We can find many connections between poetry and its transformative influence on human lives – especially its healing power. Going back as far as mythology takes us, it is very well known fact that the Greek God Apollo, the son of Zeus and Titan Leto, was the God of music, poetry but also the God of healing, transferring the knowledge of medicine to humans and the God of truth.
In Chinese language, for instance the word poem is comprised of two characters – one meaning word, the other meaning temple. So poem is something that is sacred, the ultimate truth.
In many indigenous cultures, illness is viewed as a state in which an individual is distancing himself from his true nature – both physically and emotionally. If we observe a healing as a process coming back to harmony, to wholeness, poetry can be seen as a healing tool, with a restorative component.
Traditional worship practices in many tribal structures are gatherings, accompanied with dance, rhythm, songs and trance. Sacred narratives and beliefs are deeply based in Nature and are rich with the symbolism of seasons, weather, plants, animals, earth, water, sky and fire. The mode of prayer, a poetic narrative is seen as coming back to Nature, reinforcing the feelings of love and acceptance.
Many poets, emerging in our newer history were trained physicians: John Keats, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. and William Carlos Williams who wrote:
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
of what is found there.
Today, poetry is accepted as a proven healing method and there are many associations that train and accredit poetry therapists. In particular, the American Poetry Therapy Association has approach that they use a set of poems that their patients discuss and then those poems become a model — even a template — for individuals to write their own poems.
Poet, author and retired university professor David B. Axelrod further notes:
The process helps people get their feelings out and into words. Generally, I don’t worry about the form the writing takes at the outset. I will help someone find the poem within the words they first write. Whatever the methodology, yes, poetry, and story writing, can be a healthy outlet. The results of poetry therapy, if not forced into any specific form, can also trigger marvelously original creations.
No matter which poetry you prefer: spiritual words by Rumi, mythological expression of W. B. Yeats or modern linguistic experimentation of E. E. Cummings, words can pave a path to your own wisdom; help you find that missing puzzle inside that you need to feel whole again and hear your wakeup call for inspired action in the world.
When I am asked
how I began writing poems,
I talk about the indifference of nature.
It was soon after my mother died,
a brilliant June day,
I sat on a gray stone bench
in a lovingly planted garden,
but the day lilies were as deaf
as the ears of drunken sleepers
and the roses curved inward.
Nothing was black or broken
and not a leaf fell
and the sun blared endless commercials
for summer holidays.
I sat on a gray stone bench
ringed with the ingenue faces
of pink and white impatiens
and placed my grief
in the mouth of language,
the only thing that would grieve with me.