What would you say, in a poem, to a friend facing a serious diagnosis? ~ Megan Willome

What would you say, in a poem, to a friend facing a serious diagnosis? ~ Megan Willome

sound iconPoetry has Words for the Un-Wordable 

When I got the news that my friend was facing a serious cancer diagnosis—the kind that comes with a grim prognosis—I knew better than to send her a get well card. I told her I loved her and that I would pray a Psalm for her every day. (We both love the Psalms.) Keeping her before me daily meant that thoughts of her would pop up at other times of day, like when I read poetry.

 

In June Tweetspeak Poetry did a book club for John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us. I read and journaled and wrote. In the chapter titled “Thresholds” is a poem called “For a Friend on the Arrival of Illness.” I immediately thought about my friend, who by then was recovering from major surgery. But would she receive the poem as a blessing? I marked the poem, prayed it, and kept quiet, letting O’Donohue do the talking.

 

Here, listen. Any poem is better when read with an Irish accent.

 

As the book club ended, I took a chance and sent my friend the poem. She wrote back, “You know how when sometimes you read a poem and it’s as if all the thoughts you’ve been thinking are summed up in a way you couldn’t have put words to but cut to the quick of things? Well, I guess that is really poetry at its finest, isn’t it? I read this one and the tears immediately fell. It’s perfect. Intimately perfect.”

 

Poetry has words for the un-wordable. It can make us think more clearly. It can make us feel things buried. And sometimes it can help us write the words we need to say.

 

TRY IT: A POEM FOR THE JOURNEY

 

What would you say, in a poem, to a friend facing a serious diagnosis? How might your experience provide wisdom? Is there a poem that has been a faithful companion on your journey that you could share?

 

A POEM TO GET YOU STARTED

 

Another poem by John O’Donohue, “Beannacht.”

Take time to listen to the poem and read (this one includes the words) and write your thoughts.

 

(For more on O’Donohue, here is one of his last interviews, at On Being, before he died in his sleep in 2008.)

 

POEM JOURNAL

 

Even when you don’t feel like writing a poem, you can always journal about one. All you need is a pencil and paper (or a computer, if you prefer to be able to read your own writing).

  • Read the poem.
  • Jot down what you notice, what you like, what you don’t, what questions you have, and at least one way in which the poem speaks to your soul.
  • Read the poem again, aloud (if you didn’t the first time).
  • Is anything bubbling up? Do you feel a poem stirring? If so, write it. If not, congratulate yourself anyway because you wrote today by journaling.

 

Here’s my journaling from “Beannacht,” which means blessing in Gaelic:

  • I think the reason I like to go to the beach is to experience the “fluency of ocean.”
  • The word “currach,” reminds me of the coracle Reepicheep sails in as he goes to the end of the world, where the waves are sweet, at the end of C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, from the Chronicles of Narnia.
  • Every time I do yoga I find that “The weight deadens / On [my] shoulders.” They’re not meant to carry so much.
  • “ghost of loss” describes those times when grief stands up and haunts us unexpectedly, inconveniently.
  • Yellow moonlight is so specific. I also like “flock of colors.”
  • I want to know more about “slow wind.” It sounds perfect for summer.
  • There are so many different types of poems that can be a comfort to someone. The one I sent my friend was explicit about what she is facing. This one is more nuanced, more what I’d like someone to send to me.

 

SUBMISSION DETAILS

 

When your poem feels complete, consider submitting it to us for publication. Send poem, headshot, brief biography, and links to your social media and website (if applicable) to: care@chronic-joy.org.

 

Each month, we’ll publish a poem from our community on both Chronic Joy’s website and in our monthly Oasis of Hope. Check out our Poetry page for more prompts and poems.


sound icon#AudioBlog💿

Poetry for Illness

by Megan Willome | Read by Megan

happy bubbles
Megan Willome

Megan Willome

Poet, Author, Poetry Coordinator, and A Voice of Chronic Joy®

Megan is a contributing writer for Wacoan magazine in Waco, Texas, the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post, and Magnolia Journal. She is also an editor at T.S. Poetry Press and the author of The Joy of PoetryShe lives in the Texas Hill Country, where she writes and edits from home. Links to her work can be found at her website, meganwillome.com and Twitter. Megan's day is incomplete without poetry and tea.

happy bubbles

More Poetry Prompts

Baskets • Poetry Prompt

Is there a basket big enough to hold all of ourselves? Wins, losses, employment, recreation, love, sorrow and joy, wellness and sickness? A God-created space that He fully inhabits? A basket for our life. Whole, complete. Integration instead of compartmentalization.

READ MORE

Is there a basket big enough to hold all of ourselves?

Anxious • Days on the Edge • Poetry Prompt

These Are Days on the Edge. We have lived through months of isolation, fear, and pain multiplied by loneliness, political unrest, senseless murder, and racism slicing through lives and opening old scars. As morning stiffness leaves me aching, I struggle to search for joy. Will the pain worsen?...

READ MORE

Let yourself be surprised by the sudden peace that comes as you name your fears. ~ Karin Fendick

The Joy of Poetry: How to Keep, Save & Make Your Life with Poems

Megan Willome

Part memoir, part humorous and poignant defense of poetry, this is a book that shows you what it is to live a life with poems at your side. Megan's story is one you won't want to put down; meanwhile, her uncanny ability to reveal the why's and how's of poetry keeps calling—to even the biggest poetry doubter. If you already enjoy poetry, her story and her wisdom and her ways will invite you to go deeper, with novel ideas on how to engage with poems.

LEARN MORE.

Mountain Breezes

Amy Carmichael

An anthology of most of the poetry of Amy Carmichael - 565 poems gathered from her published books. The untitled poems were given titles and all were arranged by the editors under seven major headings: Worship, Petition, Surrender, Ministry, Wartime, Encouragement and Youthful Thoughts.

LEARN MORE.

Seeking Solace

Seeking Solace: Discovering grace in life’s hard places

Joy Lenton

Joy offers us a glimpse into her world with the aching immediacy and transparency of a poet. She shares her painful past and challenging circumstances to reveal how she has learned to seek solace and find peace, and how you can do so too. Her journey leads to discerning and discovering grace in life’s hard places. 

LEARN MORE.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share with your friends!