Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

Poetic License

Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday!!

We tell stories about our lives every day.  Some stories are happy, others sad, but all-in-all each story reveals a piece about who we are as we walk this world.  Our stories are often dependent upon who we’re with or where we are at any given time.  You may tell someone a very different story about yourself at the grocery store than you would in a support group meeting.  Our context determines the depth of our story.

As I work on my dissertation, I’m exploring the role of the “illness narrative” in the lives of those diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness.  These “illness narratives” can provide information about your health to your medical team, share your deepest concerns and fear, or simply be a way of letting others know about your experience.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that sometimes our story can be told in a more artistic fashion.  Poetry has become one method of sharing your “illness narrative”.  You may want to check out the work by Rafael Campo, “The Healing Art”, or John Fox’s book, “Poetic Medicine”, to get a broader view of how illness can be served by poetry.  In addition, check out Robert McDowell’s book, “Poetry As a Spiritual Practice”, or my friend Kim Rosen’s book, “Saved by a Poem”, to explore other ways in which poetry can positively impact your life.

I thought I’d share a poem I found while doing my research so you can see the impact and the intensity of how poetry conveys deep emotion.  I hope you enjoy the poem.  The poem is by Simmons Buntin and was in an article titled, “Special Supplement: ‘Creative/Artistic Narratives of Illness.”


After the dry shell splits

and falls, my sister (the dark-

edged butterfly) rows her deep

blue wings of Japanese paper

into the thick liquid

of the dawn.  Violet or perhaps

phlox-a flower familiar

as the bird-thin bones of her labored

hand-gives pause.  She lands,

drinks from the pearl-fruited anther,

slips suddenly into the flat palm of the wind.  Mad

at herself for giving in,

she flutters wildly against the branches hemming her life

a ribcage.  Cracked and leaning,

the sternum splits and my sister

is speared.  The disease finds

its way quickly through the light

cells of winds, body, spirit.

Rising, she crawls to the limb’s

arthritic edge.  Torn and dying,

she is the last brilliant leaf

on this failed and falling tree.