The passing of the wand from Nick Mazza’s hands to mine was scheduled to happen at the 40th Annual National Association for Poetry Therapy, NAPT conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this April. The COVID-19 pandemic ushered us into the new generation of Zoomers, and I was virtually vested as the new president of NAPT. I am honored to follow his footsteps and that of the other past presidents, who have led the organization to become the vibrant and supportive community it is. I am aware of the enormous privilege and responsibility I am undertaking. I trust that poetry and words will deepen our roots, so that we, like the coconut trees of my dear island, the Dominican Republic, can bend under inclement weather without breaking.
During this crisis, some of us have come face-to-face with the reality of a common humanity — our shared nature with everyone and everything that is. I see this common experience as a gift. The pandemic is a dark night of the soul. We don’t know its magnitude, and we don’t know when it will end or what the aftermath of it will entail. We are enduring what Jon Kabat-Zinn terms a “full catastrophe living.” We are also seeing how this pandemic is bringing into clear view the pervasive inequality that runs throughout the world. The virus has fallen onto all: rich and poor, people of all colors and social status. Not everyone has equal resources to survive Covid-19; we are learning where our attention must go. At the heart of Poetry Therapy is the intention to generate pathways to human growth, healing, and the pursuit of social justice. This is the time to take action as committed citizens of the world by raising consciousness through the work we do, where we are and with the resources we have.
In 1996 I came across the NAPT website and took it as a sign offered to me by the universe. I began training under the guidance of Dr. Sherry Reiter. Ever since, poetry therapy has been a faithful ally in both my personal and clinical work; it has given me tools to better understand myself and guide my clients toward greater self-awareness. Also, I have married these tools to my daily practices of contemplation, meditation, and yoga. My ongoing workshops and now the course, Pathways to Wholeness: Mindful Writing Toward Momentous Leaps of Meaning, are the result of that marriage, born at the intersection of poetry and physical, psychological and spiritual awareness. Mindful Writing is based on my experience and the experiences of those with whom I work as the facilitator of their writing process.
Poetry Therapy is used for healing and personal growth, and it interfaces with medicine in that sense. There is now a growing body of research, expanding the scope and depth of Poetry Therapy. Nick Mazza, Sherry Reiter, Geri Chavis, and so many others have gifted us with invaluable literature about the theory and practice of Poetry Therapy; the Journal of Poetry Therapy, edited by Nick Mazza, is also an important contribution to this growing field.
Along with my colleagues of the board of NAPT, I look forward to the work of growing our diverse membership and creating spaces throughout the regions to hold essential and transformative conversations. I am delighted to join a dynamic group of enthusiastic movers and shakers heading different committees, and all the scholars, educators, therapists and poets who continue to move Poetry Therapy forward. I also anticipate working with the regional representatives, and the mentor supervisors who are forming the emerging group of poetry therapists and poetry facilitators.
This time is calling for brave and committed souls to bring restorative justice, wellness and mental well-being through the use of language as a therapeutic and growth-fostering ally, all which is at the heart of Poetry Therapy.
See you all at our Virtual Annual Conference in 2021: Remote but Connected: Navigating the Storms of our Lives through Poetry and Story.
Marianela Medrano, PhD, LPC, CPT