Healing Poems

poetryChineseThere is no mystery to the belief that poetry can heal. Look at any given moment in history when some calamity or disaster came upon people, and you will see a measurable increase in the amount of poetry written about the event. For instance, when the U. S. was shaken by the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, psychologists, media reporters and teachers reported a sizable response to the events via poetry. During the recent tsunami that struck parts of Asia and caused high death tolls and extensive loss of property, people expressed their grief through poetry.

Firefighter’s Prayer
by David Cochrane

It’s interesting to note that in the Chinese language, the written symbol or character for the word “poem” is comprised of two basic characters — one which means ‘temple’ and the other which means ‘word’. Together, these two symbols mean ‘poetry’. The wisdom which is expressed through poetry is essentially the combining of that which is sacred and that which is represented by the written or spoken word. The process of healing is often thought of as happening at the individual or personal level; however, if we are to view healing more as a process that returns us back to some sense of wholeness, then healing happens not only within the individual person, but also between the individual and their family members. It can also happen between the individual and the community in which they live. The truth is that in order for healing to be effective, it must happen on essentially all of these levels at the same time.

Untitled
by Li Bai

It is a common belief in cultures throughout the world that illness happens when a person falls out of harmony with the rest of the community. In order to providing healing for that person, they must have their place restored in the larger order of things. In parts of West Africa, several proverbs have been composed and passed via poetry in the oral tradition. In some African cultures, a song is determined for each child that is born, and during that child’s life, that song (or poem) if recited at key moments – puberty, wedding, and so on. This poem is also recited if the child has fallen into disharmony with the rest of the community, has committed some crime within the community. The people in the community share with each other and try to reestablish the order of things, hoping that they can restore the harmony in their world. Sometimes just writing a poem, whether to be kept as a poem or to be used as a song, helps express the sadness felt. These lyrics by award-winning vocalist Sade, express the sadness over conditions in Somalia and the struggles of the people there.

Pearls
By Helen Adu

Poetry has long been considered one of the best ways for someone to express their feelings. This is especially true during times of great stress and anxiety. It isn’t only for the benefit of the one writing the poem. People who have been hurt by the author of the poem, or who have shared in the sadness felt by the author, can receive healing as well by reading the poem the author has written. It is no wonder that there is a massive increase in the number of poems written during national and international moment of crisis.



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