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Lifting Our Voices to Heal | Amy Webb, PhD

"Poems are invitations...doorways into this inner wilderness, a call to sit and be present to what we discover beyond the borders of our neatly controlled worlds. Wildness is vulnerable, risky, spacious, and full of possibility."

~ Christine Valters Paintner, PhD


In 2019 I was asked to be a plenary speaker at the annual mental health conference at our regional Mental Health Clinic. For years I had served as a psychologist volunteering with free medical clinic clients; some were willing to write and share their stories with me to find clarity and relief. And I knew first-hand how journaling and poem-making “saved me” in my recovering from cancer. I titled the experiential program “Writing to Release.” A hall full of clients and staff eagerly responded to prompts about what they’d like to release: “tension, stress, loneliness, fear, guilt, hiding, feeling stuck, feeling caged.” Writing prompts also offered a space for their writing about a different kind of release: “flow, thrill, beginnings, recovery, butterflies.” “I wrote to hear myself, to sort out, make sense, tap into somewhere new inside me.” Participants gave voice to release something painful as well as envision possibility. I will never forget the facial changes I witnessed from program start to end, nor the participants’ words of gratitude for saying they felt for the first time “freed up” by the writing exercises. They wanted more.

 

I was invited to follow this up, facilitating poem-making in small groups, but COVID struck. And family health issues struck. Meanwhile, I took IPM’s Poetry as a Tool for Wellness certification course and readied for another opportunity.

 

I now see a window for bringing writing and poem-making to life within our community in new form. An empty “blessing box” on our church campus is being repurposed to soon contain topical poems and/or short written pieces, with prompts. Clients of the food pantry, free medical clinic, HUD-supported housing residents, along with church parishioners will be invited to avail themselves of these. Poems and prompts will be included in food and personal care bags that are distributed monthly in rural communities.  

 

There is a team working together on this, with a deliberate intention to build community organically--cultivating and planting seeds, setting roots, exploring what comes. And, we are envisioning poetry writing circles, as well as various means to receive poems written from the prompts we offer. Our hope is to create a growing circle of receiving, creating, and sharing back that invites, in effect: “I hear myself.  I hear you.  I am coming alive in new ways. I am showing up with my words to help you do the same.”


 

Amy D. Webb, PhD, is a retired Organizational Psychologist whose work career focused on developing executive leaders and their teams to effectively navigate personal and organizational transitions. After retiring, Amy has been an active volunteer: leading a Health and Wellbeing Ministry, collaborating on community mental health initiatives, and serving as a counselor for the local free medical clinic as well as caregiver for family members in need. She supports IPM and its mission, has sponsored a community circle facilitated by John Fox, and has participated in Poetic Medicine circles and the facilitator training for Poetry as a Tool for Wellness. As a breast cancer survivor, lifelong journaler and now poet, she knows firsthand the essential healing power of writing, and has embraced this in her book: Stones at the Crossing: Aiming True on my Journey from Scared to Sacred.


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