Poetry in Healthcare
After observing the impact poetry had in my 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.
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. 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 in Hospitals: Toronto’s Sinai Health and Beyond
I have been Poet in Residence at Sinai Health since 2012. Through this work, I’ve developed a repertoire of offerings for staff, patients, and visitors: a range of writing workshops, poetry booths and site specific events. The aim is to offer staff, patients and visitors opportunities to express their experiences through poetry. Or to receive a poem that might touch something they have no words for.
The Rx for Poetry Booth, in which I prescribe poems for people on the spot, has been brought directly to staff and patients in the Diabetes Unit, the Alzheimers Clinic, Neonatal Intensive Care as well as to public places, such as the cafeteria,. In 2019 I am offering a series of 3 writing workshops open to all Residents, MD Educators and Practitioners. In recent years I have brought the work of poetry to Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western, St. Michael’s and to consultations with practitioners in the US and abroad.
Articles on Poetry at Sinai: First ever Poet in Residence at Mount Sinai Hospital Helps Health Care Workers, Toronto Star, MSH Poet helps staff build resilience, Canadian Jewish News, On Prescribing Poetry in Hospital Waiting Rooms, The Literary Hub.
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.
Recent talks include:
The Journey is Not Without Passengers: Moving Forward with Compassionate Health Care
The Reflecting Poem: What Can Poetry Do in Health Care? (My essay based on this talk is included in, Keeping Reflection Fresh: A Practical Guide for Clinical Educators, published by Kent State University Press.)
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.