Kim has done formal and informal interviews with health care professionals about poetry as a useful tool and 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:
The first is 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.
The second is the increasing number of people who 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 can allow one to grapple with and reconcile truths that may be too challenging to confront directly.
The time seems ripe to bring this ministerial tool forward for wider use. In one of Kim’s interviews, a healing arts professional at the Cleveland Clinic said that poetry in healthcare is right now where art and music therapy were 25 years ago: an amazing tool that is just waiting to be discovered.
Based on the topic, and your group’s needs, your experience may include:
- Poetry readings and discussion
- Sharing and stories
- Private journaling
- Writing prompts (followed by optional sharing)
- Guided imagery
- Visual meditation
- Silence and self-reflection
- Nature walks
- Music and art
Kim offers the topics below, which can be structured as evening sessions, half-day mini-retreats, or full-day or weekend retreats.
In addition, WordSpa ministries can select poems for a customized program on a theme of your choosing, or a combination of multiple listed 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.”