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.
  • Anthropologist, linguist, and diviner Dennis Tedlock performed Mayan incantations used to treat illness.
  • Historian and emergency medicine physician John Tercier presented scholarship on the Royal Humane Society and 18th century poems of instruction for resuscitation.
  • Professor of international studies, historian, and ecologist Mutombo M’Panya spoke about pain and exile, and sang a song from his home village in Zaire.
  • Composer and sound therapist Silvia Nakkach led us in singing healing melodies (ragas).
  • In “Listening to Listening,” a colloquium co-sponsored by the UCSF School of Medicine, a group of poets and physicians talked about the parallels between their work, meditating on the act of listening across poetic composition, the taking of medical histories, diagnosis, poetry therapy, and the teaching of medical humanities to foster what Guy Micco, director of the Joint Medical Program at UC Berkeley and UCSF, calls the “empathic imagination.”
  • The Chilean poet Raúl Zurita and translator William Rowe gave bilingual readings from Zurita’s INRI, which “responds to the need to find a language for an event that was kept hidden and excluded from official records in Chile: the fact that the bodies of the disappeared were thrown out of helicopters into the mouths of volcanoes and into the sea” (Marick Press).
  • Psychiatrist Nuri Gené-Cos presented cases of post-traumatic stress disorder in refugees and survivors of state violence, and spoke about the use of drawing, fragrance, and poetry in her practice.

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