A book review by Kara L.C. Jones

Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making by John Fox

Whether you are an expressive arts therapist, a bereaved person, or just an everyday writer, this book is one of the most powerful tools you will find to use in the practice and expression of your grief & healing! John Fox has offered us his heart and work as well as the experiences of so many other people. The $16.95 you will spend for the paperback version of this book will repay you a millions times over, I promise.

In general this book is an amazing tool to deal with a basic sort of writer's block. I'd say that no matter what your genre of writing, you will find exercises and ideas here to jump start you after a block or to fuel you on in the middle of a project. In some ways, this work could be akin to a guide for writing in much the same way many writers have found The Artists Way to work.

Specifically, you will find tools here for your own grief & healing work or for the facilitation of work with others along the way. A note of interest here is that Poetic Medicine includes a section specifically about "Writing Poems To Heal The Wounds of Childhood Abuse." This section may be especially helpful to those who are also following other resources such as the Child Abuse and Recovery site run by Susan Maree Jeavons at Suite101.

While I think anyone working in the bereavement and/or recovery fields would benefit from this work, I think also that anyone doing any kind of care giving or facilitation work would find useful tools here. One of the basic rules for Poetic Medicine is learning how to ask the open ended questions so the person you ask can have room to explore his or her answers. For instance, you could ask someone with ADHD, "Did you have a good day?" and they will likely say "yes" or "no." However, if you ask them, "How did you feel today at school?" then they are likely to feel a sense of freedom in how they answer. They may find it easier to tell you about the rollercoaster of emotions they experienced throughout the day if you ask open ended questions.

So while my own personal focus is on the grief and healing that comes after the death of a child, Poetic Medicine addresses grief and loss of all kinds. From death of a loved one to the loss of limb or the grief a care giver feels when their loved one is frustrated-- all of this is part of Poetic Medicine. John Fox addresses everything here from the specific elements of poetry to meditation and muses. There are many exercises here for self exploration and for facilitation in working with others who wish to move toward healing through poetry. He also offers resources, suggested readings, and a thorough bibliography in the back of the book.

In subsequent articles for this column, I will use some basic parts of Poetic Medicine to give you ideas for how to make use of this wonderful book on an everyday basis. Together we can explore all that John Fox is offering and create some wonderful poetry while we're at it.

Thanks and miracles to you as always!

A side note: John Fox did an interview here at KotaPress in Volume 2, Issue 1 as our Poet Chat. Check out the archive, and you might find what he has to say there very interesting!


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