MENTAL HEALTH & THE ARTS SERIES A new interdisciplinary, cross-border initiative What can we do with our vulnerability? Words to Make Meaning of Life’s Experiences Friday 25 October 2019 @ 6.00 pm-9.15 pm The Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts, Belfast Register at www.theduncairn.com/eve nts/vulnerability

Irish Poetry Therapy Network – IPTN is a non-profit organisation that provides an environment where participants explore at first hand, through the use of poetry therapy and bibliotherapy, the healing power of poetry as a means of identifying and dealing with various life issues.

IPTN 8th Annual Conference

HEALING THROUGH POETRY Saturday 12 October ‘19 Wellington Park Hotel, Belfast

Yes, it is that time of year again when IPTN are pleased to announce its annual conference. Healing Through Poetry is our 8th conference, and it will be held in Belfast, the home of the Titanic quarter. Belfast is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, standing on the banks of the River Lagan, on the east coast of Ireland. If you have ever wanted to visit this city, now is your opportunity.

A Day of Self-Discovery The self-discovery day begins with a Welcome and Introduction by Dr Shelley Tracey PTP, the newly elected Chair of IPTN, who will introduce the programme. This is followed by the first session of the day, Travelling Through Time with Poetry led by Carol Boland. The concept of the inner child is not a new one. It is present in mythology where heroes are children who are threatened in some way. Carol travels back in time through the poems of Carol Ann Duffy, to explore how childhood wounds continue to constrain adult life.

The Uses of Constraint We are delighted to welcome Paula Cunningham, as our Keynote speaker at the conference. Paula, poet and writer, was born in Omagh and now lives in Belfast. Her pamphlet A Dog called Chance was a winner in The Poetry Business Competition. Paula’s poems have been widely anthologised and she will begin with a short reading from her work. This will be followed by a reflection on Auden’s famous statement: ‘Poetry makes nothing happen’. Participates will take part in a creative activity with the possibility of drafting a poem.

More to me than meets the Eye The afternoon will start with an intriguing workshop entitled, More to me than meets the Eye with Theresa Kelly PTP. Here we will write from the Trickster Myth, taking One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest as our prompt. Theresa will explore the constraints modern society can place on the individual as a result of its views on mental


health issues. Working with symbols of our own shadow side, we will aim to begin to integrate that which we most dislike in ourselves and so bring liberation from imprisonment that unconsciousness invariably leads to. Creating a breathing space : Writing and collage for selfcare Mari Alschuler PhD is an Associate Professor of Social Work with Youngstown State University, USA, and a writer. In her hands-on workshop, we will explore various methods for using this limited free space for our self-care. These methods can also help poetry and mental health therapists to heal from bearing witness to often traumatic client stories. We will explore poetry relating to self-care as prompts for writing and make a collage based on a self-care theme. Book your place now as numbers are limited Email us at irishpoetrytherapynetwork@ gmail.com Cost €85 or €65 IPTN/Lapidus members. Full details at irishpoetrytherapynetwork . blogspot.ie

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