There are words in us


There are words in us

That don't know how

To get to the surface.


Words hidden in our marrow

Afraid to show themselves

Afraid the world will come apart

If they are spoken.

—Stephen Levine

The Beginning

Poetic Medicine emerged in 1996 out of a brainstorming session with my friend Beth.

Beth Carmack and I were tossing back and forth to each other titles for my new book. As we free associated, this phrase, spoken suddenly by Beth, resonated immediately for both of us.  Poetic Medicine became not only the title of the book but the creative spark for this whole work!

There was further affirmation to support this descriptive term a few years later.   While visiting the sacred ground of Canyon de Chelly, a Diné (Navajo) woman, Lupita McClanahan, described me to others as “a medicine man.”

Well, I don’t know about that!  But committed to poetry and its healing and transformational potential?  Yes!

When I was thirteen years old I was sitting with my mother and some of her friends.  My mother, truly supportive, said to her friends: “When John grows up, he’s going to be a poet.”  Although I don’t actually recall this, my mother told me that at that moment I turned towards her and said, “I am a poet.”  I had begun.

What poetry became from that time was a calling.

What I can say is this: since that early age, poetry and poem-making is the balm or my “medicine” of choice for the calling I felt in life.  Poem-making creates a healing place.  It acts as a companion.

Place.  Companion.  Medicine.

Gradually that call shaped itself into the work I do in the world.  It is the way I choose to live.   Following this calling, staying close to that call, led me along a path where other connections came forward to meet me, became possible.

In 1984 I was introduced to one of the very earliest pioneers in the field of poetry therapy, Joy Shieman, RPT.  Joy invited me to enter this training and I began as her student in 1985.  I studied with her over the next two and a half years, practicing as an intern at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, CA.  In 1992 I was awarded my certification as a poetry therapist by the Certification Committee of the National Association for Poetry Therapy

© 2006-2017 | The Institute for Poetic Medicine and John Fox