Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Healing Power of Poetry

Louise Bishop's work, Words, Stones and Herbs (2007) focuses on the healing power of literature. She discovered a 15th-century manuscript which provides treatment for everything from a flesh wound to mental ailments. In medieval times, medicine involved the study of language related to the seasons and the power of  nature.

A doctor often placed a written charm on a broken leg to speed the recovery process.  What we today consider, the placebo effect, became a vital part of medicine back then. Bishop mentions that people would memorize 150 lines of poetry to assist healing.

Fighting a sore throat and sniffles, I decided to delve into poetry and produce my own literary curatives. I cajoled and begged my body to cure itself during a day of self-healing that involved reading and writing.

Years ago I learned from Dr. Norman Cousins that humor heals. A day of silliness and naps would get the job done. I wrote and re-discovered a poem on the human body that added to my cure. 

Today, I am buoyant and back!

The Heart of the Matter

Why does the heart always get credit
when pleasure or pain take the breath away?
“We do the work,” say the lungs.
“Breathe. Breathe. We fix it.”
The heart claims it never breaks,
“I don’t even wrinkle.”
Fingers create fists, “We feel, really feel.”
"Well, we run from distress,” the feet say.
Liver and kidneys shout that they
deal with all bodily evils first.
The eyes edge in,
“Tears wash away the chaos.”
“Hey, don’t forget us adenoids and tonsils,
if you still have them."
“Anyone home?" asks the spleen"  The appendix
can’t even pronounce vestigial.”
The navel chuckles, “Don’t ask the colon for its opinion.”
The brain has remained complacent
“Have fun without me,” it sings
as it flits out an ear.
                          - Penny Wilkes

Creative Write:  Take a day for self-healing. Create a poem about the human body.

1 comment:

  1. Today is partially for self-healing.

    Thanks for sending the piece from TED. I think we talked about this exact piece in Alison Luterman's Personal Essay class at the Writing Salon in Berkeley, but I know you from Facebook, don't I?

    If so, this is an amazing coincidence. Small world.

    B. Lynn Goodwin
    Author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers