Writing poetry allows us to discover how vulnerabilities and strengths can co-exist, even thrive together. Poems can reveal deep insight and compassion. They can give voice to what is raw and wounded in your life and that honesty, creatively expressed and explored, can bolster and guide you through rough times. Your writing can transform you at profound levels.

—John Fox


Through his may years of  teaching Poetic Medicine, conducting workshops and seminars and  working directly with health professionals John has accumulated and created several resources and much information specific to poetry and it's healing powers.

Here you will find an overview of John's publications, media, interviews and poetry for your inspiration and educational purposes.

  • Books, DVD, CD, Articles and Essays by John Fox

    The Healing Art of Poem-Making


    Poetic Medicine is well done, well conceived, well held in the heart of the author.
    You are truly on to one of the healing rays emitted from the palm of the Beloved.

     –Stephen Levine

    Poetry is simply speaking the truth. Each of us has a truth as unique as our own fingerprints. Without knowing that truth, without speaking it aloud, we cannot know who we are and that we are already whole. In the most profound way, speaking our truth allows us to know that our life matters.
    –Rachel Naomi Remen from the preface to Poetic Medicine

    Poetic Medicine is invaluable for opening the heart."
    –James Fadiman, a member of the board for The Institute for Poetic Medicine and co-founder of Institute for Transpersonal Psychology, Palo Alto, CA.

    Finding What You Didn't Lose


    Drawing from a splendidly various range of sources, John Fox guides you gently into the wide realms where the shape of words connects the feeling heart and the world.
    –Jane Hirshfield, author of Lives of the Heart and October Palace

    Finding What You Didn't Lose is simply breathtaking. Absolutely first rate. Anyone who loves poetry -- or would like to -- should read this book.
    –Andrew Carroll, Executive Director, American Poetry and Literacy Project

    A delightful invitation to the poet that lurks within each of us to come out and play.
    –Ram Dass

    Healing Words: Poetry and Medicine (DVD)


    A poignant and powerful documentary about the uses of poetry and the other expressive arts at a large teaching hospital in Florida. These days when Americans have grown cynical about health care costs, impersonal treatment, and the intrusion of corporate self-interest in the doctor-patient relationship, Healing Words reminds us of the power of empathy and listening to act as a catalyst for the healing power within each person. Poetry therapist John Fox and Dr. John Graham-Pole enter hospital rooms and help patients write poems as part of their healing process. Can poetry heal? this documentary gives a resounding Yes!

    This film is an hour-long look at the practice -- the very uncommon practice - of using poetry and art as part of an effort to re-humanize modern medical care. I thought about it for days afterward, weeks -- heck, I'm still thinking about it. I encourage anybody who is a doctor or a patient or anyone who may one day become a patient, to watch this extraordinary film.­ —Tom Lewis, M.D., author A General Theory of Love


    When Jewels Sing
    CD of original poems written and read by John Fox

    John Fox writes with purity and depth of feeling that is rare in this present day. These poems are not safe. They challenge the listener to contact sleeping centers of awareness and courage. They evoke nature's sublime particulars. John's poems temper poignant and sometimes painful truths, with wry humor. They whisper clues to deep mysteries.

    John's poetry does not speak of other Realities - it brings them into being. He holds human frailty with compassion allowing the Spirit to guide his language in praise of our possibilities as a species. I know that your sensitivity and beautiful poetry help me to connect with the very same in myself, a part that usually remains hidden, silent and well protected. Your courage to open and share such a personal a vulnerable part of the soul is a gift and an inspiration. –Abbie Withrow Glenn Ellen, California

    Reclaiming language, John liberates the spoken and written words, enabling them to breathe...suddenly our days are lifted to soar with them.  –Mary TallMountain, Poet, winner of Pushcart Prize for Poetry featured on Bill Moyers' series "The Language of Life"

    $15 - To order email request to John Fox


    Books with Essays and Poems by John Fox

    Mindfulness and the Arts Therapies Theory and Practice
    Edited by Laury Rappaport, Ph.D. ATR-BC

    John's chapter:  Poetry Therapy, Creativity and The Practice of Mindfulness


    This ground-breaking book explores the theoretical, clinical and training application of integrating mindfulness with all of the arts therapies, and includes cutting-edge contributions from neuroscience. Written by pioneers and leaders in the arts therapies and psychology fields, the book includes 6 sections that examine mindfulness and the arts therapies from different perspectives: 1) the history and roots of mindfulness in relation to spirituality, psychotherapy and the arts therapies; 2) the role of the expressive arts in cultivating mindful awareness; 3) innovative approaches that add mindfulness to the arts therapies; 4) arts therapies approaches that are inherently mindfulness-based; 5) mindfulness in the training and education of arts therapists; and 6) the neuroscience underlying mindfulness and the arts therapies. (Comment from John: Laury Rappaport,  (Focusing & Expressive Arts Institute) is a great pioneer in bringing together the practice of mindfulness and the arts therapies. I have the good fortune to be included in her new book, and particularly appreciate a kind of radiance and compassion that Laury possess and expresses in her life and healing practice.)


    Let the Beauty We Love Be What We Do: Stories of Living Divided No More

    Edited by Sally Hare and Megan LeBoutillier

    John's chapter: Poetry’s Call: An Exploration of Let and Letting


    An extraordinary glimpse inside the human journey to live with integrity, with wholeness by 21 diverse people who share their stories with stunning honesty and openness... In his contribution to the book, Parker J. Palmer writes: From the moment I began writing fifty years ago, I've known that my ideas wouldn't matter much if they simply sat there, inert, on the printed page.

    Comments from editors Sally Z. Hare and Megan Boutillier


    Tell Me Again: Poetry and Prose
     from The Healing Art of Writing, 2012

    Edited by Joan Baranow, PhD and David Watts, MD


    For more than a decade The Healing Art of Writing conference has sought to strengthen compassionate understanding between healthcare providers and those who seek a state of well-being beyond the reach of surgery or pharmacology. Together, the participants share the belief that being cured of a disease is not the same as being healed, and that a practice of expressive writing promotes both spiritual and physical healing. The writings presented at the 2012 conference, collected here in Tell Me Again, are a powerful testament to that belief. Within these pages you will hear, again and again, words of truth, words that uplift, words that heal.


    Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious:
    The Healer, Dancing with the Healing Spirit

    Introduction by Andrew Weil and published by J. P. Tarcher/Putnam


    John's essay "The Leaf Shape Remains" is included in "The Healer, Dancing With the Healing Spirit" volume two of this four volume collection.

    Our world is filled with archetypal imagery, powerful symbols that reflect the deepest layers of our personality - our strengths, weaknesses, and unacknowledged gifts that lay hidden within our souls.  Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious Reflecting American Culture Through Literature and Art is an extraordinary series, with beautiful full-color illustrations and introductions by some of the most influential thinkers of our time, this series explorers the major archetypes of American culture as they are


    Classic and Contemporary Essays Celebrating the Writing Life
    The Spirit of Writing


    Edited by Mark Waldman and published by The Putnam Publishing Group

    John's essay "The Leaf Shape Remains" joins essays from famous writers such as Sylvia Plath, Tom Bradley, Erica Jong, Stephen King, Henry Miller and many more. This delightful and inspirational book is a must have for anyone who has that urge to write.

    Editor and creativity expert Mark Waldman has gathered an impressive compilation of essays by world renowned authors reflecting on the numerous joys and frustrations of the writer's life and process.


    The Soul of Creativity: Insights into the Creative Process

    Edited by Tona Pearce Myers, published by New World Publications


    John's essay "Words from the Marrow" appears in this excellent anthology on creativity and the creative process. Also included are essays by Diane Ackerman, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Don Campbell, Riane Eisler, Christina Baldwin, Eric Maisell, Pat Allen, SARK and others.

    John writes in the opening paragraph to Words from the Marrow: "The sudden writing of a poem by someone in grief, someone unsure of which path to take, or someone deeply afflicted by the suffering of another suggests that writing poems is, at essence, a spontaneous, creative action connected to the healing process." John's essay explores ways that you can tap into your creative voice.

    Teaching with Fire
    Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach

    Edited by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner


    John's essay related to the poem “These Days” by Charles Olson appears in this collection of eighty-eight poems from well loved poets.  This book includes a brief story of the significance of each poem to a well known teacher.

    This book was written in partnership of Parker J. Palmer, author and founder of the “Courage to Teach” program and the Center for Teacher Formation and Tom Vander Ark, Executive Director, Education, of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

    “Teaching with Fire”  is a glorious collection of the poetry that has restored the faith of teachers in the highest, most transcendent values of their work with children….Those who want us to believe that teaching is a technocratic and robotic skill devoid of art or joy or beauty need to read this powerful collection.  So, for that matter, do we all.  –Jonathan Kozol, author of Amazing Grace and Savage Inequalities.


    Whole Person Healthcare (Volumes 1, 2, & 3);

    General Editor, Ilene Ava Serlin, Ph.D.,ADTR;
    Published by Praeger/Greenwood 2007


    In Whole Person Healthcare, John's chapter entitled Poetry Therapy: The Reclamation of Deep Language appears in Volume 3, The Arts & Health.  In Volume 2, Psychology, Spirituality & Health, there is a chapter he co-authored with Ilene Serlin and Kirwan Rockefeller entitled Multimodal Imagery and Healthcare.

    Whole Person Healthcare is a glimpse into the future of healing.  It is a magnificent effort, bringing together authorities who have made landmark contributions in fashioning a form of healthcare that honors all we are - body, mind and spirit.  No other approach to healing deserves to be called scientific or humane." - Larry Dossey, M.D.


    The Healing Environment Without and Within

    Edited by Deborah Kirklin and Ruth Richardson


    This book provides a clear framework for understanding the healing environment - not only that in which health care takes place but also of the real contribution that the arts can make to the inner environment of feelings and perceptions of those on a path of physical or mental healing.

    Here is a source of inspiration and information for all those who are part of the caring community - be they direct providers of care or those who create the environment in which care and healing takes place.

    From architecture to art therapies and medical humanities, the book looks at how partnerships between patients, artists, clinicians, architects, community leaders and managers - all of whom are represented among the contributors - can significantly influence the development and practice of patient-centered care. It gives examples of good practice and opens up the exciting possibilities that such interdisciplinary partnerships can generate.

    Journals and Magazines with Articles  by John Fox

    Stethos: Medical Humanities Journal

    John wrote a very personal essay published in Stethos Journal, a publication of the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. His essay describes the experience I had as a child at the Cleveland Clinic Hospital in the late '50s and through the 1960s. He recounts particular memories of surgeries, hospital stays and especially reflections on my very thoughtful pediatric orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Kendrick. Woven into this essay are the early signs of a connection he had with poetry as healer. Along with the essay are a handful of my poems.

    Read Journal on-line


    San Francisco Medicine

    We welcome you to read John's article (pg. 19) from the San Francisco Medical Society Journal entitled Beyond the Campfire.  It is part of an issue titled Healing Words, which includes a review of the PBS Documentary Healing Words: Poetry and Medicine, as well as Rachel Naomi Remen's preface to Poetic Medicine.

    Download PDF of journal.


    EVOLVE!  A Magazine of Evolutionary Products, People and Ideas

    from Fresh Thoughts on Finding A Healing Voice and Poetic Language within Yourself

    The courage to spill words on the page is essential to developing trust in your creative voice. Trust can be nurtured through providing a safe environment and offering genuine curiosity. The tendency to critique ourselves and evaluate others before we even begin holds us back from discovering the voice that is great within us...

    Download article

  • YouTube Videos

    Poetry Therapy with John Fox and Bahareh Amidi in Abu Dhabl

    Published on YouTube  Jun 17, 2013

    Poet Bahareh speaks about the visit of her mentor Mr.John Fox to the United Arab Emirates. John is the founder of the Institute for Poetic Medicine in California. The visit takes a journey through John walking through the footsteps of Bahareh's work in Poetry Therapy throughout Abu Dhabi, including the Men's Labor Camp and Women's Safe House. In this video we take a small glimpse into their worlds of healing through words.


    John Fox on Open to Hope Radio with Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi Horsley

    Published on Oct 15, 2012

    John is a poet and certified poetry therapist. John is author of Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-making and Finding What You Didn't Lose. John is President of The Institute for Poetic Medicine, a nonprofit founded in 2005. The Institute funds poetry and healing projects throughout the United States.

  • Interviews with John Fox

    Volcanic Seeds Radio
    KNGU, Boulder 88.5 FM

    Hosted by Erin Sharp

    Experience the healing art of Poetry Therapy as expressed by workshop participants and read by John Fox.  A discussion of medical humanities is also included, highlighting the benefits of using poetry within the medical community for healing.  John discusses the magic of language, reciting a passage from Winnie the Pooh and encourages you to find the "juicy" part of yourself with words and poem making.

    Click here to download this interview
    (20 MB file, .mpg-4 file format)

    Jefferson PBS, Ashland, Or
    Poetic Medicine, The Healing Art of Poem Making

    Hosted by Liam Moriarty

    Join John Fox, C.P.T. as he talks about his book, Poetic Medicine, The Healing Art of Poem Making and the art of Poetry Therapy.  He recites a short poem by Charles Olsen titled These Days and asks how this poem resonates with you, his listeners.  (This radio interview was with Liam Moriarty on Jefferson Public Radio, in Ashland Oregon.)

    Listen to interview

    Please feel free to email to our program manager your responses and share how this poem resonates with you.


    Poetry Chaikhana
    Heal Your body by Giving Voice to Your Soul:

    Hosted by Ivan Granger

    A thought-provoking and inspiring conversation with John Fox about the power of poetry to open us up to new possibilities in life, tap our own hidden wisdom, and communicate with others. They talk about poem-making as a deeply healing, cleansing, salve for wounds. John and Ivan also explore the way poetry is able to describe indescribable states of consciousness.  Poetry is a way to enhance devotion for God and it can be used as a tool or a medium to invoke and navigate within transpersonal awareness.

    Purchase interview from Poetry Chaikhana



    Heal Your Body by Giving Voice to Your Soul
    An Interview with John Fox by Kathlyn Stone

    Flesh and Stone is a public interest news site delivering independent reporting on health care and science news, trends, and commentary. We look at how medical and scientific discoveries are influenced by politics and the economy. Our goals are simply to inform and educate, and provide a public space for health and science policy discussions that may influence positive policy changes.

    Read Interview


  • Poetry by John Fox

    • The Language of Air   >>

      When people, who, with hearts

      and minds engaged take care

      with one another and long enough

      to pause, to let silence

      (and words spoken from the heart)

      have a deeper share

      of whatever time is given them —

      so that our breath, mine and yours,

      enriched by listening, touches air.


      That element becomes a living presence

      which breathes in silence, breathes

      in our words, our voice, and then,

      when breathing out, opens us up to life,

      a sense of grace.  As if what we breathe

      together in this way is a language of listening,

      a universal quiet wherein we understand

      each other and even when we don't,

      are aware of how it joins us here.

    • Lift Up the Banner of Your Heart  >>

      Lift up the banner of your heart boldly

      and commit your very next step

      to what you love most dearly.

      Such a banner is for the greatness

      of wildflowers kissing their way delicately

      through glaciers, for the beauty

      of the mountaintop from which your soul

      undoubtedly has gazed.

      The next step you take shall bring you home

      if you but release your cares

      and think instead that help has come,

      as sure as the wind will fly the banner

      that you have raised—

      the quietness of a wind

      in an unseen meadow that waves

      the banner of who you are

      with the whispered assurance that says:

      I Am. Or the great, great wind

      that fills ships sails announcing

      your arrival to a throng of blue sky,

      angelic presence’s hushed in appreciation.

      Your arrival to the new world of a new day,

      the blessed shore rushing up to greet you.

    • When Someone Deeply Listens To You  >>

      When someone deeply listens to you

      it is like holding out a dented cup

      you've had since childhood

      and watching it fill up with

      cold, fresh water.

      When it balances on top of the brim,

      you are understood.

      When it overflows and touches your skin,

      you are loved.


      When someone deeply listens to you

      the room where you stay

      starts a new life

      and the place where you wrote

      your first poem

      begins to glow in your mind's eye.

      It is as if gold has been discovered!


      When someone deeply listens to you

      your barefeet are on the earth

      and a beloved land that seemed distant

      is now at home within you.

    • I Would Be Like the Sun  >>

      I would be a wise man

      who hears the call of Christ

      and hurries fast with frankincense, aflame and going, like myself

      in urgency toward the Light

      in the Eastern sky.


      I would be a villager

      who knew that Christ was simply coming and so laid down the work at hand

      to fold my knees

      and lose my being

      in his passing over.


      I would be a disciple

      the one named Joseph of Arimathea, who felt the call to care for him and cried (holding aloes, myrrh, honey, crushed palm leaves for incense) completely, because no one, nothing could add to who He is now, one shattered perfect and deathless into all hearts.


      I would be a child

      who spreads light arms to run up a green hill toward the horizon.

      I would be like the sun

      gone to the other side from where you are.


      Child or Flaming Sun, I am not sure who I am flying myself into this Light.

      There is much that I have let go of,  but in coming here I have sent a song,

      sung a resurrected song and poured it into Life, to be a fragrance for you within.


      —John Fox, circa 1978


    • What Understanding Won't Help or A Poem About Change  >>

      Does the dusk light

      that rests for only moments

      upon the leaves of

      a Japanese Maple

      awaken your

      heart, like it does

      mine? And by "awaken"

      I might mean this:

      if loneliness was at least

      willing to not give in

      to despair, because

      loss felt like such a sure thing.

      Could you stand there

      at that edge with me

      aware of & meeting

      these small realities of

      our day, like a treasure

      that will not last or give

      us everything we want —

      but still deserve attention,

      just like the leaf that catches

      last light, is lifted up to our sight

      by a shadow

      that silently cares for it,

      and everything underneath

      that can't be said.

    • Consider What Happens  >>

      Consider what happens

      upon hearing a poem

      that moves you. The nod

      of your head, tucking

      your chin close

      to your chest, as if

      stopping to rest, as if you could cry now

      in the middle of a long journey.

      Here, whatever you regret having forgotten

      even with your aching tiredness

      (which you cannot forget) all of a sudden

      turns to a surprisingly vibrant sky

      as your eyes widen ever-so-slightly

      in a recognition that shimmers

      under your skin, wells-up

      into a calm line-of-sight

      that is your own and goes on

      almost forever.

      Astonished, you walk outside breathing

      and slowly stroll in the fresh air

      suddenly aware that back in your house

      someone new, a stranger you like,

      has arrived.

    • Phantom Pain Tries to Speak   >>

      I am embers of the campfire dusted in gray ash

      and still hot at 2 in the morning


      I am the jellyfish you touch

      in the dark water


      I am the scary rustle of ceiling to floor curtains

      late at night


      I am the secret you must live with


      I am the strange voice on the phone

      you thought for a moment you knew


      I am the stone sharp arrow pulled against

      the taut bowstring


      I am the rapids of a river

      without a bed to rest in


      I am the voice that calls out

      "Set me free!"

    • Elbows   >>

      The sacred quality

      of arms, particularly

      elbows that make

      each of us working class,

      put us here for a purpose.

      Look at elbows

      and what they say:

      elbow your way

      into the passive crowd

      to do what is needed,

      give it your elbow grease —

      this is enough.

      Elbows, no one can

      possess them because

      they can disappear and

      you move them

      into action by choice.

      And that choice

      is prayer in action.

      The deepest current of love

      is not found in the heart.

      That is the certain spring,

      the natural ease, the flow

      from the mountaintop.

      The greatest current of love

      rushes forward in the choice

      to make a cradle of the body.

    • Heron  >>

      Heron glides


      the Baylands

      comes up

      to the surface

      near as possible

      to landing.


      Significant wings

      fold sharply

      pull in hard

      against the momentum

      of sheer freedom -

      brought to earth

      as pure gift


      in the totally gone gaze

      of small,

      accurate eyes.


      and web feet


      extend tender and ready


      for a long moment.

      I imagine:

      one foot brings memory,

      the other, revelation.

      In splashing frenzy

      he breaks

      into the shallows


      of dark salt water, to stand.

Resources from John Fox

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