To Awaken Soulfulness in the Human Voice

Poetic Medicine

THE INSTITUTE FOR

Listening in silence 

to the healings we were requesting through our community and our poems sent waves of healing through me.

Nancy Story

Nancy is a poet who lives in Boulder, CO and a community college teacher in Denver, CO. She has been writing poetry since she was a child and continues to express in this way as a form of healing.

 

About three years ago, a dear vagabond artist friend gave me a birthday gift from the deep pockets of his poverty. Faced with this unabashed grace, all I could do was say, “Thank you.”

Such a gift has many blessings, including being free from expectations about outcomes. I freely and happily enrolled in a weekend workshop at Naropa University, “Poetic Medicine, with John Fox.”

It was a sparkling weekend in Colorado, and not easy to go inside even for such a gathering of people honoring healing through poetry. I understood the concept from working in occupational therapy many years ago. The concept is an empty shell compared with the powerfully healing medicine we created that weekend.

We read poems about meaning, nothing but meaning, until we came to the point: there is nothing but meaning. We wrote and shared our poems that expressed our experiences of deep meaning: then we listened. Quietly. Just listened, no verbal response. Just witnessing these powerful expressions of our human meaning as we express and connect with the divine, in whatever form it makes itself known to us. Once again, there is nothing but meaning. We don't have to under- stand it or be able to explain it with reason or logic.

Just listen, no expectations. In this company of strangers, whom I came to know in some of the deepest places in their hearts and souls that weekend, I felt what it means to say my truth in my way and be accepted with no need for explanations or qualifications. This was a first for me. Now I know it is possible.

The poems here came to be during the workshop. They bear witness to the healing I experienced by expressing some of my deepest feelings/meanings in the presence of silent witnesses.

John Fox asked us to write about something we desire and something that keeps us from it, a perfect opportunity for healing. Out of nowhere, I thought, this poem said itself to me.

Prayer to the Absent Parent

Keep me from holding myself apart,

and when I start to shut the door,

just let the breeze blow through the crack

to remind me, breathing is what

we share. Take my arm gently

like you were afraid to do,

so I can go into the world

guided.

 

Walk me into unknown

crowds in my easy shoes

and a simple strength within

so I don't have to dress myself

in overcoats and steel-toed

boots and stand apart

and shout without words—

“Leave me alone!

Don't— leave me alone!”

 

Hold up a mirror so I can see

the parent you could have been,

in me, if only you were not compelled,

from some deep place in you,

to hold apart.

Tell me it is not too late to join.

Say, “Honey, we may be slow

but we are sure!”

Then tell me what it is we're sure of.

 

After silent listening to one another's desires and what blocks us from realizing them, I began to hear patterns in our various experiences. The details and situations were as different as the individuals who experienced and expressed them in poetry that week- end. But the hopes and undermining fears were the same.

True healing lasts. John asked us to write about what we wanted to pursue or take away with us from this weekend, what is the thread we will follow. This was my heart's response.

I want to take space

though the room is full.

I want to take the time

to listen to my soul

as she moves about

in each part of my body,

putting away socks,

dusting windowsills,

sleeping when she pleases,

drinking hot tea at one a.m.

with a fast-read mystery

novel she may have read before.

 

I want to glide on the moment

with no distress, to sit

under a Cottonwood tree

with my shadow and honor

each other's presence

in silence. I want to stay

between the -e and -i in being

for a long time.

 

I want to carry

“permission to honor being”

like a ticket stub

in my eternal

pocket to remind me

that I have that right.

I want to bear bright witness

to my breath, to my life,

to my death.

Listening in silence to the healings we were requesting through our community and our poems sent waves of healing through me. I say waves because it felt like a high, pure frequency of energy, free of nervousness and doubt. I was experiencing group healing; we were healing one another.

In this state of bliss, John asked us finally to describe ourselves at that moment. This is my response.

I am runner wolf

padding through the forest

of cold moons.

I am dragonfly

speeding and staying

at the same time.

I am white crane

dancing and flapping

my wild wings

around a fire

on the beach

among the sand dunes,

calling runner wolf

to come and bring

her heart, calling dragonfly

to hum and float

like notions of the stars,

calling me home

to center's fire,

all fur and ears,

wings and arms,

and hard green body—

stone of centuries—

melting into one

whole me.

As I look back on these poems and some others that punctuate my journey that weekend, I can trace the healing process in them. At first, I can see my small girl-child still calling for her literal parent to show her what to do in life. I feel her fear and pain. In the next poem, I am able to say what it is that I want now, from the position of my own adult self who can and does take care of herself. I am delighted by this image of what I want because it is so simple and so homey. I guess I am becoming home to myself. Finally, the last poem shows me blatantly free of restrictions of past beliefs about what I can and cannot be. I have come into my own, no explanations needed. I knew I didn't have to “make sense.”

The power of expressing our deepest selves through poetry, images and symbols of things too profound to be able to explain in prose, has the force of healing. In the presence of others seeking healing in the same way, the force of the power is magnified and group healing occurs. There is no need for explanations.

Writing prompt for readers from Nancy Story

 

Writing Prompt adapted from pages 118-125 of Finding What You Didn't Lose: Expressing Your Truth and Creativity Through Poem-making by John Fox

 

I Am A Runner Wolf

There is probably nothing more central to poetry than vibrant metaphors. Used with clarity and skill, they can make a poem breathe forever and expand our identity, connect us with life.

 

To do the following exercise just ask yourself, what do I want to be—something that is not obviously yourself. Nancy sees herself as wolf, dragonfly and crane.

 

Do you want to be the mane on a wild horse? The color purple? An eggbeater? A salmon? Your pet? Adrum? Your backyard? Think of something particular in nature, a place that is special to you, an animal or part of an animal, an object in your home or from your place of work, a car, a weather condition, a spiritual symbol—anything at all.

 

Use the words "I am" like Nancy does in saying I am runner wolf...

 

Now write what you want to say about this thing that you are. Your writing should make it possible to SEE, HEAR, TOUCH, TASTE, what you are. Remember you ARE this thing. Take some moments to FEELYOURSELF as the thing you have chosen. Imagine doing all the things you would do. How would you express yourself? How would you relate to your world? If I experienced you, what would my experience be?

 

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