"The Healing Power of Poetry"
The devastations and repercussions of war are inimitable, and can sometimes be left unhealed. However, men and women have had to find cures to lick their wounds and resettle the turbulence existing within their minds. In Pat Barker's emotionally powerful war novel Regeneration, we are introduced to a war journal, called the Hydra, on page 84, which served as healing tool for WWI soldiers. This journal contained articles, cartoons, poetry, letters, and all kinds of other different types of writing. Barker uses the Hydra in her novel to mark the healing power of writing in the lives of these men.
Poetry therapy has a long history, being recognized as far back as the first songs chanted around the camp-fires of primitive people. To these people, the chant is what heals the heart and soul. In the English language, the word "therapy" comes from the Greek word "therapeia," which means to nurse or cure through expressive arts such as dance, song, poem and drama. The Greeks have also informed us that Asclepius, the god of healing, was the son of Apollo, the god of poetry, medicine and the historical arts (Longo). In addition, mythological beliefs say that Oceanus told Promethus that "words are the physician of the mind diseased." The use of poetry therapy has therefore been discovered by numerous cultures since the beginning of language (Longo).
Once recognized for its healing power, this therapy quickly moved to the North American continent. Within the American colonies, the first American hospital to care for the mentally ill was founded in 1751 by Benjamin Franklin, called the Pennsylvania Hospital. This hospital is known to have included reading, writing, and then also the actual publishing of their writings in a newspaper they named "The Illuminator." In recent times, in the 1960s and 1970s, the term "bibliotherapy" was created to literally embrace the meaning that literature is here to serve and help. During this time, researchers continually investigated it in the attempt to get something definitively published. In 1969, Dr. Leedy published the first scholarly book, Poetry Therapy, which contained essays by numerous early pioneers of the field. Not much later, the Poetry Therapy Institute opened on the west coast, founded by Arthur Lerner, with a Ph.D from Los Angeles, and who in 1976 wrote "Poetry in the Therapeutic Experience." Finally, in 1980, a meeting was held with all of these interested investigators to create guidelines for training and certification in poetry therapy. This meeting resulted in the founding of what is now known as "The National Association for Poetry Therapy," which can be accessed at <http://www.poetrytherapy.org> (Longo).
These early, as well as more recent, discoveries have distinguished particular reasons as to why poetry, and the use of words, can help purify and refresh the inner being. One is the role that rhythm plays in poetry. It tends to have the ability to move...