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Poetry is an Alternative to Suicide | Hala Emad

"Poetry is an Alternative to Suicide" Poetry is an alternative to suicide was the answer of the great poet, Amal Dunqul, when a journalist asked him, "Why do you write poetry?!". In the first quarter of the year 2018, I was about to complete six months without writing a new letter. In addition to my responsibilities as a mother and wife, my dying relationships with those around me day after day, and not to mention my virtual isolation on social media with its painful news and disturbing details that appeared on my phone screen whenever I moved my finger up, I was missing writing in my retirement of poetry!!! The matter worsened until I reached a strong desire to end my life. At the beginning of one day, as well as when the day was about to end, I was about to collapse, had it not been for the mercy of my Lord. Then I asked myself, where did the poetry disappear to? And I found an answer that had never crossed my mind before: hidden in fear. I was freed from fear by writing all my fears in a long poem, so that my soul shined again. At that time, I no longer begged poetry to inspire me with pain killer poems, but I began to investigate and research how poetry can heal our souls. The expression, healing with arts or Art Therapy, was frequented by some of my friends, and I began to take an interest in the matter of trying something new. I asked myself at that time, if writing is an art and poetry is an art, how can I use writing and poetry as a therapy?? I held my breath as I typed keywords on Google and searched again, and many times: healing by writing...healing by poetry...healing by reading. I continued to read many periodicals and published research and was amazed at how poetry was connected to my illness, anxiety, and pain, while scientists and poets have used it since the sixties to treat loss and trauma, as well as chronic diseases, improving the moods of patients with cancer, Alzheimer's, and mental illness!!! It took me three months to be able to communicate with my first great mentor, the poet JOHN FOX, CEO, and founder of the Institute for Poetic Medicine, who was so helpful, supportive, and kind. Yes, my first allegiance was to poetry, and with the communication between me and John, I discovered that I had not yet started my poetry healing journey, and that the bank of its flowing river would be the beginning of a new life!! I started from this turning point to use writing and poetry to discover myself. Then, I published these trails in my book: "Write Your Happiness for Women," which opened a new way to help women in my country, Egypt, and to use Writing Therapy as new tool to reach peace and happiness. For about 5 years now I have created hundreds of Writing Therapy Circles, I have a community of more than 3000 women, I have also worked with teens, and in every Writing Circle the last session is saved for poetry. When I tell them we will write poetry, they feel confusion, fears, and worries, but they pick up their pens, and try with me, expressing themselves with delicate, funny, and special words, reading them with a smile and confidence, keeping the pages open to write again and again! Hala Emad

A photo of a woman against the night sky, posed so it looks like the glowing full moon is resting in her hands. There is a poem on the upper right hand corner in Arabic, and the same poem on the lower left hand corner in English. The poem is by Hala Emad, and reads: Needing to be nowhere else./All the universe, in side my hugs,/Needing to say no word,/When your eyes whisper to/mine,/Fear collects his dirty clothes,/runs away/Longing digs a rosy river, in my/corners,/Needing to have no excuses,/don't tell how you left, and got/lost,/Or how you couldn't reach my/address,/Needing to hesitate no more,/Where is your hear, you will find/me!!!

Afterword from John Fox:

I met Hala Emad of Cairo, Egypt in early June of 2018. She was intently exploring writing-to-heal possibilities on the Google machine and to my good fortune she found me and The Institute for Poetic Medicine. She sent me an email and our correspondence began. Hala’s reason for that serious exploration is found within the reflective essay posted below.

When I say “my good fortune” I stop, pause and take a breath. Hala expands my world with her keen awareness and courage and with that, she actively affirms the universality of poetry-as-healer. I mean I thought I knew of the “universality” – sure it is universal! -- but it is quite another thing to go beyond thought and get startled awake by the universal reality.

Hala has shown her thirst for what this field offers – she has gone through the Poetry as a Tool for Wellness training with Cathey Capers and Kristin Thompson. She has been an enthusiastic participant with Meredith Heller in her Body Language program.

When I see her posts on Facebook, I learn how dedicated she is – and how wise and motivated – to share what she has to give with others. She is making a difference in her country.


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