By Nasra Al Adawi
My country was calling out for volunteers during this COVID-19 Corona virus crisis and although I was raring to go, I was labelled either too old to volunteer or my blood too low to donate. They told me to check again when my blood gets high. I don’t know when that will happen, but then my spirit is not too low. In fact, it is high enough to reach out to people; to help them.
Verses running in my head
I wanted to give something and if I am not able to give my time as a volunteer, then I need to dip into the riches that I have! I call it riches because I don’t have anything else; I don’t own anything else save for a paper, a pen and yes, hundreds of verses running in my head.
Poetry in the time of COVID
So when I was left with no alternative, I reached out to them. Poetry in the time of COVID! This is a virus that binds us but holds us apart. And so let’s try to bridge the gap with words, with verse.
And world over, this is what is happening. So many have taken to verse – for the better or worse – to express themselves and there is an audience that suddenly understands the words, because it is the season of understanding perhaps, and the words are resonating with a major segment of the audience.
So many poets speak of this new world that we are confronting now, a world that has taught us not to take anything for granted and get used to a new quietude.
Does anyone need poetry?
So, I shouted out aloud through my Instagram page asking if anyone needs poetry during this wretched COVID-19? Social media is abound with poets’ communities washing the gloom with a joyful flow of verse and asking people to savour life, and not fall prey to panic.
But in my case, it was in stark contrast to the international scene where people were enjoying this poetic interlude. Apart from few likes, there were no courageous takers with an open heart to take on my offer.
To me the silence was deafening – it was an obvious answer that no one would like to taste poetry during COVID-19 and though I was disheartened by the local social media response I knew that I can contribute and I can make a change, maybe not on a nationwide level but maybe touch at least a few individuals. I went back to my favorite book titled Poetry and Story Therapy: The Healing Power of Creative Expression by Geri Giebel Chavis.
Her words were so powerful! I felt as though she was speaking directly to me as she emphasised that poetry and short stories can be powerful springboards to growth, self-enhancement and healing, fueling new ways of coping with challenges.
It once again fueled me with courage to go back. After an intense conversation with a mentor at the International Academy for Poetry Therapy I was made to understand that it is not easy to start anything.
And for the whole society to embrace reading and writing poetry as therapeutic tools, the first task was to let some experience it first and slowly the trickle will begin before it eventually fills the board.
Healing pen session
So, I thought I will tweak my call a little bit: This time the announcement I made was to “Join me in a healing pen session” and I had to face both skeptical and worried faces, the latter being first timers in poetry, but with a little coaxing, things began to pan out.
From frowns to smiles
Soon the sessions began and we started to read and write poems and also explored the process of writing. The participants created their own poems in reflection of the poems that they read and the end result was magical. Suddenly from despair, doubt, depression and frustration were born an element of peace. Those little moments were like walking in a garden of serenity where the wind was whispering words of sweet nothings.
It was heartening to hear and listen to their inner poetic voices and slowly shyness gave way to calmness to boldness with each one vying to present and share their poems. From frowns to smiles – that was how the session ended with each one of us taking home gladness in our hearts and verses ringing in our ears.
Before psychotherapy, there was poetry
Let this be the new beginning and let me encourage you not to fear the word poetry, but to embrace it as one would a saviour in these times of COVID.
We all have an inner voice, which is waiting to be heard and we need to evoke it so that we give it flesh and blood, make it vocal and help it to mend our emotional tides.
As Hoffman and Granger (2015) affirmed, “Before psychotherapy, there was poetry, which can be recognised as one of the oldest healing arts that has been utilised across many different cultures throughout history” and if you are curious about how to use poetry for growth, then, come, be bold and try out the healing pen or visit the below mentioned reference.
Healing Pen Sessions: visit Instagram page @scerenemuscat / @iamnasra