Friday, February 26, 2010


To ask if poetry can heal is to ask what art can do.

Last spring, poet Raúl Zurita, translator William Rowe, and neuropsychiatrist Nuri Gené-Cos led us to consider whether a traumatized culture, in the effort to heal its history of violence, must find ways to heal language itself. Their presentations prompted many of us in the audience to turn the scope on the United States, in both recent and distant histories of violence. For a poetics of healing always encompasses the poetics of pathology, violence, pain, shame. The damage perpetrated through language and perpetuated by language. A poetics of healing must entertain the languages and strategies of all forces that seek to prevent a “symposium of the whole” (Robert Duncan).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Icon / Asklepion I

"Votive relief of Archinos (370 BC) from Tyrea, Argolis (Oropos / Amphiaraus), 0.49 m x 0.55 m. The healing god Asklepios appears to the dreamer to cure him. National Archaeological Museum, Athens, No. 3369. The same person is shown 3 times. First Asklepios personally checks his hand. As a patient on a bed (kline) he is bitten by a snake. Raising his hand he thanks Asklepios for the cure." See more ancient Greek medical stamps here.

The seed event for The Poetics of Healing was an event called "The New Asklepion," featuring psychologist Eric Greenleaf and poet/builder Robert Kocik on the poetics of dreams/trance and healing. Visit the Poetry Center's website for more images from past programs.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Experiment

Every disease is a musical problem; every cure a musical solution. -- Novalis

Poetics: theories of creation. The art of how things are composed. Healing, too, an art of composition, the art of making whole—which may yet lie in asymmetry, fragmentation, chronicity, disability.

The Poetics of Healing series began with a desire to investigate the therapeutic dimensions of poetry and other art, and to explore the uses of poetic language, sound, and imagery in a wide range of medical and somatic practices, across different cultural traditions. Through the diversity of our participants—who include poets, physicians, ethnographers, historians, psychotherapists, diviners, disability activists, visual and performance artists—the series has evolved to ask questions about how healing is imagined, created, and performed on multiple levels, from the subtle body to the body politic. Our intention is to foster a public forum where different perspectives and practices can be put into conversation—to make possible an interdisciplinary exploration of method, scientific and creative, somatic and scholarly, in ways that might be unexpected and mutually generative.

Some highlights of past programs:

  • Psychologist Eric Greenleaf presented “Balinese Healing of the Visible and Invisible Worlds,” showing original films of Ayurvedic healing with interior mantram, trance healing in ancestors’ voices, and community trance ritual.
  • Poet and builder Robert Kocik presented plans for a “Prosodic Building” based on the ancient Greek Asklepion or dream-healing clinic, an architectural space that would function as healthcare.
  • Anthropologist and diviner Barbara Tedlock gave a reading of her initiation into K'iche' Mayan shamanism and spoke about her work facilitating the integration of indigenous modalities into medical education.

Monday, February 15, 2010


The Poetics of Healing is a collaboration between me and The Poetry Center at San Francisco State University, sponsored by the Creative Work Fund. It includes a series of public programs curated for The Poetry Center and a book I’m writing, in which I draw on what happens in the programs and where they lead me in my work on language and medicine, body and culture, art and therapeutics. This blog will serve chiefly as a site for writing in progress, as well as dialogue around the series, work by program participants and audience members, and other extensions.