It’s a fantastic experience for me to see that expressive arts therapy in its various shapes and forms has started to infiltrate the UAE to help in self-healing, self-recovery and self-discovery.  One such form is poetry therapy. In December 2012, when I drove to Abu Dhabi from Dubai to participate in the poetry workshop by John Fox, held at Cafe Arabia (the place where food and literature make a magical brew), I had no idea what I was getting into. The ambience of poetry recital, mixed with some live Arabic music by three lovely boys was quite intoxicating. We got to discuss poetry (not critique it). We allowed ourselves to joyfully blend our poems like magical woven threads of conversations. We came away inspired.  This was the last prompt that I needed to launch Travel Arts Life workshops in intuitive handcrafting/writing after the longing to do so for years.

Bottom line is this.  The poetry workshop by John Fox showed that writing can not only help to discover one’s creativity but can have a positive effect on one’s health. Poetry therapy is one method of expressive arts therapy to find and express one’s true feelings in a safe place so as to deal with confusion, struggles and traumatic experiences. It helps one find hope and to learn to live with unchangeable situations. Quoting John Fox himself, “Using a wide-range of creative tools and techniques, we will show you how the reading, hearing and writing of poems can act as a healing catalyst. You will find that poetry can help you to express your unique story. Poem-making is a way to reclaim your truth, your feelings, and your voice.”

John Fox reciting a poem. Photos by Hanan Awad ©

John Fox reciting a poem. Photos by Hanan Awad ©


A bit about John Fox is a certified poetry therapist, poet and author of several books including the popular book ‘Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making’. He is the Founder of the Institute for Poetic Medicine. I believe that in my quest to help people ‘awaken’ their world, I find that there are others such as John Fox that are united in the same ‘awakening’ quest. The vision of the Institute for Poetic Medicine is to awaken soulfulness in the human voice. How inspiring!

Photos by Hanan Awad ©

Muhammad Saadah, 14 years old, plays the Oud. Photos by Hanan Awad ©


Kariem Hashim, 11 years old, plays the Oud . Photos by Hanan Awad ©

Kariem Hashim, 11 years old, plays the Oud. Photos by Hanan Awad ©


Hamzah Saadah, 10 years old, plays the qanoun. Photos by Hanan Awad ©

Hamzah Saadah, 10 years old, plays the qanoun. Photos by Hanan Awad ©


Poetry therapy aims to complement traditional medicine, focusing on inner healing processes and psychological aspects. Researchers have already started to back up the positive impact of poetry in traditional medicine with scientific findings. Writing about traumatic, stressful or emotional life situations has been found to improve physical and psychological health. Improved immune system functioning, improved lung functioning in asthma cases and reduced blood pressure are just some benefits that were related to poetry therapy in recent studies. Most research was conducted by Prof. James W. Pennebaker from the University at Texas of Austin, being backed up and added with further findings by other professionals in the field of psychology and medicine. (Source: Baikie, Karen A. and Wilhelm, Kay. “Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing” Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 11 (2005): 338-346)

Watch a video showing John Fox sharing his thoughts on poetry in medicine:

Thanks to John Fox, you can now attend poetry therapy workshops in Abu Dhabi with poet Bahareh Amidi who trained under John Fox himself.  You can read more about John Fox’s visit to Abu Dhabi at Bahareh’s blog. As below.

Poetry Therapy with John Fox at Cafe Arabia

Writing Poems as Stress-Relief and a Bridge to Possibility – with John Fox at Tamakkan

Teacher: John Fox, Student: Bahareh, Lesson: Poetry Therapy


Photos: Copyright. Hanan Awad