Poetic Medicine on Molokai
In February, John Fox, poetry therapist and published author from Mountain View, California, graced workshop participants in “Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making—Living Aloha” with heartfelt words and wisdom. The literal translation of Aloha is, “The Breath of Life.” According to Fox, poetry is a way of making something tangible and true and beautiful from this breath of life. “Poem-making, when approached as a transformational process, and especially when shared by others, creates an opportunity for healing.”
A gifted teacher, Fox has carried the message of poetry as a healing art across North America and as far away as Ireland, Kuwait and South Korea. Like a magician, he transmutes language into gentle medicine aimed straight at the soul, helping patients with life-threatening illnesses cope with pain and express their emotions, giving voice to people in their deepest hour of need.
“I am the scribe for the woman without fingers/I am the gardenia fragrance that enters the nostril of the man with Alzheimer’s to help him remember his garden,” recited Fox at a gathering of poets at Hui Ho’olana, a nonprofit center on Molokai. Located on land owned by Rik and Bronwyn Cooke, the center is dedicated to creativity, healing and the arts through residencies and educational programs.
Ho’olana means to encourage, to float, to bring into balance—as in righting a canoe. The workshop participants as well as Fox all felt very inspired at the center and were awestruck by the beauty and serenity of Molokai. “We are in the midst of joy,” said Jeanne Browning from San Antonio, Texas.
Fox helped participants tune into a variety of experiences, including the poetry of earth, relationships, the power of language, responding to life’s challenges, and the blessing of common things. “Poetic expression can help us release anger and sorrow, foster forgiveness, redress wounds, reclaim power, and connect with spirit,” said Fox.
A fierce listener, Fox showed how stillness and empathetic listening deepen writing as a healing journey. He created a safe environment for his students to compose and share their deepest, most personal stories. It is rare to be heard with such diligence. John helps the wounded soul heal.
Kathleen Picarelli, a participant in the “Poetic Medicine” workshop, is from Bay Shore, New York.