Monday, September 5, 2016

Training Options

A Marvelous Year of Mindfulness & Passion
in Poetry & Story

October 1, 2017         COME TASTE THIS POEM

November 5, 2017     POETRY OF PRESENCE


January 7, 2018         GEOGRAPHY OF THE HEART I

February 4, 2018       GEOGRAPHY OF THE HEART II

March 4, 2018             ANIMAL ME

April  8, 2018              HERO

May 6, 2018                DEFINING MOMENTS

June 3, 2018               BUD


October 9, 2016       NAMING: A BOY CALLED SLOW

November 6, 2016   NAMING: TO NAME IT IS TO OWN IT

December 4, 2016   MID-LIFE I:  A TURN IN THE ROAD

January 8, 2017        MID-LIFE II: MOVING FORWARD

February 5, 2017      DREAMWORK

March 5, 2017          GUEST FACILITATION

April  9, 2017            RE-CLAIMING SOUL IN TRAUMA & RECOVERY



Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Transformative Writing Quotes

"I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions."
James Michener

*  *  *  *          
"One of the major sources of poetry for me was silence, all that's not spoken about . . . So the silences in our culture -- I think, in a  way, poems are sucked out of us by the magnetic attraction of that silence."
Sharon Olds

*  *  *  *

... And I came to poetry as a way of saving myself because I was so wretchedly discontent. It wasn't enough to be a housewife and mother. It didn't gratify great chunks of me."
Maxine Kumin
*  *  *  *

"I'm trying to accurately portray states of mind, ones of my own that I think might have a general application, and the movements of the mind and the way we think and forget and discover and forget some more."
John Ashbery

*  *  *  *

"Emily Dickinson affected me at my heart's core-- and does-- because what she writes about concerns me: the inability to get to heaven." 
Charles Wright

*  *  *  *

“Almost all our sadnesses are moments of paralysis of feeling when we can no longer hear our surprised feelings of living.”           
Rainer Maria Rilke

 *  *  *  *                                                      

"A   poem is a serious joke, a truth that has learned jujitsu. Anyone who breathes is in the     rhythm business; anyone who is alive is caught up in the imminences, the doubts mixed with the triumphant certainty, of poetry."                                             
William Stafford

*  *  *  *

"My poetry is, or should be, useful to me for one reason: it is the recording of my individual struggle from darkness toward some measure of light . . .  My poems are written for the love of man and in praise of God, and I’d be a damn fool if they weren’t.”
Dylan Thomas

 *  *  *  *

 “The whole universe is humming, is vibrating. It’s that hum that I want to hear. That’s the subject of my poems ... The words are like birds that perch on this frequency of sound."
Li Young-Lee

Transformative Writing Resources

Writing Away the Demons: Stories of Creative Coping Through Transformative Writing
Resources for the Writer in You

Poets and Writers. 90 Broad Street, New York, N.Y. 10004. (212) 226-3586. This site includes literary and small press databases, literary contests, and job info.

Pudding House. Director, Jennifer Bosveld. 81 Shadymere Lane, Columbus, Ohio 43213.(614) 986-1881.   Innovative Writers Programs and publications.

The Center for Journal Therapy. Director: Kathleen Adams, Voicemail: 888-421-2298. The mission is “to make the healing art of journal writing accessible to all who desire self-directed change.”

The Creative “Righting” Center, Director, Dr. Sherry Reiter. 718-998-4572. Poetry therapy training in NY and for distance learners. Lectures, seminars, individual therapy. The mission is to achieve wellness and emotional balance through writing, poetry, story, and voice. Monthly meetings in New York one Sunday a month and annual seminars.

Goddard College.  Director: Caryn MIrriam-Goldberg. 802-454-8311. Individualized MA Program in Transformative Language Arts is  focused on social and personal transformation through the spoken and written word. Low residency program allows students to work in home communities.   
The Institute for Poetic Medicine. Director: John Fox, CPT. The Institute’s vision is “to awaken the creative and healing voice in the human spirit.” Check out this excellent DVD available from PBS: Healing Words: Poetry and Medicine

The National Association for Poetry Therapy,Phone: 1-866-844NAPT, e-mail This membership organization features an annual conference and networking for all persons interested in using the language arts for healing & growth. Note: Journal of Poetry Therapy with membership.

The National Federation for Biblio/Poetry This is the national standards-making body in the field of biblio/poetry therapy. Their website features a complete listing of mentors and a training guide of current requirements.

Teachers and Writers,  5 Union Square West, New York, N.Y. 10003. 212-691-6590. or  Resources for teachers and writers in education.

Transformative Language Arts is committed to supporting those involved in using the written, spoken and sung word for personal and social transformation.TLA Network offers resources as well as the annual Power of Words Conference Check out this great book:Power of Words: A Transformative Language Arts Reader, co-edited by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and Janet Tallman (TLA Press).

Internet Resources Get peer critiques, publishing tips, connections with publishers.

 BridgeXngs Poetry Center,Inc., Lila Weisberger, Director, Master Mentor-Supervisor,  a pioneer in facilitating online seminars and workshops in             poetry therapy and related topics. Tel. 917-660-0440 Features more than 300 writing prompts. features American saying the poems they love best. Incredible project! Goddard College's Individualized MA Program's concentration in Transformative Language Arts is a master's degree focused on social and personal transformation through the spoken and written word. The Healing Story Alliance, a special interest group of the National Storytelling Network, shares experience to inform, inspire, nurture and heal via story. A look at Linda Lanza's concepts of applying expressive writing in daily life for strength, growth, and healing. Includes bio, chapbook, inspirational quotations, and essays about finding meaning through imagination. This site offers a poem a day for 180 school days of high school.  Barbara Bethea as poetess “Afrikana Madonna” for Like Manna For The Soul CD and upcoming book. 1st African American Licensed Registered Poetry Therapist, women's ministries. National Association of Black Storytellers promotes and perpetuates the oral tradition that embodies history, heritage, and culture of African Americans. Alysa Cummings, Oncolink Poet-In-Residence. Greetings from Cancerland columnist, survivor poetry and poetry therapy projects. Life and Leadership through spirit, quest, and story, co-founded by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea, offering writing workshops and wilderness quests. An audio poetry site with information and excellent links. The Academy of American Poets. Features Online Poetry Classes, Audio Life/Lines, essays, discussion forums, biannual literary journal and free e-letters. Article: “Open Up! Writing about Trauma Reduces Stress, Aids Immunity” American Psychological Association article highlights the work of James W. Pennebaker, pioneer in the research of writing and wellness.  The Storycatcher Network is directed by Christina Baldwin.  The Center for Autobiographic Studies, directed by Tristine Rainer, focuses on the creation, appreciation and  preservation of autobiographical works. Maryellen Bova is a Writer, Educator, Director of The Goddess Center, Certified Poetry Arts Therapist and Journal Instructor. She encourages her students to embark on a journey toward self-nurturance and personal growth.  Online workshops, prompts, and “101 Best Websites for Writers.”  Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Director of the Transformative Language Arts Program at Goddard College Dedicated to personal and social change through words. Link to The Power of Words Conference.  Elizabeth Maynard Schaefer’s blog contains writing prompts and other resources.  Mary Reynolds Thompson, award winning writer, coach and facilitator of poetry workshops.

To arrange a workshop or lecture with Dr. Reiter and/or authors, contact us
We welcome your comments and questions.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Transformative Writing

What is Transformative Writing?

Transformative Writing is the intentional use of writing for psychological change and well-being. As Shaun McNiff, a leading scholar on the expressive arts, says, “Words become agents of transformation, shamanic horses that carry expression and transport people to change.” Transformative writing also goes by these names: “writing therapy,” “poetry therapy,” “bibliotherapy,” and “journal therapy.”    

Artist: Malka Michaela Barshishat
Numerous scientific studies by James W. Pennebaker and other scientists have shown that writing affects heart rate, blood pressure, and the immune system. The power of writing from the heart results in stress reduction and the restoration of emotional equilibrium.

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved till I set him free,” wrote Michaelangelo. So has each author wielded the pen to liberate the creative spirit within. Each writer has discovered that words have the power to call upon angels and banish demons. Through writing, the self recognizes its identity with greater definition, harvests its wisdom, and wrestles with challenges, transforming them into building blocks of growth.

In Writing Away the Demons: Stories of Creative Coping Through Transformative Writing, Dr. Sherry Reiter defines ten principles that have withstood the test of time.


Writing is a form of empowerment.  When thoughts and feelings remain formless and invisible, the demon may dance in the shadow of your mind. But when pen is put to paper, and you hold that paper up to the light, your honesty and courage overpowers the dark.If you can reduce the demon to the size of a page, certainly you are much bigger than the problem itself!

During periods of transition humans have always created rituals to give significance to life passages. Rituals offer meaning activities that reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and helplessness.  Writing in a journal is a ritual of comfort and meaning.

Writing is about creating an intimate relationship with oneself. Like any intimate relationship, confidentiality, honesty and permission to be in a judgment-free space is required. Safety is a prerequisite for creative action.

Recording your thoughts and feelings is a testament to your life experience. We never see ourselves completely, but when we write, externalization permits you to view your thoughts and feelings. With witnessing, come new observations, reflections, and perspectives.

Every person who writes exercises poetic license and the five freedoms that Virgina Satir wrote about. Writing is self-directed. Words may reveal or conceal. It is the nature of the poetic to be paradoxical and large enough to hold contradiction. “Do I contradict myself? Yes, I contradict myself. I am large I contain multitudes.” Never underestimate the power of poetic license.

Words symbolically leave the person and are transported to a place where they are safely held and may be revisited at any time. Containment is as vital as expression How the words are released, to whom they are released, and how the words are contained all contribute to safety, a sense of mastery and poetic license.

The poetic imagination permits us to visit the past, present and future. In writing, we are capable of manipulating time, space and matter. A personal play space is literally created with building blocks of words.

If dreams are the royal road to the unconscious, as Freud suggested, then metaphor is the drawbridge allowing us to enter a deeper realm of feeling and thought. Both dreams and poetry use the same psychological principles of imagery, condensation and displacement.

On a psychological and spiritual level, creativity enables us to transcend our limitations. It kindles the imagination, fuels our dreams, and plants seeds of hope that are vital for our renewal. When we write, our natural creativity finds new ways to view ourselves and the world.

Therapy is from the Greek word “theraput,” a midwife who originally made way for Psyche’s head, Christina Baldwin writes, “therapy means to stretch one’s limbs or consciousness of opening oneself to the imagery and activity of labor.” When we write we attend to our own labors, and different parts of the self become active. Fragmented aspects are healed. Heal comes from the root word “hale” which means to make whole.

       This information is condensed from Reiter, Sherry. (2009). Writing Away the Demons: Stories of Creative Coping Through Transformative Writing. St. Cloud, MN: North Star Press, pp. 5-14


A Creative Visualization:
In the Orchard of Hope

            Notice your breath as you settle into a safe, secure spot. With each inhalation, breathe in the fullness of life. With each exhalation, release, relaxing more completely. Breathe In.Release. Allow the belly to soften. As you relax, imagine your heart is opening. You will, in your imagination, be finding a path that takes you to the Orchard of Hope. Remember that it is not necessary to be able to “see” inner pictures to take an imaginary journey. Your mind’s eye will assist you, and you may also imagine your path through intuitive feelings, words or an inner knowing. Your efforts earn the right to gain access to deep wisdom.
            The path to Hope begins at a hole in the ground at the base of a mountain. With resolve, step into the passageway. You enter a timeless and dreamlike reality. As you look in, you see a long tunnel. It may head down into the earth or up a mountain. With confidence, you step into the passageway. You are not troubled by the suspension of other ordinary laws of physics regarding your size, speed, gravity or the presence of light. Your are alone, aware of your own vulnerability, need and hope. Without knowing how, you move forward until you come to a stone tablet inscribed with beliefs you have rarely challenged. Take time to consider them. These have been the commandments by which you have lived.
            Gather your courage and move on till you come to a stone landmark overlooking a valley representing the past. Your  sight and hearing are strong, and you feel compassion as you survey the emotional world of your childhood.  Without faltering, consider the terrors, disappointments, confusions and blessings of earlier years. Do not flinch, judge, or condemn. Your task is to affirm your stamina in having survived. You have entered a tunnel dimly lit, a place of lost illusions and challenges that make you worthy of the guidance you seek.
            The tunnel opens into a clearing that takes you into an extraordinary ancient forest, You begin to explore the trees, sky, and lush undergrowth. You follow a path. You feel completely calm and at peace. Ahead of you, the branches of two large trees form an archway. You are now standing in the Orchard of Hope, where you have access to ancient wisdom and compassion. Ask yourself the question: What hopes or habits are causing me problems in my life or are harming me? You will receive an answer to your question—through words, movement or image, the way you learn best. Remember the laws of physics do not apply in this place. Stand in the glory of this beautiful place and receive the answer from the Orchard of Hope.
            When you are ready, you will find your way back, visualizing the route by which you came or finding a different path. Be mindful as you prepare to leave this ancient forest. You understand that the forest and lush green plants in the Orchard of Hope exist with you. Savor its spirit and know that you can return to this place if you choose.
             Prepare to return to ordinary waking consciousness. You will be able to remember all you need of this experience. Gently start to wiggle your fingers and toes, neck and facial muscles. Take a deep breath. Open your eyes refreshed and write about your experience.
                                                         By Sherry Reiter, Inspired by the work of David Feinstein and Stanley Krippner’s book The Mythic Path (N.Y.: Tarcher/Putnam, 1997)

Inspiration Corner

Annihilation Poem

The Guest House by Rumi
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
 Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
~ Rumi ~
  (The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks)

Draw the guesthouse of your heart with colored markers. Delineate all the emotions and how they take up residency in your heart.
This exercise can also be used to focus on one specific emotion. At The Creative "Righting" Center, poetry therapists-in-training were asked to explore Depression. Where does this visitor reside (attic, basement or living room)? What kind of furniture is in the room? What are the colors, sights, sounds, smells?
Susan W. Fusco, Roselle P. O’Brien, and Kathryn M. Fazio share their art and writing below. Try the exercise yourself or use it to inspire a group that you are working with. A special thank-you to Susan, Roselle, Kathryn ... and, of course, to Rumi himself!

The Guest House

A visitor,
A sinewy line,
through the front door,
like any other guest.
A black line of depression - -
Hopelessness, Sorrow, Grief,
Helplessness - -
enters any or every room.
Felicitous guest,
unwelcome stranger,
Depression wanders along and through
unknowing corridors, familiar hallways, and unsuspecting paths,
into spaces and places where it is not invited, not expected.
Unpredictable, sometimes spontaneous comings and goings,
I have learned that depression walks everywhere,
enters all rooms.
Courteously knocking? No, there is a
passing through - - through iron doors, wooden doors,
locked doors, gated passageways.
And I have been advised
to embrace its journeying,
dealing with, and conversing with,
its many faces.
The faces of depression show no fear;
They delight in watching me build fences and defenses.
They know that their own powers increase by my
No, I shall confront depression
in whatever room it chooses to visit.
I shall deal with it.
Face to Face.
                          –Susan Wirth Fusco

Sit With Me

Depression sits with me in her chair.
I've had the chair since I was eight.
It's in storage now, the chair.
In a week I'll take it out and brush away the dust.

Depression rocked in the white chair with golden
leaves painted on the head rest.
It's a rocking chair,
Bigger than my sister's.
Its spot is in front of the closet door,
cozy on the midnight blue shag rug.

There are two windows,
blue outer curtains with white sheers between.
The window by the toy box looks out over the porch roof.
The other a gateway to the leafy horse chestnut trees in the yard.

Depression didn't look out the windows much.
We'd rock together, she and I,
hum songs in our heads
louder and more persistent than the silence and alone.

There's a place, you know,
Depression showed me.
A place to get to if you just rock the right way,
or fast enough,
or if I'd slant out of the seat sideways.
I never got it figured out.
Depression changed the rules and then stopped caring.

The wallpaper was white with tiny bunches of blue flowers.
I had a vanity table with a white ruffle
and a small three-way mirror like a triptych.
Depression would sit with me there
and we'd stare and stare into the reflection
until my face became a monster's face,
then indistinct,
then black.
I miss the blue rug.

                                     –Roselle P. O'Brien

Where Is the Guest?
Depression resides in my bed.
It’s a bed in my living room.
A cramped studio with a window of joy,
A tree I did not put there . . .
What a sanctuary of sorrow I lie on each night!
Mattress ruffles . . . invisible.
Only when I look out the window do I find joy.
Gratitude resurrected in a sanctuary constructed
Well before the menial concept of me.
I watch as empathy glows around a window,
Much greater than myself
Or the apathy I concern myself with.
And how is it, I would never treat any other person
With such a punitive ruler or measuring stick?
Pry them open.
Probe for value.
I love the rainbow
Above a bed I must leave.
It is true, I can no longer pay the rent on this dwelling.
And should I shoulder it to my next residence . . .
I pray gratitude will show up like a ditto mark and scatter
Into the room of chaos I call depression.
Books contain my anger.
Remind me . . . I am not the publisher.
Make me aware there are others who suffer through this script.
Others who sprawl on their beds between the covers of depression and sorrow . . .
                                                               –Kathryn M. Fazio


smallflower.gifWith the sincerity of children
they scramble to explore
the deeper recesses of the island
They survey its mountains, caves and
dense undergrowths with breath held and
hands clasped tightly
Gathering strength from each other, they push forward
Cheeks flushed, eyes too bright
No sound but the echo
Of solemn whispers and labored breath . . .
The children are after a golden treasure
Certain by some Divine Providence
That no harm can come to them
Certain that the treasure was put there
For them to find
And no one, especially the grown-ups
Could appreciate its incredible dazzle more than they -
Because the eyes of children
Are not trained to make the distinction
Between real and counterfeit gold
And whether the treasure is there or not
Makes little difference
Because the children, who are very wise
Know that the treasure is not in the gold itself
But in the search for it.

Dear Readers,
I wrote Treasure Hunt many years ago, before I found the treasure of poetry as a healing tool. Nevertheless, this poem could very well refer to the poetry therapy journey.
Each poem you find that resonates inside you is a golden nugget— a treasure sent from Rumi, Emily Dickinson, Carl Sandburg, Stanley Kunitz and some of the greatest souls who have ever lived. And every time you permit yourself to write your true feelings, you are panning for gold.
As hundreds of participants of The Creative "Righting" Center can attest, every seminar and peer group is an adventure. The interactive process of reflection and dialogue activates your own personal growth and healing process.
I invite you to consider joining the circle of people who use poetry passionately for the purpose of helping themselves and others. Learn about The National Association for Poetry Therapy and the work being done around the country. (Links are provided). The Creative "Righting" Center offers its services for therapy and training to individuals, groups and agencies.  I welcome your questions and comments by e-mail or phone.
Sherry Reiter (SLR)
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