The Language of Recovery: Poems of Hope & Healing

The Language of Recovery: Poems of Hope & Healing

Explore poems of healing, recovery, and hope as we emerge into a changed world.

* This course will take place on video-conferencing platform ZOOM *

For many people around the world the Covid-19 Pandemic has created a spiritual nightmare. Yet for many others, the isolation, the death of loved ones, and the confusion and uncertainty about personal and public safety have initiated a spiritual journey about loss and survival. Poets have always embraced the deep changes life brings about. To some, the sense of journey from darkness to light, from powerlessness to strength is expressed in spiritual terms. At the end of Purgatorio, for example, Dante offers:

Io retornai da la santissima onda
rifatto sì come piante novelle
rinovellate di novella fronda,
puro e disposto a salire a le stelle.

These lines, in Carmen Bugan’s translation, read:

I emerged from the holiest waves
restored even as new trees were
renewed with new leaves,
pure and prepared to rise to the stars.

Similarly, Seamus Heaney writes in ‘Station Island’:

You are fasted now, light-headed, dangerous.
Take off from here. And don’t be so earnest,

so ready for the sackcloth and the ashes.
Let go, let fly, forget.
You’ve listened long enough. Now strike your note.

As we emerge from lockdowns and restrictions and begin enjoying the smiles and hugs of family and friends, and as we begin feeling a certain sense of having survived it all, our language too re-emerges and is held steady by words of recovery, healing, hope, and peace. So, what are some of the poems that express that sense of rebirth with a newly gained appreciation for the fragility of life, freedom, and love? How to do we chart our own journey onward in poetry? In this workshop we will look at several poems of healing, recovery, and hope from around the world and write own, with the help of writing prompts. We will create our own ‘music of what happens’ (as Heaney said in his poem ‘Song’), and among other poems, we will consider Joy Harjo’s ‘A Map to the Next World’ for ‘the renewal of spirit’, and accompanied by Whitman’s ‘Song of the Open Road’, we will write in the spirit of a new journey in our own poetry that might begin with the hope in these words:

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Two sessions on 16 & 30 October from 2.30-5pm.

To apply for a concession rate, please send relevant documentation showing your eligibility for one of our concessions to [email protected] Conditions of eligibility are detailed here.

If you have any questions or wish to be added to the waiting list of a sold-out course, please email [email protected]

Image credit: Faris Mohammed

About Carmen Bugan View Profile

Carmen Bugan, George Orwell Prize Fellow, has published four collections of poems, most recently Lilies from America: New and Selected Poems (PBS Special Commendation), a memoir, Burying the Typewriter (BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week), and a monograph, Seamus Heaney and East European Poetry in Translation: Poetics of Exile. Her book of essays, Poetry and the Language of Oppression, will be published by Oxford University Press in March 2021. She was a guest on current affairs and history programmes on the BBC, NPR, ABC, and The Monocle. A recipient of an Arts Council Grant, she was a Creative Arts Fellow in Literature at Wolfson College, Oxford University, and the Helen DeRoy Professor in Honors at the University of Michigan. She has a doctorate in English literature from Balliol College, Oxford.

'I like knowing that for anything that I might want to delve deeper into or even explore via teaching, the Poetry School is there to try things out. It's useful as a space to be a student among other students, and too as a practitioner exploring ideas with other poets.'

- Spring 2021 survey response

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