Film Review: Healing Words: Poetry and Medicine

Good day to you all.  I wake up today feeling inspired about the medical field and the direction by which many doctors and therapist are taking to carve new pathways in healing.  Modalities of healing have always interested me.

I have found myself most recently on a quest to discover how different application of healing have become interconnected with traditional medicine.

We are particularly fortunate to have come to a place in the history of medicine where alternative and allopathic medicine have found themselves at the same table.  Now, I have also discovered another avenue that has been in development for some time but has more recently gained attention again with the trajectory of how we shape the practice of medicine in hospitals.

I recently viewed a PBS documentary entitled “Healing Words: Poetry and Medicine” which can be found here.

The film was produced in 2008 and features Dr. John Graham-Pole co-founder of Arts in Medicine (AIM) through the University of Florida and poetry therapist John Fox.  The film takes you on a journey through the walls of the University of Florida, Shands Hospital where patients working with Dr. Graham-Pole and John Fox share of themselves through poetry, dance and art.  It is a beautiful example of the power of art to heal.

The film opens with a woman who has sickle-cell anemia performing a dance with a dance therapist.  She is sitting in her bed and is waving gently her arms above her head to the movement and sounds of the music as interpreted by the dance therapist.  She follows her gently.

Her face is with glow and she expresses how the pain she is experiencing diminishes when she is engaged in her dance.  You would not expect that she would be able to perform such movements confined to her bed; but she does with elegance and beauty.

Continuing into the film in more depth are the patients who through poetry have found a voice for themselves; a means of expressing their health journey.  For one man, a veteran of the war who is awaiting a heart transplant the exercise in poetry particularly meets him.  His emotions surrounding his heart are vivid and raw.

He is wrapped up in anguish and sorrow over the many lives he affected during his time in the war.  He expresses his words which are transcribed by Mr. Fox.  When read aloud by Mr. Fox to him, he cries and the circle of patients who are witness to him are equally affected.

Beautifully hopeful are the children who write of little dogs and their happy innocence while facing cancer.   Their words also written and spoken by Mr. Fox are seen while viewing walls of tiles that have been painted with their artistic impressions of words such as HOPE, LOVE & GRACE.  You can’t help but find yourself feeling their lightness and darkness as they carry forward on their journey.

Doctors also participate in the AIM program by writing on topics related to their work in the hospitals as interns and MD’s in the field. They share of what they do not know, their fears and triumphs.  Many of the younger interns express their questions around their capability to be good at what they do, effective in their practice.

While, other more senior doctors share their stories about patients lives who have affected them the most.  It was captivating to hear how vulnerable they all were. and served as a reminder to me as a patient to carry this awareness when I seek their medical assistance.

Many of the words expressed through poetry by the patients resonated with me.  I further acclaimed the truth of which I know; words are powerful.  We can all find our voice strengthened through the healing modalities of art.  Perhaps for you it is poetry, journaling while for someone else dance, painting.

However you find yourself wanting to express how you feel, take it upon yourself to do so.  You will be better served with the love that you have given yourself; often the most powerful healing practice of all.

In health,


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