Books I Discovered Through iaPOETRY

     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.

Finding What You Didn’t Lose: Expressing Your Truth and Creativity Through Poem-Making by John Fox
Genre: Poetry/Education
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: TarcherPerigree
Release Date: September 1995

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.

Bird by Bird: Some Instruction on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Genre: Education/Literature
Length: 237 pages
Publisher: Anchor
Release Date: January 1994

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!

Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames by Thich Nhat Hanh
Length: 227 pages
Genre: Self-Help/Spirituality
Publisher: RIverhead Books
Release Date: August 2001

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.

Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss by Hope Edelman
Genre: Non Fiction
Length: 390 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong Books
Release Date: March 2006 (2nd Edition)

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. 

And StillI Rise: Poems by Maya Angelou
Genre: Poetry
Publisher: Random House
Length: 54 pages
Release Date: August 2001 (1st edition: 1978)

     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.

Summer 2017: iaPOETRY gathering at Tavern on the Green

     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

International Academy for Poetry Therapy

Memories of Mom, Ten Years Later

My mother passed away from heart failure 10 years ago, on the 22nd. I still remember that day like it happened yesterday. It was a Sunday, and I was living in Throggs Neck, NY, ready to run and do errands. My phone rang and saw it was my uncle. I loved catching up with my family once a week, whenever possible. In this instance though, he brought the devastating news that my mother passed away.

I couldn’t function, couldn’t think straight. I knew I needed to head to my family’s house in New Jersey immediately, but couldn’t bring myself to get ready. My partner at the time had to pack my luggage so I would be ready for the journey.

What followed that week was very emotional. My aunt and I did the task of updating family members of my mother’s passing. We (along with my grandfather) spoke with the funeral director about the arrangements. I searched through photos of my mother to create a collage of her memories.

I continue to keep Mom in my memories. Over the years I’ve written poetry in her name, and I’ve followed my path maintaining her mantra: ‘Of course you can do it, you’ve worked hard’. I’ve encountered some bumps in my life journey the past few months, yet her words still resonate in my soul.

It’s now been 10 years since that horrible moment, and I still miss her greatly. She’s never too far from my thoughts.

September 26, 2018: Last Night’s Dream

My mom appeared in my dream last night. She rarely makes an appearance in my dreams, so I pay close attention when she does. I remember feeling happy when I saw her. My mom was smiling, wearing her hair in a long, loose ponytail, and her face was made up lightly. She was also wearing a brown top. I recall me feeling relieved when I saw her, and she was nodding her head and talking calmly. Then in an instant, her serenity shifted into yelling. I don’t remember what exactly she was yelling about, but she went into a tirade. I felt so anxious. This went on for a few seconds before I woke up.

So many emotions went through my mind at that moment. Happiness because my mother appeared in my dreams again after so long. Sadness, because her peace turned into pain. Worry, since I’m trying to interpret the meaning of my dream.  Somewhere deep down, I believe I have an understanding why her emotions shifted so fast. In my daily life, I ask for her assistance in my life dilemmas. There’s been so much happening in my life the past two years, and I struggle to break out of my difficulty. Perhaps this is my mother’s way of pushing me to change my routine. The signs are right there, I picture her saying to me, you need to act. Now.

I always had my mother’s support when she was alive. Although she’s no longer with me, I want to make her proud.