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So You Think You Can’t Write A Poem

“I haven’t written a poem since high school.” 

“I could never be poetic.” 

“I’ve never even written a journal.”

“I’ve never been good with words.”

This is what I hear from people all the time when I tell them that I work in poetry therapy.

We all have the nightmare vision of sitting in a poetry class, where our precious words are critiqued, slashed with red ink, while our creative spirit is beaten down until it goes into permanent hiding.

Well, I’m here to tell you, it’s safe to come out.  

What’s more, in dealing with your life’s challenges, you desperately need the wisdom and the guidance of your creative spirit - that part of you that may have gone into hiding.  

That’s right. That part of you that hid away to avoid criticism can be your greatest ally. It can help you clear the hurdles in your present life, and even more – help you take flight in the ways you’ve always wanted. 

The process of poetry therapy creates a safe space, and gives you permission to be inspired, and to explore your life on the page without judgment or critique. Your job isn’t to craft a poem. Your job is just to be open, to trust the white page, to trust what comes forward in our discussion and just write a journal entry with no edits. Then together, I’ll show you how to break the lines where you would naturally pause or take a breath. You will know where it begins and ends. Without trying to write a poem, you’ll look down at the page, and there it is. And you’ll realize, all of your moments in life can be expressed this way. Try it out. Your inner voice might surprise you.

Over and over again, I get to witness people coming in, full of disclaimers about their ability to write. And over and over, within the safety of our sessions, I watch as their inner voices are coaxed out of hiding, and invited to speak. I get to see the surprise, the awe, when they realize that their own inner voice has secrets to reveal to them. As David Whyte says “Poetry is the act of overhearing yourself say the things you didn’t know you knew.”

By tapping into that reservoir of inner knowing, not only are beautiful poems written, but perspective is gained, strength is found, truth is revealed. And you discover, it’s true, I do indeed have a story worth telling. 


Keys to Your Treasure

Most treasures start off hidden, locked away, and usually require a key. Finding them involves decoding a map, and takes us on a journey that often requires taking some risks and summoning our courage. 

The journey to your voice is no different. 

When I work with poetry therapy clients who are trying to discover their own inner treasures, we always start by creating a map -- their Life Map. What is a life map? It’s a list, really, which identifies the phases in one’s life from birth until present. Like pictures in a photo album, it tells a story, stimulates memory, and charts the terrain. The simple act of mapping your life in this way reveals a new perspective, a birds-eye view if you will, of the winding road that led you to where you sit today, and includes all the experiences of light and dark that make you who you are. There is a deep inner voice inside each of us that has witnessed all of the moments in our life, and has a lot to say about them. But like a treasure chest, it needs a key and a willing hand to unlock it. That’s where poetry comes in. 

Poetry can help reveal the treasures hidden in your past experiences. The poems then become snapshots of your most iconic moments. There are literally hundreds of these moments that make up each phase of our unique life maps. By allowing me to guide and inspire -- and by leaving one’s inner critic at the door -- my poetry therapy clients are able to reach new levels of self-understanding, compassion, and healing. By allowing your voice to ‘speak’ your moments through writing, poetry therapy gives you the key to discovering your greatest treasure- you!


How Was Your Poetry Reading?

This is a question I have been asked a lot lately. Mostly, by people who wanted to come to one of my poetry readings, but couldn’t make it work. I understand the hurdles of getting out the door on a Thursday evening with kids, homework, and just plain exhaustion. Yet, I also know the reward of making it work, and showing up at an event that inspires me, moves me, and leaves me somewhat changed.

As a first time author, it was an amazing experience and dream come true to stand in Pages’ beautiful bookstore surrounded by beloved works of literature, realizing that I am amongst other writers now in my own words, and their impact on readers.

My book of poems, Autism Disrupted: A Mother’s Journey of Hope, reads like a narrative through a very intimate and honest journey as a mother of a child with special needs. Standing amongst a crowd of people, reading these poems aloud in my own voice was powerful. The energy in the room was intense, silent, drawn inwards as I watched men and women wipe tears from their eyes, and settle in to receive true honesty- not the usual grocery store aisle conversation, or Facebook post- real honesty.  That is the power of hearing poetry aloud.

The discussion after the reading was most memorable to me. A room full of parents, grandparents, educators, writers, doctors, therapists, friends and professionals suddenly came alive with questions and comments. This community bookstore opened up to very real conversation of how we can support one another’s emotional journeys in life, how we can teach our kids to honor uniqueness in others and themselves.

As a therapeutic writing coach, I could see doors opening in the hearts of these adults — inspiration to maybe allow their inner voices to write about their own life experiences. From this special evening, I now have a monthly writing group of moms who come to gather together, be inspired by poetry, and take time to go deeper through writing, sharing and supporting each other. That’s what these readings are about. Come be inspired, be moved, look deeper into your own life, and write it down.