Changing the World — Arts and Medicine
Changing Individuals with Poetry in Motion
Poetic Medicine in the Psychological Mainstream
Word Medicine— Healing Metaphors and Images
When Someone Deeply Listens to You
When someone deeply listens to you it is like holding out a dented cup you've had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold, fresh water.
When it balances on top of the brim, you are understood.
When it overflows and touches your skin, you are loved.
When someone deeply listens to you the room where you stay
starts a new life
and the place where you wrote your first poem
begins to glow in your mind's eye. It is as if gold has been discovered!
When someone deeply listens to you your bare feet are on the earth
and a beloved land that seemed distant is now at home within you.
Word Medicine: Poetry Therapy with John Fox
interview with John Fox by Chiara Viscomi for HEALTHY PSYCH
About This Contributor: Chiara Viscomi, MA, CMT, is currently pursuing her clinical internship in counseling. She received her master’s in counseling psychology with a certificate in creative expression at Sofia University (formerly known as the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology). Prior to that, Chiara received a BA in psychology and a BFA in drama from New York University. She is passionate about expressive arts therapy, Jungian psychology, transpersonal psychology, and integrative approaches to wellness. In addition to her clinical work, Chiara is a longtime professional writer and editor in the healthcare field, as well as a musician and performing artist. To find out more about her counseling work, visit www.lapishealingarts.com.
Chiara Viscomi (CV): How did you become interested in poetry therapy?
John Fox (JF): It was a gradual process. I’ve always loved language—I was immersed in poetry as a teenager. I had my leg amputated at 18 years old. It was a very shattering time. So poetry was a way for me to have self-expression.
I studied English and creative writing initially at Boston University. Poetry was a way to not sink. I also became interested in yoga and meditation. In 1974, I had a profound meeting with Ram Dass. I had been going through a lot of literal and metaphorical death—the loss of my leg, which spurred the death of my ego. One day, when I was freaking out, I was standing with Ram Dass at the corner of Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, and he remarked to me, looking fierce, “You couldn’t get away if you tried.” I was stunned—the effect of those stark words was powerful. It challenged me to be with my experience.
After graduating with my BA from Bard College, I moved to California. Poetry had become a spiritual practice for me. It was a way to get insights down. In 1981, I met poet, author, and teacher Stephen Levine, who was a student of Ram Dass. A short while later, I started reading my poems at retreats led by Stephen and his wife Ondrea.
Then, in 1984, through Stephen, I met someone who introduced me to poetry therapy. This person also introduced me to the person who would become my mentor, poetry therapy pioneer Joy Shieman. In 1985, I became a poetry therapy intern, working with her at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View. I felt like I had found my calling.
© 2006-2017 | The Institute for Poetic Medicine and John Fox