Poetry Workshops: Literature as Therapy

Can literature save you? People who practise bibliotherapy – reading for well-being – believe that attentive immersion in great literature, especially poetry, can relieve, restore and reinvigorate the human mind. As a bibliotherapist and ambassador for the ReLit Bibliotherapy Foundation, I have had ample opportunity to work with groups and individuals who seek solace in reading and writing. I am also an award-winning university lecturer and a published writer.

I have over 19 years’ experience teaching literature and a successful portfolio of bibliotherapy workshops.

I offer workshops (30 minutes to 2 hours) on a variety of themes to a wide range of audiences: students; community resource users; yoga practitioners; professional writers; retirees; and so on. These have taken place in cafes, halfway houses, public libraries, university lecture halls and private homes.

I can custom-make a workshop for your group, or I can offer workshops on themes including (click each to expand):

When the odds are stacked against us, how can we use poetry to reduce them? How do we escape the pain of the past and the fear of the future? In this workshop, participants engage in discussion about a variety of poems and spoken word pieces on resilience. They also have the opportunity to write and, if they like, share their own pieces about living in the present.
Life after loss
In this workshop, we consider mourning. We look at non-Western cultures’ approaches to public grief, and we engage in writing exercises that assist us in exploring our own attitudes about and approaches to bereavement.
Poetic mindfulness
This workshop blends a meditative reading of poetry with participants’ own writing. Working predominantly with the brief poetic form of haiku, participants will absorb themselves in meditative listening and choral reading, emptying their minds of everything except the words they are hearing and the images they conjure. The workshop closes with a contemplative piece on the power of silence that will ready us for the chaos of the everyday world.
Poetry of the senses
How can we engage with our senses to treat stress and anxiety? In this workshop, participants slowly read and meditate on five Japanese haiku (translated into English) that explore sensory encounters with nature. Participants are guided in the choral reading and discussion of two other poetic forms. There is also be an opportunity for participants to write their own haiku.
Awareness, Movement and Surrender (especially designed to complement yoga classes)
In this pre-yoga workshop, participants engage in choral reading focused on some fundamental aspects of the yoga practice. We use poetry to assist us in moving into readiness for yoga. This is not an intellectual pursuit. Instead, words become the conduit between thinking and feeling, between doing and being.

As the samples below demonstrate (click to expand), I have broad experience in facilitating and presenting a variety of reading for well-being events.

A resume of workshops and events
Workshops, talks and events: Supported by The ReLit Foundation
Dr. Julie Sutherland (ReLit Foundation International Ambassador and Summer School Co-Convenor)

2020 (Aug.)
Workshop: Literature as Magic: Children’s Literature and Shakespeare’s Fairies                            ReLit Online Summer School
2019 (Nov.)
Workshop: “Poetry by the Bedside: Bibliotherapy in Palliative Care.”
Center for Humanities Applications & Innovations, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
2019 (Nov.)
Workshop and Roundtable Talk: “Bibliotherapy: Literature and Mental Health.”
Center for Humanities Applications & Innovations, Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ
2019 (Aug.)
Lecture/workshop: “Snapshots of Repose: Shakespeare and the ‘Foster-Nurse of
Oxford ReLit Summer School, Worcester College
Oxford, UK
2019 (May)
Workshop: “Help Along the Way: A Therapeutic Exercise in Memory & Haiku.”
Beth Centre, Women In Prison
Stockwell, UK
2019 (May)
Session and social: “Prosecco and Cupcakes: A Celebration of Art’s Therapeutic Value.”
Provost’s Lodgings, Worcester College
Oxford, UK
2019 (Feb.)
Lecture/workshop: “Poetry of Nature and the Senses: A Haiku Workshop.”
Arizona State University, ENG 367 (Environmental Issues in Literature & Film: Classic Texts & Contemporary Trends)
Phoenix, AZ
2018 (Nov.)
Workshop (created, but led by a colleague): “Grief, Loss and Mourning.” Sense and Sensibility Mental Wellness Project.
ReLit/Cape Breton Regional Library/Doktor Luke’s
Sydney, NS
2018 (Aug.)
Lecture/workshop: “ ‘Shakespeare Looked Inward and Found Nature There’: Understanding the Self Beyond the Walls.”
Oxford ReLit Summer School, Worcester College
Oxford, UK
2018 (May)
Keynote speech: “Bibliotherapy.”
The Art of Medicine: Using the Arts to Enhance Patient Care and Well- Being. Cape Breton Cancer Center
Sydney, NS
2018 (May)
Lecture/staff workshop: “Resilience: Maya Angelou and The Get Down.”
Mental Health Week Program, Canadian Coast Guard College.
Westmount, NS
2018 (May)
Lecture/officer cadet workshop: “Resilience: Maya Angelou and The Get Down.”
Mental Health Week Program, Canadian Coast Guard College.
Westmount, NS
2018 (Jan.)
Interactive presentation: “Bibliotherapy: Resilience.”
Compassionate Community Lecture Series, Cape Breton University, Department
of Political Science.
Sydney, NS
2018 (Jan.)
Yoga Bibliotherapy Workshop: “Awareness, Movement and Surrender.”
Paradise Found Yoga Studio
Sydney, NS
2018 (Jan.)
Workshop: “Resilience.”
Mental Health Awareness Week, organized by the Cape Breton University
Department of Psychology
Sydney, NS
Bibliotherapy Anthology Initiative: Organized the dissemintation of approximately 150 copies of Stressed/Unstressed anthologies to hospices, rehab clinics, and mental health and wellness organizations in Cape Breton, NS.
2017 (Dec.)
Performance piece on resilience: “ ‘I want some more’: The Triumphant Working Class in the Novels of Charles Dickens.”
Figgy Pudding ReLit Fundraiser, Doktor Luke’s Coffee House
Sydney, NS
2017 (Jul.)
Lecture/workshop: “ ‘Look into thy heart and write’: Shakespeare’s Emotionally Explosive Diarising.”
Oxford ReLit Summer School, Worcester College
Oxford, UK

Please contact me to discuss hosting a workshop for your staff, classroom or group. Rates (from as low as CA$75) vary, depending on the group’s needs.

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