Poetry in Healthcare

After observing the impact poetry had in my private psychotherapy practice and informally with friends, I saw that poetry had a place in health. Poetry, like scent, goes directly to the core.

Rx for Poetry

What if, in the middle of a lobby, a person seated at a table asked you if you needed a poem?

And what if, in the middle of that lobby, they wrote it, and gave it to you? This is one of the things I do. It's called The Spontaneous Poetry Booth.

My motto: everyone who is alive could use a poem. Whether they want one is a different matter.
— excerpt from 'The More'

Rx for Poetry is a similar process that emerged from The Spontaneous Poetry Booth, where instead of writing a new poem on the spot, I prescribe an existing one.

Both of these are ways to involve people in a moment of self reflection that results in a poem. The process is simple: after asking you two or three questions, I will offer or write you a poem—in five minutes or less. When a poem works, it can reflect an experience that has not yet been articulated.

Some people laugh, and some tear up when they read their poem. Often those you find in the hospital are in a raw, emotional state. Whether it be joy, or pain, or exhaustion my mission is to hand over a poem that captures that particular moment for that person. Rx for Poetry has appeared at hospitals, fundraisers, book stores and street fairs. 

Listen to the 5 minute audio documentary produced by CBC Radio q in April 2018, Prescription for Poetry? 

Read a piece on Lit Hub about poetry prescriptions in hospital waiting rooms.


Poetry at Sinai Health and Beyond

As Poet in Residence at Sinai Health I have been doing workshops and poetry booths for staff, patients and families. I enjoy bringing this work further afield and have held events in hospitals, conferences, art galleries and fundraisers in Canada, England and Italy.

Speaking Engagements

I use poetry as a way to engage people creatively, playfully, and consciously with their lives.

Each talk is designed to meet the needs of the group, and each poem is chosen to help participants connect to the topic in a way that bypasses linear thought and speaks to the heart. What poetry offers which ordinary speech can’t is a direct and visceral poke at what matters to people about whatever theme is under investigation. “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant,” says Emily Dickinson. The talks are conversational, interspersed with poems, and responsive to who and what is in the room. They invite people to connect with their humanity, their power, and their curiosity.

Frontline workers in healthcare, students, teachers, spiritual leaders, community groups as well as real estate agents, have been among those who have attended my presentations. Recent talks include:

  • The Journey is Not Without Passengers: Moving Forward with Compassionate Health Care

  • The Reflecting Poem (or what can poetry “do?”)

If your team requires a more interactive approach, I offer tailored workshops that provide an intensive, focused and playful approach to education, professional development, and change.