Healing Hearts with Poetry
Carolyn K. McGraw, MA, CHT

A poem can change a life…writing poetry saved a life in my English class! As my students wrote about their feelings, they uncovered the beauty in their pain.
They were high school dropouts off the streets working to earn their diploma. They struggled to listen through their anger and depression. I reminded them that it is not about what is wrong with you, it is about what happened to you. I searched for a way to bring a calmness to their chaos which was interfering in their learning ability. Inspiration led me to create “Poetry-Therapy” which is a therapeutic writing and performance arts program to heal emotional pain.
I began with the question, “What do you want to heal in your heart?” Khayree replied, “Abuse.” I hesitated, unsure of how to guide him next, so I asked, “If this experience was a book what would it be called?” He uttered, “Limbo.”
Khayree shocked me when he handed me his 7-page poem an hour later. Tears came as he read his epic poem that eloquently painted his journey from hatred and rage to forgiveness and love. His emotions melted away as he read his own healing remedy…forgiveness, imbued a calming inner strength in his demeanor.
This young man, a former convict, had transformed his painful past into a beautiful, soulful masterpiece! With confidence in his new-found talent, Khayree expressed that he could never go back to a life crime. He stood in the limelight for a just a moment then lovingly turned to his classmates and said, “You can do this too!”
Amazing things began to unfold as students followed Khayree’s example of unleashing their toxic feelings prose. My poets began to see themselves more positively as their poetry reflected a light of hope that beamed out of them as they recognized that their peers were truly inspired by their open-heart art.
Next, we had a poetry contest and one former gang member was surprised to win. My students really enjoyed sharing their poetry and reported that it was more helpful then going to counseling. They discovered that writing and sharing was their therapy.
“Limbo” went viral receiving high praises after landing in the Folsom Prison to be read by an inmate to 25 convicted murderers. We have since been invited to share our story and poetry at the State Capital, TV and radio.
Studies have shown that Poetry-Therapy is an effective treatment for depression, grief, post-traumatic stress and substance abuse. The process helps to strengthen coping skills, integrate feelings, reframe traumatic events and give a more positive outlook for the future.

Our “Healing Hearts Program” focuses on social/emotional intelligence teaching tools to greater inner peace to alleviate anxiety and depression. Workshops and coaching offer strategies to enhance self-esteem, creativity and confidence to prevent bullying/suicide.

Book us for speaking/workshops/training/coaching for students, teachers and parents.
Carolyn K. McGraw is an Educational Consultant, Teen Life Coach, Wellness Practitioner and Poet. www.CarolynKmcGraw.com (916) 844-6136 www.Carolyn@carolynkmcgraw.com