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

August 4, 2018: Off to Boston

The weekend always brings fun adventures, and today is no exception. Right now Andy and I are on our way to Boston. The only time I’ve been to Massachusetts is on 2006. I went to a poetry therapy conference that weekend. It was an exciting 3 days with Lila, Johanna, and the other devoted members of the poetry therapy community. I held valuable memories of that time, and I couldn’t wait to return.

We are visiting Boston for a different reason (heading to a concert), but it’s going to hold equally valuable memories. Andy will connect with friends he’s maintained online over the years. I’ll have the chance to see what’s new in the area, and enjoy what Boston has to offer. We will certainly enjoy this time away from Hunterdon County.

August 3, 2018: More Journaling and Poetry

Ever since I returned from the poetry therapy intensive, I’ve been focused in really writing that 2nd book. In order to get that going, I need to have more material. I have the small pieces on my poetry blog, Poetic Threading, that I can expand on. I also write in a paper journal that I take along with me. I think of it as additional material for my eyes only, until I’m ready to display it.

August 1, 2018: Goals in Writing

We turn the page now to August. Last month brought some truths to light. It began with me feeling very frustrated about my situation. As the month progressed, I continued to feel worried, yet I gained a clearer sense of what needs to be accomplished to achieve my goals. I still have a lot of work to do, but I feel confident in reaching these goals.

I’m now keeping a journal that I write down poems and ideas. I missed keeping a written journal, and I’m excited to keep the creations going. I’m hopeful that these writings will finally lead me to writing that second book.

July 31, 2018: Still Lingering

It’s been a couple days since ACTIONWEEK (the annual poetry therapy intensive) ended, yet I’m still feeling its impact very strongly. I go about my day, handle work tasks, yet the emotions that swirled around me that weekend still lingers. This year, it’s Johanna’s absence that makes things particularly difficult.

Johanna made it a point to attend the intensive every year, be at every session. Now, her thoughts and laughter are no longer with us. The silence that came with this realization was heard by everyone.

July 29, 2018: I Rise

When I began my studies in poetry therapy, an important thing I learned was to take note of your strengths in the face of extreme challenges. Of course, this task is not easy to learn right away, as doubt and disbelief always finds its way to creep in the mind. Eventually, your strengths come to light, like a switch being clicked on, and you realize that yes, you are indeed strong.

This year, It took me living through my most challenging days to reach this realization. A month ago, I was at a low point emotionally. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong in the span of a week. I didn’t know if there could be any resolution in sight.

Then, things slowly shifted. I began to breathe, and take note of what I needed to do in my life at the time. I slowly came to the realization that yes, I will shine through this. I am strong. I had Andy’s undying support, and Maya Angelou’s poem ‘Still I Rise’ going through my mind like a mantra:

You may write me down in history

with your bitter, twisted lies,

you may trod me in the very dirt,

but still, like dust, I rise.

Like a switch, my resolve returned. While there are more challenging days ahead, I take comfort in knowing that I will endure these bumps in the road courageously. Through the hardships I move ahead knowing that life has many more gifts and blessings in store for me.

**Quote is from the poem ‘Still I Rise’, from Maya Angelou.**

July 28, 2018: New York Weekend

Currently on my way to New York. It will be so exciting to meet and share with my poetry therapy community. It certainly won’t be the same without Johanna, but it will be good seeing the other members who could attend.

The journey to NYC is pretty eventful. The large crowds and crowded surroundings are all too common once travelling close to the area. As much as I don’t enjoy it (who does, really), I appreciate the diverse conversations and action taking place around me. Certainly different than what I see in daily central NJ life.

I constantly wish that I could be up hee more frequently. Stay connected to what I left behind four years ago. Sadly, it’s still a work in progress. The motivation really needs to kick in.

July 26, 2018: New York, Always

Only a couple more days until I share poetry with friends in New York. I’m glad I can come by and be with my community for the weekend. Visiting NYC on a regular basis has not worked out the way I had hoped since moving back to NJ. I miss the moments I had with good friends. I wasn’t able to communicate as much with Johanna while she was still living and working there. While she was still alive. I deeply regret that.

When I visit New York this weekend, I will honor Johanna’s memory while connecting with the group we cherished so dearly. They’ve always been there for me when I needed them the most during my times of need. Now, while looking back on Johanna’s life, we need to be here for each other.

July 19, 2018: Escape in Poetry Therapy

It’s going to get busy with poetry therapy for the next week. Saturday begins ACTIONWEEK, the yearly poetry therapy intensive. My mentor Lila Weisberger used to arrange the schedule, but she passed down the duties to Nessa a couple years ago. Both women have held amazing programs, and I used to attend every workshop, from beginning to end.

Due to me no longer living near NYC, the last four years have been difficult for me to attend the entire week. I’ve only been able to attend one day. My work schedule has made it extremely difficult to take weekdays off during the summer. Fortunately, this year I’ll be able to attend next weekend, both days. It’s such a relief, since I always look forward to ACTIONWEEK every year.

The only thing that’s sad about attending group is that Johanna will not be there with us. I think back to our phone conversations in the past in the weeks leading up to the intensive. We would talk about who we would see, what topics we would cover. Johanna was always someone who gathered so many materials for her workshops, so she would have lots of supplies to share. To not have her confident presence with us will be a bit emotional.

I look forward to attending though, because our poetry therapy is strong, and close knit. We hear each other during times of crisis and joy. It’s time for me to escape life in central NJ and connect with my poetry therapy tribe once again.

July 5, 2018: Memorable Moments

Today Andy and I made a decision on the venue where we would have the reception hall. An email was sent to the representative this afternoon. We are hopeful that a response will arrive to us tomorrow, since I would love to contact the church about the wedding date right away.

I guess it’s fitting that July would be a time to set things in motion, since summer time is always a stage where things are set in motion. mid-July was mainly a time for poetry therapy, and gathering with peers to discuss creative writing. This year my poetry therapy community will remember our dear friend and colleague Johanna, since she was a very active member since day one. I’m very hopeful that I could attend a day during this active time in poetry therapy. Finances are very difficult to sort through this year, but I hope there can be a day to gather in New York and remember.