An amazing tool to be discovered – the time is ripe to bring the ministerial tool of poetry forward for wider use.
Through formal and informal interviews with health care professionals about poetry as a useful tool, Kim has found that, increasingly, people are open to and enthusiastic about poetry as a means of starting conversation in pastoral visits.
There are two main reasons for this:
#1 – the rise in popularity of support groups over the past 25 years. The research has consistently shown that support groups have a positive impact on physical and mental healing for many people. Support group leaders that Kim has interviewed have found that carefully chosen poems, which are accessible and brief enough to be discussed in a single session, can often shed light on some aspect of the group’s struggle that may ordinarily be difficult to articulate.
#2 – the increasing number of people who identify themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” Many physical and mental health issues that involve ongoing struggle ultimately evoke deep questions of meaning. Poetry gives people a way to engage with these questions in a way that is not overtly denominational or theological, but still deeply spiritual.
In both cases, safe and accessible poetry provides an avenue of understanding that can reach those for whom other methods fall short. As Emily Dickinson says, “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.” Poetry provides the “slant” that allows one to grapple with and reconcile truths that may be too challenging to confront directly.
In one of Kim’s interviews, a healing arts professional at the Cleveland Clinic said that poetry in healthcare is right where art and music therapy were 25 years ago: an amazing tool that is just waiting to be discovered.
Using poetry for support and grief
Those who facilitate support groups and minister to the grieving may appreciate learning how to prepare for and use poetry during their visits and meetings.
During a workshop or webinar, Kim can recommend and review specific poems to carry with them, as well as proven methods for using the poems one-on-one and with families.
In addition, Kim offers many poetry circle topics that can be structured as webinars, evening sessions, mini-retreats, or full-day/weekend retreats. Peruse the themes.
“Thank you so much for sharing your poetry and healing ministry with North Coast Health. You are always a delight – and your energy, kindness and enthusiasm for others is a gift that we are grateful to share with our patients.” –Ellen Ospelt