Guest Blog Posts

How Writing Poetry Helped My Brain and Body Heal – guest blog by June G. Paul

"I can't walk and talk at the same time." We hadn't seen each other in quite some time and my friend was frustrated with me. I kept having to stop every time I wanted to say something and my body was veering off course. It didn't seem like it was only my body veering off course, it seemed my very life was, and it was! I had experienced a 'like a stroke' event, a rabid bat bite, and severe adverse reaction to medication, all of which compounded together nearly paralyzed me.

I could hardly lift a book to read, a glass to drink from or grip a pen or pencil hard enough to write. It was also difficult to gather my thoughts, find my words and speaking aloud I would hear myself misplacing the order of words in my sentences. I also noticed this misplacement of the order of words in my writing.

I scrawled and crawled my way back to health. Scrawling out poems became part of my therapy. The first ones were quite horrific. A person who is suffering physically, mentally and emotionally, is not going to produce brilliant, flowing, peaceful poetry that flows in a steady stream of thought. My writing became a form of physical, mental and emotional therapy all at once. By that I mean at one time, each time I wrote, I was exercising all three areas. As a spiritual person, I was also working with balancing my faith. Knowing I could bring some relief and healing to myself by being proactive in all these areas I kept writing.

I remember looking at the pencil and thinking the keyboard was easier, but I knew that since I had been using a keyboard for so long, I needed to re-learn how to grasp a pen or pencil. I am by nature, right handed so began writing sentences with my right hand. I copied sentences so that I could get the words in order. I hand wrote some poems and reflections I had typed in the past. Then remembered I had learned if you want to wake up some of the brain cells we have on reserve you should try to do things a little different. So I began drawing letters with my left hand and then moved into writing some cursive. Some days I felt like I was in preschool. I'm smiling as I write this, because preschool is really fun when you think about it.

I joined some writing groups once I regained some self-confidence. I was pretty nervous about this as a person with PTSD does have anxiety and trust issues. The people in the groups were for the most part, kind, patient and willing to give me room to heal, process and grow.

It's true that if you want to write in a certain style or genre, you must first read that genre, then study the dynamics and rules of plot, character etc. One might think at first, that this is not necessary when it comes to writing poetry. Isn't it all just a creative process? Yes, poem writing is a creative process. I, as many other poem writers, was healing and recreating my life by getting involved with and practicing the art of poem writing.

After writing my way through all the depressive, anxious, grief-filled and regrettable moments of my life I began writing more uplifting poetry and also decided trying to write poems for children. I challenged myself to take some of my poetry to children so I contacted a local preschool and visited two other classes of grade school children. They really surprised me; some wanted to talk about the poems, what the poem made them think, feel and what it reminded them about. Other children enjoyed laughing over some of the silly ones.

During the time of my cancer diagnosis and treatment, I was exhausted so going places to be around other poets was not a good option for me. I put out a request through an article in the local paper to invite other 'closet' poets and those who enjoy poetry and I contacted poets through Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, a statewide organization. These wonderful people said they would love to drive this way, to be featured readers and help raise awareness about the benefits of poetry to the cultural and literary health of a community. For the past two years I coordinated the readers and the schedule and cannot tell you how much I appreciated their encouragement. Their poems, their generosity of sharing, their presence here in this town was a wonderful gift and part of my healing journey. We have not met for the past two months with the wintry conditions, and I've become involved with another project, The Poets Tree of Peace, and am also working on putting together a collection of my original poems for my first chapbook.

My next step in this process of using poetry for healing and growth, is to learn the art of recitation, that of memorizing with the intent of presenting the poem without the aid of media, cell phone, laptop, paper or book. I'm inspired by the poets who are able to do this and I'm hopeful that I will regain that skill as well. To encourage myself and others I wrote a very small poem about this hope -

It can be as hard to memorize a poem

As it is to find your way home.

Yes, it can be hard to do these things when you are young, and while dealing with health issues, but I have discovered writing poems has helped me find my way home to my inner being. to overcome some fear and anxiety, has renewed my confidence helped me find my own voice, re-introduced me to the song of my life and re-discover the rhythm of my inner spirit.


Do you have something say about poetry? An essay on being a poet, tips for poets, or poetry you love? TrishHopkinson.com is now accepting pitches for guest blog posts. 

Contact me here if you are interested! 


June lives in the four season state of Wisconsin and enjoys dabbling in creative arts. She and her husband have four children and nine grandchildren and is happy when any of their lives slow down enough to spend time together.  She is a member of Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets (wfop.org), and has had poems published in The Poet by Day, Ekphrastic Review, Visual Verse, Blue Heron Review, HaikUniverse and Grief Digest. She is the author of Praying Our Way Through Stress (Westbow Press)  and A Stable Birth (Lovstad Publsihing) www.junegpaul.com

9 replies »

  1. I’d like to learn more about the Poets Tree of Peace. What is it and how can I find out more? I could not locate direct contact information on June’s blog. Poetry activism of various sorts is of interest.

  2. if you go to wfop.org then click on events and then click on workshops and writing groups it will pop up as a Special Statewide Project – some people are holding the workshops in various locations – and when a poem is sent to me I format it on a maple leaf (our state tree) – encourage them to print it out on astro bright paper – if they want it considered for publication it is sent to another email address. At spring and fall conventions the leaves will be displayed in some format – For us in this project we are asking that you have a connection to WI –

    • Hi Cendrine, I’m sorry I didn’t respond sooner. I didn’t think to check back for responses. I’m continuing on this path, hoping to be able to inspire others to connect with their creative side on the road to healing and regaining strength inwardly and outwardly.

  3. June, thank you for sharing what poetry has done for you, this is very inspirational! I’m so sorry you have suffered this way in your life and I am in awe as to what poetry means to you and how it is helping you. I wish you much continued success in your writing endeavours.

    • Thank you Darell – just glanced at your blog – pretty sure I’ll be following yours!

    • Thank you! for your well wishes! I’m glad you found the article inspirational and hope you will share it with other people who might benefit from reading or hearing it.

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