Poetry Therapy Column, May 2004
(sometimes disguised as an arts or other alternative therapy column!)
By Kara L.C. Jones

Reaction Writing...

That's it. It's basic really. Do something. Write in reaction to it. I know, I know. It isn't always that easy!!

This is just a series of ideas for things you might do or see or hear specifically so you can write in reaction to those things. If you are a bereaved parent, you might try these things, then write not only in reaction to the stimulus, but also write your reaction as it pertains to your own grief and healing journey. The results can be mundane or extraordinary. But the process is always helpful!!


  • Go to a poetry reading. Plan to write a reaction to the third poem read that evening. See what random poem gets read. React.
  • Go see a play. Plan to write a reaction to the last act. Make sure you take the playbill home with you to refresh your memory on character names and the like.
  • Get a copy of a play script. Read it. Write a reaction to the last line of the play.
  • Get a copy of your favorite movie's screen play. Read it. Take in all the visuals as written in the screen play. Think about how that compares to what the film ended up looking like. Write about the differences between the two. [If you are a bereaved parent, write about how this might be a metaphor for the differences between written support materials available vs. how support from real live people feels and happens or doesn't happen.]
  • Go to the museum. Plan ahead of time to visit the third floor and react to the first thing you see. Remember, you might get off the elevator and see an interaction between two other patrons or some other random thing. Art may not end up being the first thing you see.
  • Take a bus ride. To anywhere. To another state. Or just to downtown. Or take the subway. Plan to write in reaction to whatever happens at the first stop after you get on.
  • Take a walk and look for something you just "find" -- a "found object" -- a piece of paper someone lost, a rock, a toy someone dropped, a coin...anything. Write your reaction to the "finding" of it or to the object itself.
  • Go to a free concert in the park. Or look for free music online. Write in reaction to whatever you find. What did the music make you think, feel, see? What was the journey for finding the music like?

You can use any of these ideas to just write. Just get the pen moving. Or you can use them to specifically explore how your grief is expressed or affected by one of these exercises. Or you can talk about how you relate to the experiences as a woman, a man, a red head, a short person, a tall person. Or write about how your inner child reacts vs. how your adult self reacts. You can use them in any way you wish. These are open ended ideas to just get you writing and exploring yourself!!!



A Comprehensive Archive

A few readers have written to say it's difficult to locate previous issues of this column, so below is a comprehensive archive. Please note that each link here will pop open a new window containing the Poetry Therapy column named:

Discovering Poetry Therapy

Pt I: Defining Poetry Therapy *and* Pt II: Coping with the Holidays

The Notion of "Healing"

National Poetry Awareness Month - 2003

At the MISS Conference: poetry and kids

So you want to be certified?

Let go, Let go

Outside, Inside

Can't you get over it?

Layers & Living - 9/11


Be Still

Reviewing "Poetic Medicine"

Day of the Dead

Letting Expression Come

Forgotten Familiar

Empty Chairs, Tiny Stockings


Word Play Leads to Music

About the Author
Kara is an artist of many disciplines. Trained as a poet and bookmaker, she has also been known to act, bellydance, and do henna body arts. She teaches and performs through faires, festivals, local art centers, artists in the schools programs, KotaPress and independently. To find out more, see:


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