North East Go And See Fund: Poetry in Therapeutic Practice

Tyneside poet Carmen Thompson tells us how she put the North East Go And See Fund to good use!

Workshop: Healing Words: Poetry in Therapeutic Practice

Organisation: Scarborough Psychotherapy Training Institute

Deliverer: Kate Evans

Carmen ThompsonBeing a writer, talking to writers and reading writers, I’ve come to realise that writing drives us a little bit mad (hence the title) – the obsessions, the rituals, the ecstasy of a good day and the manhole darkness of a bad day. To make this worse, the myth of the crazed, drug addled, selfish and self-obsessed writer is celebrated in Sunday magazines weekly as both an invitation and a warning. But the truth, for me and many writers, is that the myth is just a myth, the truth is that writing is the beginning of healing for the writer, and by extension for the reader or listener. What makes us a little bit mad is not a selfish obsession to understand ourselves but a strange need to expose ourselves so that other people can say ‘me too, phew!’, to connect. So I wanted to look at writing through the end of an unfamiliar kaleidoscope – therapy – to take a closer look at the act of writing and the journey towards healing. So here is a brief snippet of what I found valuable from this experience and some signposts for further research if your curiosity is fired up.

First off, I fell back in love with Free Writing, the session reminded me that Free Writing is the permission to play, the word equivalent of ‘taking a line for a walk’. Remembering the ‘Free’ part of Free Writing got me out of some big blocks I was experiencing in my own writing. I recommend that you look up ‘The Reflexive Approach’, it is about curiosity, watching, asking what is happening rather than rushing to judgement and decision making. This is a rich process, which can be applied both to our practice, to teaching and our writing. Finally, and especially for poets who perform and teach, read Josie Billington’s What is Creative Reading?’. It is a mind-bursting exploration of the importance of reading as a full body experience – ‘through reading aloud, the poem or story, every line and every word, is itself an emotional presence’. Finally, it is important to remember on those dark, dried up, ‘why can’t I write, this is all rubbish’ days that there are people out there, like us, doing what we do, to help others transform the dead and damaged pieces of themselves – to heal. This is why I write, this is why it is the most important thing I will ever do. If this is a little bit of madness, then bring it on.

‘Creativity is on the side of health – it isn’t the thing that drives us mad; it is the capacity in us that tries to save us from madness.’
Jeanette Winterson in Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?


To find out more about the North East Go And See Fund click here, or join the Apples and Snakes North East Facebook group.

See what other poets have done with their money: –

James Wilkinson

Jenni Pascoe