A Brief History of Poetry Therapy
From the upcoming collection of poetry, philosophy and art TAKE A DEEP BREATH: Living With Uncertainty (Chameleon Publishing)
Poetry Therapy, or poetry which is used for healing and personal growth, can be traced back to primitive Man, who used religious rites in which shamans and witchdoctors chanted poetry for the well-being of the tribe or individual. It is documented that as far back as the fourth millennium B.C.E. in ancient Egypt, words were written on papyrus and then dissolved into a solution so that they could be physically ingested by the patient and take effect as quickly as possible.
The first poetry therapist of historic record was a Roman physician by the name of Soranus in the first century A.D., who prescribed tragedy for his manic patients and comedy for those who were depressed. It is not surprising that Apollo is the god of poetry as well as medicine, since medicine and the arts were historically entwined. For many centuries the link between poetry and medicine remained obscure. The poet John Milton wrote in 1671: “Apt words have power to swage The tumours of a troubled mind And are as balm to festered wounds.” Pennsylvania Hospital, founded in 1751 by Benjamin Franklin and the first in the United States, employed many ancillary treatments for their mental patients, including reading, writing and the publishing of their work. Dr. Benjamin Rush, called the ‘Father of American Psychiatry’, introduced music and literature. The writing of poems was was encouraged, and the results were published in The Illuminator, their own newspaper.
On the battlefields of the American Civil War, Union field medic Walt Whitman would administer recitations of verse to fallen soldiers who were well beyond hope long before the use of morphine. He was later to pen the classic Leaves of Grass, the greatest celebration of humanity in the midst of its own despair. Pennsylvania Hospital employed this approach as early as the mid- 1700s. In the early 1800s, Dr. Benjamin Rush also introduced poetry as a form of therapy to those being treated. In 1928, Eli Greifer, an inspired poet who was a lawyer and pharmacist by profession, began a campaign to show that a poem’s didactic message has healing power. He began offering poems to people as prescriptions, and eventually started “poem-therapy” groups at two hospitals with the support of psychiatrists Dr. Jack L. Leedy and Dr. Sam Spector. After Griefer’s death, Leedy and others continued to incorporate poetry into the therapeutic group process, eventually coming together to form the Association for Poetry Therapy (APT) in 1969.
Librarians also played a major role in the development of this therapeutic approach. Arleen Hynes was a hospital librarian who began reading stories and poems aloud, thus facilitating discussions on the material and its relevance to each individual in order to better reach out to those being treated and encourage healing. She eventually developed a training program for those interested in teaching poetry therapy. In 1980, all the leaders in the field were invited to a meeting to formalize guidelines for training and certification. At that meeting, the National Association for Poetry Therapy (NAPT) was founded. As interest grew, books and articles were published to guide practitioners in the practice. Hynes and Mary Hynes-Berry co-authored the 1986 publication Bibliotherapy — The Interactive Process: A Handbook. More recently, Nicholas Mazza outlined a model for effective 188 poetry therapy, also discussing its clinical application, in Poetry Therapy: 189 Theory and Practice.
The Journal of Poetry Therapy, established in 1987 by the NAPT, remains the most comprehensive source of information on current theory, practice, and research. There is also a relationship between psychological healing and incantations, either repeated as a musical chant by the patient or recited by the attending medicine man. Of course, modern medicine and science consider the notion of magical incantations possessing healing or restorative powers as so much superstition. But this, of course, begs the question that if recitations and incantations had no evidential result and no beneficial property then why would have nearly every human culture have adopted the method and repeated it for thousands of years? Surely if there was no value to vibrating the air with the sound of one’s breath, rising from the abdomen, pushed upwards by the lungs, shaped by the throat, mouth and tongue, with the added stimulation of associative meanings being understood cognitively by the patient’s mind, we would have given it and its sisters, singing and chanting, up aeons ago.
I am not advocating a supernatural or spiritual causation for the effectiveness of poetry as a healing agent, but rather the supra-natural mystical cause which is grounded first in human nature and cognition, and for which there maybe a myriad of imprecise explanations, none of which can fully explain why it works. Today, poetry therapy is practiced internationally by hundreds of professionals including poets, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, social workers, educators and librarians. The approach has been used successfully in a number of settings — schools, community centers, libraries, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and correctional institutions, to name a few.
SO HOW DOES POETRY THERAPY WORK?
• Poetry is beneficial to the process of introspection, and can be used as a vehicle for the expression of emotions that might otherwise be difficult to express
• Poetry promotes self-reflection and exploration, increasing selfawareness and helping individuals make sense of their world.
• Poetry helps individuals redefine their situation by opening up new ways of perceiving reality.
• Poetry helps therapists gain deeper insight into those they are treating.
In general, poetry therapists are free to choose from any poems they believe offer therapeutic value, but most tend to follow general guidelines. Some poems commonly used in therapy are: The Journey by Mary Oliver Talking to Grief by Denise Levertov The Armful by Robert Frost I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman Turtle Island by Gary Snyder as well as the poetry of Alan Watts, Allen Ginsberg and Antonin Artaud.
TECHNIQUES USED IN POETRY THERAPY
Different models of poetry therapy exist and are being refined all the time, but one the most popular is the model introduced by Nicholas Mazza. According to this model, poetry therapy involves three major components: Receptive/Prescriptive, Expressive/Creative, Symbolic/Ceremonial.
I. In the Receptive/Prescriptive component, the poet merely introduces the subject of how to focus on their own issue. The aim is to establish concentration and cognitive focus on the details, none which is revealed to the poet. Only when the poet feels confident that the subject is cognitively attuned to and non-verbally focused on the problem or issue of concern does he or she begins to ask suggestive questions as to how the subject feels, not thinks, about their issue. This provocation of tangible emotions usually comes in three distinct phases of emotional content. First is the predicament, when the subject becomes aware of the existence of the issue. This is a gateway phase, where anticipatory feelings are illicit and registered by the poet.
II. Then there is a further stage when anticipation of the issue has given way to the full experience of all the emotions, anxieties and fears related to the issue. This is usually overwhelming (or it wouldn’t be ‘an issue’ in the first place), and it is paramount that the poet guides the subject through distinct words to describe the layers of emotions experienced by the subject. The poet must ground the subject’s emotions in language. Language and the use of words is the key here, because emotions always come in complex clusters that make it difficult for both poet and subject to distinguish them and focus on the underlying causes.
“What kind of anger do you feel?”, “How would you describe your sadness?”, “How much shame do you feel? What would you compare it to?” This is a sophisticated method of word association, but rather than creating bridges between seemingly disparate words the goal is to drill down to the core emotions of the issue by refining the language, as led by the subject. Achieving exactitude of description is the task at hand. The poet makes careful notation of everything the subject says in regard to describing their emotions. It is important to keep them focused and not to succumb to intellectual distraction. Thoughts are illusions and often lies, whereas emotions are facts. Get the subject to correctly describe the facts of the matter. All meaning is metaphorical.
III. The final stage is waiting for an exit strategy. How do the feelings begin to recede? How does the issue move back into the background? What are the parting emotions? Is there anxiety about the leaving? Anticipation of an issue yet unresolved? Or is the issue impermeable, and subject to a rhythmic return? Again, the subject’s wording, their adjectives, adverbs and phrases are the material of the poem. At this point there is usually a short break to give time for the subject to recover from the emotional transitions and for the poet to briefly skim their notes and begin to focus on the flow of adjectives. It is preferable, if possible, to compose what amounts to a first draft, a flow of words which the poet can read back to the subject to confirm its accuracy. At this first reading stage it is possible to start interjecting logical bridges between the emotional descriptors. This is the creative factor 194 unleashed. The poet, assisted by the subject, creates coherent sequences 195 between the emotional states. The poet suggests and the subject confirms or vetoes the phraseology, one line at a time. Now we arrive at a second draft which is the property of the subject. It is their poem. The preference is that the subject now reads the poem aloud and takes ownership of its content. The subject can redraft the poem a third time, or many more times, claiming it as their own. The poet has merely provided poesy prompts, the poem is the creation of the subject.
The expressive/creative component involves the use of creative writing — poetry, letters, and journal entries — for the purpose of assessment and treatment. The process of writing can be both cathartic and empowering, often freeing blocked emotions or buried memories and giving voice to one’s concerns and strengths. Some people may doubt their ability to write creatively, but therapists can offer support by explaining they do not have to use rhyme or a particular structure. Poets can also provide stem poems from which to work, or introduce sense poems for those who struggle with imagery. A poet might also share a poem with their subject and then ask them to select a line that touched them in some way, and then use that line to start their own poem. In groups, poems may be written individually or collaboratively. Group members are sometimes given a single word, topic, or sentence stem and asked to respond to it spontaneously. The contributions of group members are compiled to create a single poem which can then be used to stimulate group discussion. The symbolic/ceremonial component involves the use of metaphors, storytelling and rituals as tools for effecting change. Metaphors, which are essentially symbols, can help individuals to explain complex emotions and experiences in a concise yet profound manner. Rituals may be particularly effective to help those who have experienced a loss or ending, such as a divorce or death of a loved one, to address their feelings around that event. Writing and then burning a letter to someone who died suddenly, for example, may be a helpful step in the process of accepting and coping with grief.
HOW CAN POETRY THERAPY HELP?
Poetry therapy has been used as part of the treatment approach for a number of concerns, including borderline personality, suicidal ideation, identity issues, perfectionism, and grief. Research shows the method is frequently a beneficial part of the treatment process. Several studies also support poetry therapy as one approach to the treatment of depression — it has been repeatedly shown to relieve depressive symptoms, improve self-esteem and self-understanding, and encourage the articulation of feelings. Researchers have also demonstrated poetry therapy’s ability to reduce anxiety and stress. Those experiencing post traumatic stress have also reported improved mental and emotional well-being as a result of poetry therapy. Some individuals who have survived trauma or abuse may have difficulty processing the experience cognitively and, as a result, suppress associated memories and emotions.
Through poetry therapy, many are able to integrate these feelings, reframe traumatic events, and develop a more positive outlook for the future. People experiencing addiction may find poetry therapy can help them explore their feelings regarding substance abuse, perceive drug use in a new light, and develop or strengthen coping skills. Poetry writing may also be a way for those with substance abuse issues to express their thoughts on treatment and behavioral change. Some studies have shown poetry therapy can be of benefit to people with schizophrenia, despite the linguistic and emotional deficits associated with the condition. Poetry writing may be a helpful method to describe mental experiences, and can allow therapists to better understand the thought processes of those they are treating.
Poetry therapy has also helped some individuals with schizophrenia to improve social functioning skills and foster more organized thought processes. It is important to note in many instances, especially in cases of moderate to severe mental health concerns, that poetry therapy is used in combination with another type of therapy and not as the sole approach to treatment.
TRA I N I N G FOR POETRY THERA P I STS
Poetry therapists receive literary as well as clinical training to enable them to be able to select literature appropriate for the healing process. While there is no university program in poetry therapy, the International Federation for Biblio-Poetry Therapy (IFBPT), the independent credentialing body for the profession, has developed specific training requirements. Several studies support poetry therapy as one approach to the treatment of depression, as it has been repeatedly shown to relieve depressive symptoms, improve self-esteem and self-understanding, and encourage the expression of feelings.
However, the only qualitative measure of effective poetry therapy is in the poesy and the results. No accreditation can guarantee or substitute for the quality of cognitive empathy that is achieved during a successful session. Ultimately, there can be no real separation between the experience of the poet and the subject. This methodology provokes a meeting of mind in confrontation with universal truths. The poet is there merely to reassure the subject that there is no hocus-pocus, no supernatural or alternative reality, and that the cognitive associations that ring true are true in the present mind of the subject. The poet is on hand to reassure, to validate the responses of the subject to radical new perspectives into their own most intimate selves, and to relieve and dispel any accompanying trauma as grounded in the normalcy of human experience.202 203
CONC E RNS AND L IMI TAT IONS OF POETRY THERAPY In spite of its widespread appeal and broad range of applications, some concerns have been raised about the use of poetry therapy.
Some critics have pointed out it is possible for people to analyze a poem on a purely intellectual level, without any emotional involvement. This type of intellectualization may be more likely when complex poems are used, as a person might spend so much time trying to decipher the meaning of the poem that they lose sight of their emotions and spontaneous reactions. Poems that are unoriginal or filled with clichés are unlikely to stimulate individuals on a deep emotional level, or challenge them to think in ways promoting growth.
Just always keep in mind that poetry therapy may have little or no value for those individuals who simply do not enjoy poetry.
Chavis, G.G. (2011). Poetry and story therapy: The healing power of creative expression. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Gooding, L. F. (2008). Finding your inner voice through song: Reaching adolescents with techniques common to poetry therapy and music therapy. Journal of Poetry Therapy, 21(4), 219-229.
International Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy. (n.d.). Summary of training requirements. Retrieved from http://ifbpt.org/obtaining-a-credential/getting-trained
Mazza, N. (2003). Poetry therapy: Theory and practice. New York: Brunner-Routledge.
Olsen-McBride, L. (2009). Examining the influence of popular music and poetry therapy on the development of therapeutic factors in groups with at-risk adolescents (Doctoral dissertation).
Rossiter, C. (2004). Blessed and delighted: An interview with Arleen Hynes, poetry therapy pioneer. Journal of Poetry Therapy, 17(4), 215-222.
There are still a few options available to you still, apart from death.
Yours is a free choice.
Your death is yours.
No one is making you choose;
Death is after all, inevitable.
Not so much an option as fast forwarding to the point where there are no further options.
Living is dying anyway, so why speed up the process?
To stop the pain?
Many have endured much more
Still clinging to any delay of the inevitable.
Regardless, suicide doesn’t stop the pain it merely passes the suffering on to someone else.
They remember you.
They will remember you with pain.
You no longer feel of worth or of value anymore?
To whom, exactly? yourself?
Perhaps your judgement is drunk or wanting in discernment?
Perhaps your judgement is just wrong and awaits over-ruling by a higher judgement.
Who are you, really, to judge yourself so severely?
If you are worthless then your judgement is suspect and certainly not worth acting upon.
What if you went and saw a movie instead?
Or got drunk?
Or went to sleep?
Or made love until the dawn found another, better judgement to wake up to.
A truer, more temperate version of yourself.
One who can solve problems and get you out of the sweet jam you’re stuck in.
Do you long to die because life is absurd and void of meaning?
What took you so long to notice?
Does your slowness make you want to do things quicker?
Instead of death, you could seek laughter, which is really a form of dying;
A release from the known into the unknown by way of
Catching your breath inside its own rhythm.
Inwards and outwards.
What if you were about to hear a joke you’ve never heard before?
That made you laugh so hard that it woke you up into the wide-eyed, open world that embraces this one?
If you die now, you will miss hearing the eternal joke
That would awaken you to a world where you no longer wanted to die
Because you suddenly found yourself here,
Where you belong
Where you belonged all along,
Not living or dying
But blinking and breathing like this,
Like this, like this, like this…
©Igor Goldkind 2018
Today was every other day.
My boss says,
“Hey, Joe, where you going with that staple gun in your hand?”
I draw a blank on my face and turn to face his.
“You don’t really know, do you, Joe?
You don’t know where you’re going.
You don’t really know who you are.
You don’t know much of anything anymore,
Do you now, Joe?”
Then he laughs at me
In front of everybody
He laughs and points at
What everybody but me can see.
And everybody laughs and they laugh and they laugh
But nobody talks to me anymore.
My boss don’t talk to me anymore.
My neighbors don’t talk to me anymore.
My doctor don’t talk to me anymore.
My mother don’t talk to me anymore.
My father don’t talk to me because
He’s long since gone
Flown far away from the words to this song.
I call my girlfriend up on the telephone
She says, “Joe, I’m not your girlfriend anymore”
And hangs up the phone.
Nobody talks to me anymore.
I call my doctor on the telephone
He says, “hello, is there anybody there”?
I say, “it’s me, Joe, doctor help me, nobody talks to me anymore!”
My doctor coughs and hangs up the phone.
Nobody talks to me anymore.
I call on my priest in the church down the road
I say “Hello, Father? my Father, is that really you?”
“Please tell me, dear Father, what should I do?”
My priest says “Joe, God don’t love you anymore”
And throws me out through God’s front door.
Even God don’t talk to me anymore.
So, I go down to a bar to have a little swim.
There’s a bar stool there where the X-mas tree should have been.
The bartender looks at me,
But he doesn’t say a word.
I hold up two fingers and point at the sky
So he pours me a double, ten-year-old rye.
Which I toss down and motion for another
While calling him “my brother”.
The bartender stares at my face.
As silent as the stones in his wall.
Nobody talks to me anymore.
On the street, the headlights blind my blinking eyes.
Strangers push past me, some I know, most I despise.
A cop car pulls up and flashes his bright light on me
The cop points his flashlight in my eyes so that I can’t see.
There’s nothing he or I need to say.
He won’t arrest me.
It just ain’t worth his time to talk to me anymore.
A ghost walks up and stares into my face.
He doesn’t say a word; just hangs there in space
Instead, he spins ribbons of colored lights
Inside my head.
There’s no knowing with ghosts no more
The dead don’t even talk to me anymore, either!
Suddenly I see an explosion of lights
There are trumpets and harps and angels in sight
A liquor store, a neon vision of light
Promises me spirits of salvation and delight
If I just step inside….
While next door, a gun store slowly cracks open its door . . .
I am my father and my mother’s son and
I’ve never before bought me a gun.
But nobody, nobody talks to me anymore.
©Igor Goldkind 2018
Life is Always Replaceable
You might have lost something or broke something
You know you can always look for it or fix it or get yourself a new one
That doesn’t crunch her popcorn in bed.
And shoots farther & quicker than you ever thought possible for a bullet from a gun.
You know, what isn’t replaceable or even predictable is this Stream of events pushing past us
Like panicking strangers in a crowd
Or even worse, engulfing us, trampling over us, nearly drowning us,
Pushing us back from whence we came.
Then leaving us choking for breath on the shore.
Being is Becoming Still
Existence is a limitless screen of emptiness,
And gratitude for the joy in rolling a boulder blissfully up a steep hill
Tripping over our thoughts like loosened cobblestones,
The truth is a truce we have struck with uncertainty.
After losing the desperate struggle
To cling to some kind of hope buried at the root of our own awareness.
I am fearful of fully failing myself
Although I love myself best when I am alone with eternity.
I am safest and most secure in this clarity I call awareness.
We who are hiding in our second bedrooms,
Licking the silver from the backs of our screens,
Are living in a different time zone
Of Insomniac Awareness.
Sometimes two, sometimes three, sometimes four or more
Lives are lived and lost each night.
In our rooms, by ourselves
Sitting precariously at the edge of our beds.
This is our legacy
The lasting perpetuity of our sensory species:
The glow that contests the light that once shone from our eyes,
Right up to the surface of our understanding.
What is not yet known.
Or what was known and long since forgotten.
Dances across the screen you stare into.
Tripping over your coded memories; in Real Time.
Who are you reading this?
Do you know
What perturbs your sleep-walk into the night?
Or are you merely waiting for the screen to pull you through?
Into your own quiet world,
Where things that count never change.
And no one is dreaming you, but your mother
Who has left you now for another child.
The Last Halo of Hope.
Hope is mortal, not eternal.
Though it may feel like eternity
Sitting in a chair by the window.
Gazing up and down the path that leads
Up the hill and down to the canyon on your doorstep.
Every morning, every evening, every day.
Awaiting an answer to your prayer for your hope to be restored.
Patience still burning brightly
Under your old photograph on the wall where you live now.
I’m not sad.
No, sadness is just a passing rain to irrigate the eyes.
Instead, I’m a new planet
Ringed by the last halo of hope
Wrapped tightly around my head.
Thoughts are merely pebbles
Being gently washed by a passing stream.
You are the stream.
Thoughts are merely pebbles on a beach
Being gently rounded by crashing waves.
You are the waves.
Thoughts are merely pebbles in the sand.
Being gently worn away by the passing wind.
You are the wind
My words escape on.
Words are merely thoughts
Being gently read by a passing eye.
Yours are the eyes
That can read my thoughts.
This morning after sitting around and paying attention to nothing for a long while, the pedestrian thought that loitered and would not keep moving down the sidewalk became a realisation.
My self, which I know is an illusion, a trick of perception, occupies too much of my time. I know this fully with my mind even if my heart still clings to safe delusions.
The easiest thoughts to dismiss are the good ones, the comforting ones. The memories of past loves long gone. My mother’s unconditional love, my sister’s devoted, admiring love. The eulogies and compliments I’ve received over time from those who have borne the patience to get to know me just a little bit beyond our facades.
The pleasure I took in surprising my friends with my true nature is easily exiled, easily erased from the Book of Illusion resting on my dusty shelf. But today I awakened to the fact that so it is of the slings and arrows my memory flings at me. The regrets, the failures, the self-loathing for being so much less than I imagine myself to be.
I have welcomed hatred like a long lost friend. When I am targeted by malice or false accusations, I somewhere believe that I am well deserving of acrimony; that deep within me is a broken porcelain doll wearing a torn, stained dress. I have sought refuge in self-hatred, in depression, in the idle futility of it all.
After all, cynicism is just another mask worn by our own complacency.
This morning, the light shone on me and I laughed at how insidious my vanity could be. To soak in self-loathing is as deluded as celebrating false glories. None of my past is real apart from what I insist on carrying into this present like a troublesome burden; weighing down my footsteps. Stalling the will to keep on moving, with the current, a little further down the road. Misery, the sister of Narcissus, loves company and the good liquor I buy her. But she’s too needy and crazy and no real friend of mind.
I may feel brave wrestling with my demons but they are in truth, made of the same scattered dust as my angels.
My Buddha tells me that enlightenment lies in the transcendence of seeming dualities. The trick of mind in seeing beyond black and white to the full spectrum and subtleties of the colors surrounding me. I can hold my inner sense of self, both magnanimous and self-damning, one in each hand and then bring those hands together, accepting both as one simultaneous truth.
I can know myself completely, even the parts left out.
Rumi says that beyond right and wrong, beyond good and evil, lies the desert of disillusionment.
At the end of the desert there is an oasis and in the middle of the oasis is a fountain and that fountain is the source of all Life.
Do me a favour, next time you feel down about yourself, undeserving of love, miserable and useless; do not blow the feelings away but rather hold them in one hand. Then with the other hand conjure the feelings of pride, of self-worth of glorious love. Hold each sense of yourself like a ball in each of your hands while substituting either/or with both/and. Now bring your hands together in gratitude for the whole of who you are.
Tell me how that feels.
Write it here, just beneath these words.
Existence is a limitless screen of emptiness,
And gratitude for the joy in rolling a boulder blissfully up a steep hill
Tripping over our thoughts like loosened cobblestones
The truth is a truce we have struck with certainty.
After losing the desperate struggle…
To cling to some kind of hope buried at the root of ourselves
Does choice invalidate certainty?
By undermining the sense, the unravelling of our story.
I am fearful of fully failing myself.
Although I love myself best when I am alone with eternity,
Secure and supported by this universal clarity.
Depression is merely an afterthought.
A reflection on deeds that cannot be undone
But our thinking is cut off from the action.
A circuit is broken in a chain that cannot be rejoined.
We are slaves to our memories
Being tortured in real (not imagined), time.
We recall everything from our own anxious center of risk
Hiding the moment we know to be true;
From ourselves, yet again.
On FaceBook, a discussion where questions are posed and answered: https://www.facebook.com/realpoetrytherapy/
The healing effect of words has long been recognized. As far back as 4000 BCE, early Egyptians wrote words on papyrus, dissolve them in liquid, and gave them to those who were ill as a form of medicine. In more recent history, reading and expressive writing have been employed as supplementary treatments for those experiencing mental or emotional distress. Pennsylvania Hospital, the first hospital established in the United States, employed this approach as early as the mid-1700s.
In the early 1800s, Dr. Benjamin Rush introduced poetry as a form of therapy to those being treated. In 1928, poet and pharmacist Eli Griefer began offering poems to people filling prescriptions and eventually started “poem-therapy” groups at two different hospitals with the support of psychiatrists Dr. Jack L. Leedy and Dr. Sam Spector. After Griefer’s death, Leedy and others continued to incorporate poetry into the therapeutic group process, eventually coming together to form the Association for Poetry Therapy (APT) in 1969.
Librarians also played a major role in the development of this approach to therapy. Arleen Hynes, one pioneer in this area, was a hospital librarian who began reading stories and poems aloud, facilitating discussions on the material and its relevance to each individual in order to better reach out to those being treated and encourage healing. In 1980, all leaders in the field were invited to a meeting to formalize guidelines for training and certification. At that meeting, the National Association for Poetry Therapy (NAPT) was established.
As interest grew, several books and articles were written to guide practitioners in the practice of poetry therapy. Hynes and Mary Hynes-Berry co-authored the 1986 publication Bibliotherapy – The Interactive Process: A Handbook. More recently, Nicholas Mazza outlined a model for effective poetry therapy, also discussing its clinical application, in Poetry Therapy: Theory and Practice.
The Journal of Poetry Therapy, established in 1987 by the NAPT, remains the most comprehensive source of information on current theory, practice, and research.
There is also a relationship between psychological healing and incantations; either repeated as a musical chant by the patient or in fact recited by the attending medicine man. Modern medicine and science of course scoff at the notion of magical incantations having healing or restorative powers as so much superstition. But this, of course, begs the question that if recitations and incantations had no evidential resort and no beneficial property then why would every single human culture have adopted the method and repeated it for several thousand years? Surely if there was nothing to vibrating air with the sound of one’s breath as well as the added stimulation of associative meaning being read cognitively by the patient’s mind; we would have given it and its sisters, singing and chanting aeons ago.
I am not advocating a supernatural or spiritual causation for the effectiveness of poetry as a healing agent but rather the supra-natural mystical cause which is grounded first in human nature and behavior for which can be a myriad of imprecise explanations; none of which explain why it works.
Today, poetry therapy is practised internationally by hundreds of professionals, including poets, psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, social workers, educators and librarians. The approach has been used successfully in a number of settings—schools, community centers, libraries, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and correctional institutions, to name a few.
How Does Poetry Therapy Work?
As part of therapy, some people may wish to explore feelings and memories buried in the subconscious and identify how they may relate to current life circumstances. Poetry is beneficial to this process as it can often be used as a vehicle for the expression of emotions that might otherwise be difficult to express
•Promote self-reflection and exploration, increasing self-awareness and helping individuals make sense of their world
•Help individuals redefine their situation by opening up new ways of perceiving reality
•Help therapists gain deeper insight into those they are treating
• In general, poetry therapists are free to choose from any poems they believe offer therapeutic value, but most tend to follow general guidelines.
It is recommended selected poems be concise, address universal emotions or experiences, offer some degree of hope, and contain plain language. Some poems commonly used in therapy are: “The Journey” by Mary Oliver “Talking to Grief” by Denise Levertov “The Armful” by Robert Frost “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman “Turtle Island” by Gary Snyder The poetry of Alan Watt, Allen Ginsberg and others.
Although the selection of material is often by the therapist, those being treated might be asked to bring to therapy a poem or other form of literature they identify with, as this may also provide valuable insight into their feelings and emotions.
My Technique in Poetry Therapy
A few different models of poetry therapy exist, but the one I’ve had the most success with is a Four Phased Progression of Attention:
Recognition – Focus – Intention – Action
In the receptive/recognition phase, the poet therapist merely guides the subject to focus on their issue. The aim is to establish concentration and cognitive focus on the details of the issue which are not revealed to the poet/therapist. Only until the poet/therapist feels confident that the subject is cognitively attuned to and non verbally focussed on the problem or issue of concern that they begin to ask suggestive questions as to how the subject feels, not thinks about their subject.
This provocation of emotion usually comes in three distinct phases of emotional content:
I. First is the one of the predicament, then the subject first becomes aware of the existence of the issue. This is the gateway phase where anticipatory feelings are registered and ideally conveyed through the prompting of the poet/therapist.
II. Then there is the full throttle stage when anticipation of the issue has given way to full experience of all emotions related to the issue. This is usually overwhelming (or it wouldn’t be “an issue” in the first place), and it is tantamount that the poet/guide leads the subject through distinct words to describe the layers of emotions experienced by the subject. Language and the use of the words is the key here because emotions always come in clusters of complexity that make it difficult for both poet/therapist and subject to distinguish and focus on underlying and suppress emotions.
“What kind of anger do you feel?”
“How would you describe your sadness”
“How much shame do you feel?
“What would you compare it to?”
Are typical of the questions a poet therapist would ask the subject.
This is a sophisticated method of word association but rather than creating bridges between seemingly disparate words, the goal is to drill down to the core emotions about the issue by uncovering and refining the language the subject has chosen.
Achieving exactitude of description is the task at hand. The Poet/Therapist makes careful notation of everything the subject says towards describing their emotion. It is important to keep them focused and not to succumb to intellectual distraction. Thoughts are illusions, emotions are facts.
Getting the subject to correctly and precisely describe the emotional facts of the matter at hand is the objective
III. The final phase is the exit strategy.
How do the feelings commence to recede? How does the issue recede back into the background? What are the parting emotions? Is there anxiety about the leaving? The anticipation of an issue yet unresolved? Or is the issue impermeable and subject to a rhythmic return?
Again, the subject’s wording, their adjectives, adverbs and phrases are the material of the poem.
At this point, there is usually a short break to give time for the subject to recover from the emotional transitions and for the Poet/Therapist to briefly skim their notes and begin to focus on the flow of adjectives. It is preferable if possible, to compose what amounts to a first draft, a flow of words which the poet can read back to the subject to confirm the accuracy of the flow.
At this first reading stage, it is possible to start interjecting logical bridges between the emotional descriptors. This is the creative factor unleashed. The Poet must be led by the subject to link coherent sequences between the emotional states. The poet suggests and the subject confirms or vetoes the phraseology, one line at a time.
Now we arrive at a second draft which is the property of the subject. It is their poem for which it is crucial that the subject now read the poem aloud and take ownership of its content. The subject can redraft the poem a third time in making it their own. But the physicality of uttering the words they have chosen to express their emotional state is an act of ownership and closure.
The Poet/Therapist can either email the finished poem to the subject, hand them his/her notes or rewrite the poem into a legible form. In any case, it is important that the Poet/Therapist ascribes the authorship of the poem to the client. If the client is hesitant to put their name to the poem than something is lacking in the poem and must be redressed or indeed started over again.
The key to the entire exercise is freedom of expression, honesty and then refinement; exacting the poem.
Other Approaches and Other Models
The process of writing can be both cathartic and empowering, often freeing blocked emotions or buried memories and giving voice to one’s concerns and strengths. Some people may doubt their ability to write creatively, but therapists can offer to support by explaining they do not have to use rhyme or a particular structure. Therapists might also provide stem poems from which to work or introduce sense poems for those who struggle with imagery. A Poet/Therapist might also share a poem with the individual and then ask them to select a line that touched them in some way and then use that line to start their own poem.
In group therapy, poems may be written individually or collaboratively. Group members are sometimes given a single word, topic, or sentence stem and asked to respond to it spontaneously. The contributions of group members are compiled to create a single poem which can then be used to stimulate group discussion. In couples therapy, the couple may be asked to write a dyadic poem by contributing alternating lines.
The symbolic/ceremonial component involves the use of metaphors, storytelling, and rituals as tools for effecting change. Metaphors, which are essentially symbols, can help individuals to explain complex emotions and experiences in a concise yet profound manner. Rituals may be particularly effective to help those who have experienced a loss or ending, such as a divorce or death of a loved one, to address their feelings around that event. Writing and then burning a letter to someone who died suddenly, for example, may be a helpful step in the process of accepting and coping with grief.
How Can Poetry Therapy Help You?
Poetry therapy has been used as part of the treatment approach for a number of concerns, including borderline personality, suicidal ideation, identity issues, perfectionism, and grief.
Research shows the method is frequently a beneficial part of the treatment process. Several studies also support poetry therapy as one approach to the treatment of depression, as it has been repeatedly shown to relieve depressive symptoms, improve self-esteem and self-understanding, and encourage the articulation of feelings. Researchers have also demonstrated poetry therapy’s ability to reduce anxiety and stress in people.
Those experiencing post-traumatic stress have also reported improved mental and emotional well-being as a result of poetry therapy. Some individuals who have survived trauma or abuse may have difficulty processing the experience cognitively and, as a result, suppress associated memories and emotions.
Through poetry therapy, many are able to integrate these feelings, reframe traumatic events, and develop a more positive outlook for the future. People experiencing addiction may find poetry therapy can help them explore their feelings regarding the substance abuse, perceive drug use in a new light, and develop or strengthen coping skills.
Poetry writing may also be a way for those with substance abuse issues to express their thoughts on treatment and behavior change. Some studies have shown poetry therapy can be of benefit to people with schizophrenia despite the linguistic and emotional deficits associated with the condition.
Poetry writing may be a helpful method of describing mental experiences and can allow therapists to better understand the thought processes of those they are treating. Poetry therapy has also helped some individuals with schizophrenia to improve social functioning skills and foster more organized thought processes. It is important to note in many instances, especially in cases of moderate to severe mental health concerns, poetry therapy is used in combination with another type of therapy, not as the sole approach to treatment.
Training for Poetry Therapists Poetry therapists receive literary as well as clinical training to enable them to be able to select literature appropriate for the healing process. While there is no university program in poetry therapy, the International Federation for Biblio-Poetry Therapy (IFBPT), the independent credentialing body for the profession, has developed specific training requirements. Several studies support poetry therapy as one approach to the treatment of depression, as it has been repeatedly shown to relieve depressive symptoms, improve self-esteem and self-understanding, and encourage the expression of feelings.
Concerns and Limitations of Poetry Therapy
In spite of its widespread appeal and broad range of application, some concerns have been raised about the use of poetry therapy. Some critics have pointed out it is possible for people to analyze a poem on a purely intellectual level, without any emotional involvement. This type of intellectualization may be more likely when complex poems are used, as a person might spend so much time trying to decipher the meaning of the poem that they lose sight of their emotions and spontaneous reactions. Poems that are unoriginal or filled with clichés are unlikely to stimulate individuals on a deep emotional level or challenge them to think in ways that promote growth. Just always keep in mind that poetry therapy may have little or no value for those individuals who simply do not enjoy poetry.
The Advertising Pitch:
Words are the Most Powerful Magic There Is
Sometimes Your Mind Has a Will of Its Own
With PEGASUS POETRY THERAPY you can
Learn How to Read Your Own Mind!
Confusion bringing you down?
Is manic depression touching your soul?
You know what you want, but you just don’t know how to get There?
Poetry therapy is what you need when the medication, the yoga, the guided meditation, the crystals, the chakra alignment and other Somatic treatments just aren’t working.
Some things only work when you let them work:
• Restore Self-Confidence
• Achieve Closure from Painful Relationship Breakups & Lost Loved Ones
• Find a More Meaningful Direction to Your Life
• Get Unstuck and Out of Your Own Way
• Overcome Fears and Anxiety
• Control panic attacks
• Change Addictive Behavior Patterns, like OCD
• Re-Write bad Scripts
Recognition > Focus > Intention > Action
There is no trick to listening to yourself and learning how choosing and rearranging your words can unlock darkened doors, de-clutter basements and clean out the attics of your life. Sometimes in merely one session.
Every Tuesday from 11:00 am until 6:30 pm at the
Inner Temple Inner Healing Center
at Eve’s Vegan Cafe 575 S. Coast Highway 101 Encinitas, CA
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or
Call 858 349 6429 for an appointment.
$50- 1/2 Hour $80 – 1 Hour
EXAMPLES & ENDORSEMENTS
PEGASUS POETRY THERAPY has only recently launched its online version via FaceTime, Skype or Facebook video. Just add <poetry therapy> to your Skype contacts and schedule a date. Payments accepted through PayPal or Facebook cash. Here are some examples of the poetry achieved through PEGASUS POETRY THERAPY:
Narcissus in a Nutshell
I’ve lost the person locked within the situation
Like a nut dwells within its hard shell of fearful anger.
Hiding from the unknown.
Hard shells, hard feelings, hardness itself
The excitement of living days in the present
Belonging to the past
I will not let go of what I can recall but not relive
My belonging to that which encompasses myself
Another nut within its shell.
To belong is to exist
Without belonging there is Nothing and
I fear nothing most of all because I do not know it
And I fear what I do not know more than
I would remedy the pain of this loss with trustworthy tools
When two liquids are bonded as one
A single drop of poison poisons the whole glass
And betrayal is always poison no matter how little or how much
The glass of Narcissus’s tears is now empty
He has blinded himself rather than drink his own poison.
Instead he has left me to sip the bitter poison
Of fading better days.
Like a cat
Poised in stillness
Distracted by nothing
Ready to pounce
I will not surrender the pain.
I will not surrender the pain.
Because the pain is my memory of the happiness
We’ve now lost
A sweet nut within a bitter shell.
Last night I saw you beatify a martyr
With a magical brush of gold belief.
You were serious and determined
But your brush strokes were light caresses
On a sky blue span of canvass
As you gently coaxed another image into being.
You remind me of my mother earth
Stern in her compassion
Willing to tolerate just so much from me
Before reining in my love
With her brushes.
And where you have drawn your line
‘Be careful’, you said to me on parting
But all the care in the world could not stop
My bulb from bursting
Rendering me blind in the speeding night
But still seeing with the golden light
Of the martyr you have shown me.
This sadness, this hopelessness
Will not be swatted away
Nor drowned by the busy work
Of the day to day.
Even when I am submerged in my bathtub.
The warm water rising from the bottom of my lungs.
Until I lose the will to breath
And the sadness becomes anger
Rising to the very top of my horns
Of my red-hot raging exhaustion.
How good to be angry!
I used to be afraid of snakes but no longer.
I am hissing from the centre of my snake-heart
As you try and step over me.
Your eyes fail to see as you tread on my tail.
On my snake heart.
On my resolution without confrontation.
Without the owning of emotion
All that’s left for us is the hissing sound of machinery.
I never really knew Hannah Northedge apart from our Facebook exchanges. I think it was she that first started commenting on my postings. I read her comments with bemusement and replied. Earnest, sincere, a bit young girlish but always quintessentially English. That refined contrivance that is both over-mannered and elegant at the same time. And yet we shared a sense of humour, which is an astonishment between an Englishwoman and an American.
The real English, the softcenter at the core of the cracked, hard surface, English remind me no one more so than of the Japanese. Both island peoples deeply suspicious of foreign invaders and both sewn tightly within an intricately embroidered fabric of ritual, custom and politesse. Both peoples’ have a tea ceremony; one with boiled spring water and green leaf powder, the other with scones, clotted cream and jams.
I did not really know Hannah Northedge but I knew what she was like. A middle-class Midlands girl from Leicester with financially nurturing parents and an early gift, really, a passion for music. She must have dreamed as a young studious girl coming to the Big Smoke, to London to make it big as a chanteuse, as a professional jazz singer. Hannah’s own cover version of Dick Whittington sans cat. This would have been for her a dream logically constructed from sturdy childhood building blocks. Each carefully poised upon the other, pushing gradually upwards into a stern, determined tower of accomplishments.
Hannah would teach music on the side, to students both male and female to make ends meet in a rapidly escalating London that had long driven me from its financial borders. Living in London is not an easy thing. Not for any young man or woman and certainly not for a high strung, talented musician intent on being the best at what she could already do quite well.
The dedication of an artist is blind. Blind to all things that do not further the acts of creation. There is no greater earthly power than to suddenly plug one’s hours, days, years of practice into an unearthly circuit that seems connected to the very essence of one’s living. That sudden bursting propulsion ever further, and ever greater into what you had always wanted to attain and seemed now to be as effortless as a second nature. Suddenly you are living your higher nature!
Any artist, any writer, any dancer and any musician will tell you that this moment of being ‘experienced’ of being played upon what feels like the very aesthetic strings of life is at best indescribable. This is much more than being “in the zone” as an athlete or card player might venture. This is about the zone being in you and all around you; in every pore and molecule of your being until it would take more effort to stop the momentum than to just let yourself keep falling forwards. Pulled into the very gravity of creation.
The Red Shoes is a 1948 British drama film written, directed and produced by the team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and based on the story by Hans Christian Anderson about a pair of red shoes that are enchanted and when worn enchant the ballerina dancer into dancing more powerfully, more perfectly than she has ever danced before. Until tragically in the end, the dancer cannot stop the shoes from dancing her to her death. A glorious death brought to life by a magical realism. One that many would gloriously surrender to just to be swept up in that dance unto death.
Hannah had no red shoes to speak of, but her throat, her lungs, her diaphragm and her instinct for music were as enchanted as they were enchanting. They were her soul and at very least they enchanted me. I never really liked what she sang. Of course I never told her that; (why would I?) To me, perhaps unfairly, it reeked of nostalgia and a wonting for a long disappeared time. Her numbers were swing, pre-integrated jazz; the time of Louis Armstrong and grinning happy black men.
This music came to England via the American GIs that were stationed there, much to the resentment of the male British population and much to the erotic delight of the female one. Courting and bedding an English girl was the kind of overseas exotica an American GI could handle, easily overlooking the cultural gap by virtue of a common language; in fact magnetically attracted by that difference of language and nuance. We said elevator, they said lift; we asked how many blocks; they answered how many streets; what could be more enchanting? All to the sound of swinging jazz.
Hannah in many ways embodied that stalwart and determined optimism of the English. Being bombed by a vastly superior air force, on the very brink of invasion and yet somehow, against every indication to the contrary, still anticipating a break in the weather. Raining bombs on old London town. By the time American GIs were deployed to England the response of the British and I can hear Hannah saying exactly this, was “About bloody time! How nice of you to finally show up for the party!” “Better late than never, I suppose!”
This was the playful sarcasm of the English by which they kept themselves and each other bemused whilst coping with the obstacles at hand This has always been lost on my American comrades. We think it’s rather mocking, which of course it is; it’s merely a democratic mockery, a Monty Python hysteria at the awesome absurdity of Life and it all. When it comes to jokes and putdowns and the English, no one ever gets out alive, no less so than the English themselves. Self-effacement and self-mockery are not part of the American skill set and we would be fortunate in having few English Life Coach instructors to teach us a thing or two about the proper positioning and placement of the ego.
But I digress from my digression. Hannah was quintessentially English, youthfully so. Although merely some ten years younger than me, she somehow always made me feel that she was much younger than that. A child’s wide-eyed openness beaming from a woman’s face I believe that that child-like disposition, as well as her nervousness and constant stress, were hand in glove with her talent. She desperately needed to keep performing, to keep belting out those numbers because her life really did depend on it.
I was supposed to take Hannah out on a date this Spring in London. Not really a date, more like a shared joke. Both of us had frequently traded our frustrations with the opposite sex and one night I asked Hannah to describe her perfect London date to me. It involved dinner and dancing and her description was so lighthearted and life-affirming fun that I immediately promised her that as soon as I got to London I would take her out on that exact same date. I made that promise not to impress Hannah or woo her but because what she described sounded like such god damn fun that I wanted in on it! Hannah’s lust for life was infectious. Most important of all, Hannah laughed at all of my jokes, even the ones that didn’t merit laughter.
Alas, our date to laugh is not to be. The one woman in 3 years who had finally agreed to go out with me, drowned herself instead at the very prospect. Now that’s a good joke. One that Hannah would have heartily laughed at.
What can I say about suicide? And I understand as of late through a mutual friend that that is exactly what Hannah Northedge had planned in advance and self-executed (so to speak). Albert Camus said that the only question worth asking in life is whether or not to commit suicide; each and every morning when we awake we should ask ourselves that very same question. Because in all honesty, in asking ourselves that question we are never freer. Simply because if we do not choose to end it all; (and I assume that anyone reading this has chosen other than that), then what we have chosen is everything else instead. Because we could have chosen the only alternative to living there is, but we did not to.
I don’t know if Hannah asked herself that very question waking in her luxurious hotel room in Eastbourne, near Beach Head, Britain’s top suicide spot. She certainly had chosen a fine hotel in which to waylay her return to London. Perhaps I will pay that hotel a visit just to catch that final view of the sea we might have shared and toasted. I do not know what state of mind she was in when her parents sent her back home to London from her childhood home in Leicester. English parenting can be harshly stoic at times.
All I do really know for sure about suicide, and in fact, that is what Hannah committed herself to, is that it is an act of self-agency. You may not want to hear this, but please listen because it’s true. Take this bitter pill from one who knows: Suicide is a determined act to strike out against a world of pain and futile injustice. It is not weakness nor surrender that causes one to take one’s own life. It is instead the ultimate act of defiance, an act of unnatural courage and entails a great act of will against all instinct; against the very will to survive.
To look at the universe that gave birth to one’s own conscious mind and in full consciousness scream “No!” “No, this life was not worth the pain, the agony, the empty suffering of my existence!” “You can just take it, just have it all back”. “This was never going to be good enough and I’m putting an end to it here and now because it is my choice my freedom, my volition to do so!”
I do not know of Hannah’s pain apart from what she told me of it. I do know that her despair at romance and at its betrayal weighed heavy on her. If there is any lesson to be garnered from her passing, be it what I tell my own daughter time and time again: never ever believe that you will ever need a man to be happy as a woman.
It’s possible to have both, but by no means mandatory; nor is a man ever the sole path to happiness. We are at best unreliable and at worst, much worse than that.
Hannah did seem determinedly desperate in her remaining months; determined to be believed and desperate not to be dismissed as a hypochondriac lunatic. Which from my own experience with medical authorities. their tendency to treat the symptoms more urgently than the patient surely is lacking some benefit.
I know that there are those of us who in trying to find some salve for our confusion and our anger will demand answers from doctors, from landlords and mould experts; from Hannah Northedge’s own family, even. I know that righteous confusion first hand. To you, I say what my baby sister’s widow said to me at the time of her untimely passing: “nothing that we do, nothing that we try, no matter how hard is ever going to bring her back”.
We need all to find our peace with that.
Igor Goldkind © 2018
Has been entered int the Realistic Poetry Contest and thus is no longer available on my blog as it is defined as non-exclusive or previous publication by the contest rules.
Who knows, I may even win.
Either way, it returns once the contest is over in February
NOTHING has prepared you for This. Nothing ever will.
Because whatever is happening Now has never happened before.
This is a web-nurtured collaboration with 27 artists, sculptors and musicians from the world of Comics, Fantasy, Fine Art and Jazz, including Bill Sienkiewicz, David Lloyd, Liam Sharp, Glenn Fabry, Shaky Kane, Lars Henkel and the cutting edge sculptural typography of the highly acclaimed book designer Rian Hughes.
by Bill Sienkiewicz and Rian Hughes ©2014
This illuminated book is a contemporary Dante’s Divine Comedy; a journey through the confessional landscape of a masculine identity. It uses poetry to construct a narrative that explores themes of death and loss, sex and love, and the modern American and Jewish identity design: by the UK’s eminent graphic designer, typographer, illustrator Rian Hughes.
The music is composed and produced by iconoclast, ex-Israeli, Middle-Eastern jazz virtuoso Gilad Atzmon, along with five other jazz artists.
Written by San Diego native Igor Goldkind, this illuminated book will revolutionize the way you view poetry by meshing comics, art, music and animation in a truly unique way. It uses poetry to construct a narrative that explores themes of death and loss, sex and love, and the modern American and Jewish identity. The book is available for download on the iTunes Store and Google Play, as well as in a 166 page, fully illustrated in colour hardbound edition available ORDER HERE.
The eBook edition pushes the edge of what is possible with present EPUB3 technology. It is not an App, it is a true book that marries pop art, comics, avant-garde, jazz, spoken word poetry, video and animations, and type design in a manner that we have not seen before IS SHE AVAILABLE? has the feel of an artefact from the near future – a seminal work of a new genre-fusing poetry, graphic art, music, and animation.
Sample interior pages:
IS SHE AVAILABLE? RRP is $34.95, SHIPPING INCLUDED
Educational Discount for Students and Teachers: $29.95
Both deluxe hardcover edition PLUS animated and musically scored eBook App edition of Is She Available? bundle: $39.95
Go to http://Paypal.com/issheavailable/ and place your order directly through PayPal with all Pay Pal assurances and protection.
Shipping included in orders within the US and its territories.
If you are in Britain and/or Europe, please contact my European wholesaler Fanfare Productions who will take your order and dispatch to your address the same day: email@example.com
Reviews ? Sure We Got Reviews. Why You Wanna See Them? Be my guest.
“Igor’s “Illuminated Book” is like a new genre. It is a wonderful ekphrastic expression; a fusion of the arts.” — Poet Mel Takahara
“His collection Is She Available? has the feel of an artefact from the near future – a seminal work of a new genre-fusing poetry, graphic art, music, and animation.” —(San Diego’s) City Beat
“Is SHE Available?” is an experiment, and reading it feels more like an act of discovery… nonetheless there’s a thrill to scrolling through its pages. It’s an ambitious step toward what digital media can (and will) be.”—The Chicago Tribune
You Tube samples: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLRnmT_aE0acoowdNBvFtK_VW2OkNN2wWp
SoundCloud samples : https://soundcloud.com/igor-goldkind/sets/is-she-available-spoken-word
The 166 full colour, fully illustrated hard cover deluxe edition is available in discerning and eclectic independent bookstores everywhere. Including Fahrenheit 451 in Carlsbad, Soulscape Bookstore in Encinitas, the Upstart Crow in San Diego, Verbatim Books and Mysterious Galaxy also in San Diego, City Lights and the Cooperfields chain in Marin County and Sonoma County, amongst a growing number of independent book stores.
Order direct from PayPal and shipping is included!
You don’t need Seymour Chwast, Chip Kidd and other designers to tell you that cartoons and comics are vital sources of creative inspiration (although they do that here). So maybe you’re thinking about exploring the graphic novel realm, but you’d like something more exceptional than usual, more out of the ordinary. Well, here’s the first of a series of suggestions that either defy or disregard categorization as comics. And the first, Is She Available?, is an eBook that also challenges conventional book classification in the process.
As you scroll through, you hear 1950s cool jazz in the background. Then gunfire blasts out of nowhere. A choir sings. Dogs bark. Bombs drop from the sky. And all the while, letterforms unexpectedly appear, tilt, transform, and vanish while spoken words interweave with the music and sound effects. Is She Available? is a trans-media poetry collection, one that pushes at the limits of eBook technology. It’s also comics, kind of.
Its author, Igor Goldkind, is a 2000AD comics sci-fi writer. He describes his 50 or so poems as “a contemporary Dante’s Inferno… that explores themes of death and loss, sex and love.” He’s included a couple of standard, panel-sequenced comic book narratives, including one rendered by V for Vendetta’s David Lloyd. But the bulk of the book is enlivened with music and other effects that enhance the moody illustrations and minimalist animations from a diversity of other skilled artists. The lineup notably includes Judge Dredd’s Liam Sharp and Shaky Kane as well as Bill Sienkiewicz of Daredevil/Elektra fame. Most impressive is the overall design, by accomplished comics illustrator and self-described “commercial artist” Rian Hughes. With graphic flair and acuity, Hughes proves himself to be a worthy digital age successor to Stéphane Mallarmé and Robert Massin.
And for traditional readers, Is She Available? is also available in hardcover.
If you’re interested in comic books, chances are you’ve heard the names Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. After all, their partnership paved the way for the Golden Age of comics beginning in the 1940s. With The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio by Mark Evanier, learn more about the duo who invented noteworthy characters like Captain America and Sandman, conceived the idea of romance comics, and created a new standard for the genres of crime, western, and horror comic books. Take a look inside the various aspects of their career, and see some of the works that defined them.
People have been asking me why I chose the risk of first publishing a book of poetry before publishing my collection of short stories THE VILLAGE OF LIGHT and my first novel, THE PLAGUE. Why launch a writing career on the back of such a neglected and unpopular form of literature?
My first answer has been that as a keen admirer of the actor William Shatner, I wanted to emulate his career; first as a starship captain (in my mind), and second, as a genius of the Art of Spoken Word.
But the non comedic reason is worth explaining here: throughout every major epoch of human achievement and civilization,
Poetry has maintained a major position in the spectrum of human arts; true across society, cultures, oceans and centuries.
This dawning century of technological, scientific and artistic achievement; this era we currently reside in, is the exception to the human rule.
We have exchanged our ability to appreciate Poetry for other more comfortable and lascivious sensations. We have unlearned the sensibility to immerse ourselves in the healing waters of an art that we, as a species have grown like a medicinal herb in the human garden, to salve the pains in our souls and our minds .
By turning our backs on those warm healing waters we have damaged ourselves. We are all in dire need of rehabilitation.
And that is exactly what Poetry mystically, delivers.
Poetry sets you free, for free!
If you know how to notice and pay attention to the subtler colors in the spectrum of your mind’s cognition.
Which is a Poetic thing to say in that it is both metaphoric and literal at the same time.
Poems allow the mind to synthesize (reconcile), apparent opposites and to understand the deeper resonances of our human experience, in the simplest of terms, arranging words like pebbles on a dry river bank and in the broadest, to enter the harmonic rhapsody of our humanity and its sense of rhythm in this universe.
That rhythm is the breath, which is true to us all who are living. Poetry is the sound of our breathing in this world. If you want to know who a people strange to you are, read their Poetry; the words they have chosen to express themes, that persist for us all: Birth, Death, Love and the swirl of illusions inbetween.
Poetry is a drastic intervention meant to make you better. Not just feel better, but actually see, understand and *be* better than you are, which may feel strange at first.
Only bad poetry is comfortable. Trying to be the best that you are, to overcome ones self, may take more than one lifetime to achieve. But so many Poems offer roadmaps of the soul. Guidebooks from which you can detect what is universal about humanity, about the human subjective experience, and your place in this present.
So that is why I chose to launch my writing career, with my current publisher (Chameleon), with a book of Poetry:
You can order a signed and dedicated copy of my book IS SHE AVAILABLE? directly from PayPal Here
IS SHE AVAILABLE? Hardcover edition
I chose to publish Poetry first specifically because it is the form of literature that has proven to be least popular at the moment, as this marketing study details.
I’ve always stood up for the underdog, be it in life or publishing. I stood up for Comics when they were largely looked down upon as adolescent drivel. I just never thought to myself in all my years on this earth, that I would need to stand up for Poetry, because it had now succumbed to more dominant dogs.
This is a great shame to me, as a reader of great Poets from virtually every culture and time period. I mean with Poetry it really is where all of humanity meets, outside of time and space. The very center of our collective space, where language is. Each one of us is both here and there: at the edge of meaning. The words of the poem are are written by and read by the singular mind that spans all of us to that edge of comprehension. Poetry is the very understanding that we seek, in our selves and in others.
It is passive crime against our own humanity to let this art subside, due to laziness, neglect and superficiality.
So do your soul a favour and read a poem. Not just mine, any poem will do. Any Poem will set you free, for free; or at least at the modest cost of your attention.
In My (always) Humble Opinion, ofcourse.
Author, Igor Goldkind