I just discovered a New York Times article entitled, “Finding Poetry in Cancer,” which explores the healing power of writing poetry about the cancer experience.
Written mostly by amateur poets, the verses are jarring, real and moving. One poet, Karin Miller, began writing poetry when her husband developed testicular cancer. Today, she curates the “Cancer Poetry Project anthologies. One poem is “Hymn to a Lost Breast,” by Bonnie Maurer:
Oh let it fly
let it fling
let it flip like a pancake in the air
let it sing: what is the song
of one breast flapping?
Why do the poets find writing poetry healing? According to Ms. Miller, “They say it’s the thing that lets them get to the core of how they are feeling. It’s the simplicity of poetry, the bare bones of it, that helps them deal with their fears.”
I think any creative expression is healing. Two years ago today, I wrote my first blog post for WWGN. It was about saying “Yes” to myself after cancer. As I wrote, “The creation of WhereWeGoNow is a direct result of learning to say “yes” and letting an idea breathe and grow – to see how far you can take it – or maybe how far it can take you. It’s an exciting and new experience for me and one which I am learning every day to just let happen.”
Creativity is saying “yes” and letting an idea breathe and grow. Whether you write poetry, blog, paint or anything else, expressing yourself to the world heals what is broken.
At the end of the NYT article is an invitation to the reader to share his or her cancer-inspired poem in the comment section. Over 100 poems were shared, and one was written by my friend Barbara. Her poem, like the passionate life she lives, is a testament to reinvention after cancer. She graciously allowed me to reprint “A Car Named “Rapunzl” below:
A Car Named “Rapunzl”
So involved am I in trying to be a teacher, tutor, wife, mother, grandmother, friend
And trying to accomplish so much each day, I often forget how blessed I am.
Well, I have a gentle reminder: My car with a license plate “Rapunzl.”
I had to leave out the final vowel to have only 7 digits.
Often I see people looking at me quizzically
As I exit my car.
Obviously, with my short, gray hair
I resemble the original Rapunzel not at all.
I once heard one woman say to another when walking past my car in the library parking lot,
Who or what is “rapunzl?”
You would think they would know.
Another time a young woman timidly accosted me
To ask about my license plate.
I explained that not so long ago I was totally bald,
The result of aggressive chemotherapy
Which killed all my hair follicles,
As well as the cancer cells.
When my hair began to grow back,
My husband, who had constantly reassured me during the treatment
That he didn’t marry me for my hair, eyebrows, or eyelashes,
Began calling me “Rapunzel.”
We agreed that such a new license plate would make me smile
Each time I got into or out of the car
And make me realize how fortunate I am.
The woman became teary-eyed after hearing the story of my car named Rapunzl.
Have you written poetry about cancer? Let me know in the comment section below if you’ve dabbled with poetry and, if so, what you wrote about.
Survival > Existence,