My passion for writing and poetry stems from my years in training as a Poetry Therapy Practitioner in iaPOETRY, based in New York City. iaPOETRY (International Academy for Poetry Therapy) is a strong and supportive network of teachers and clinicians founded by Lila Weisberger (now headed by Jill Teague and Geraldine Campbell). I trained as a Poetry Therapy Practitioner from 2004-2011.
Since my start in the organization 15 years ago, Lila and her supportive community paved my way in becoming a strong writer and poet. They’ve shared some valuable reading material throughout my journey in Poetry Therapy. These are just some of the books that hold a special place in my heart.
My first conversation with Lila Weisberger was over the phone in early 2004. During that first discussion, she shared with me the value of John Fox’s book for implementing poetry as a creative healing tool. Fox describes many ways to build your words with creativity and expression. There are many exercises in the book that allows people to use everyday items in your home and work setting to express your thoughts.
This book serves as a useful tool for writers/poets who wish to learn new techniques on their craft. Using her own experiences in the writing process, Lamott provides the reader multiple exercises in applying brainstorming and free writing in order to flesh out a first draft for a book and/or a collection of poetry. I appreciated the advice that a draft is a document that can always be edited later. I could greatly relate to the advice in marketing yourself…that the process of marketing is a job in itself. My first collection of poetry (A Blossoming Journey) was through a self-publishing company, and getting your work out there is truly a process you must take on yourself. As overwhelming as it seems, I continue to push along and create. The most important thing to do, first and foremost, is to write!
Many of my poetry therapy colleagues apply Thich Nhat Hanh’s wisdom in achieving peace and mindfulness, yet I picked up one of his books for the first time 5 years ago. During this time, I lost my job in New York, then my apartment a couple months later (no money=no lease renewal). I moved back to New Jersey with relatives, feeling very frustrated about my life journey at that stage. It was at that point when I picked up Thich Nhat Hanh and took in his valuable advice for the soul. The words in Anger served as a soothing balm for my soul. My hurt feelings didn’t dissipate overnight, yet Thich Nhat Hanh allowed me to breathe, to think about what I really needed to guide my soul to heal.
10 years ago, my mother passed away from heart failure. This was no doubt the darkest moment of my life. Along with my family, my poetry therapy community was there to guide me through this difficult time. While working my way through the grieving process, some dear colleagues recommended that I read Motherless Daughters as a healing tool. This book was just what I needed in that rough time, as Edelman shared story after story of women enduring the heartbreak of losing their mothers. The pain from losing my mother never truly fades, yet reading Motherless Daughters (along with a strong support system) helped me move through this difficult stage in my life.
Still I Rise is part of this memorable poetry collection by Maya Angelou. I first became aware of its powerful message while training in Poetry Therapy. Maya Angelou is a powerful poet and storyteller. She endured so much trauma throughout her life, yet she persevered in sharing her story with an unflinching voice as an African-American woman who created rich tales and poems to empower others. I came across Still I Rise in my studies several years ago, and I loved the strong voice it contains. Angelou’s message comes from triumph in the midst of chaos. Despite slander and hate, Maya Angelou kept moving forward in her life. I turned to Still I Rise last year, since I was going through a very rough period in my life. This particular poem helped me out in life immensely.
There are many more books that I discovered in my studies as a Poetry Therapy Practitioner, but these few were instrumental in my creative growth. Along with the guidance of my wonderful community, these books helped shine a light in my journey as a poet and writer. I will forever be thankful to my iaPOETRY community.
For more information about iaPOETRY, contact:
Jill Teague: Out of the Blue Writing