When ‘Someone is Writing a Poem’: The Role of Metaphor in Transforming the Inhabited Experience of Life-Threatening Illness

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This article was originally published as:

Rickett, C., Beveridge, J., Gordon, J., & Race, P. (2019). When ‘someone is writing a poem’: The role of metaphor in transforming the inhabited experience of life-threatening illness. Axon: Creative Explorations, 9(1). Retrieved from https://www.axonjournal.com.au/

ISSN: 1838-8973


190402 Creative Writing (incl. Playwriting)| 200101 Communication Studies| 1112 ONCOLOGY AND CARCINOGENESIS

Avondale Research Centre

Lifestyle Research Centre

Avondale Research Centre

Spirituality and Worship Research Centre

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But most often someone writing a poem believes in, depends on, a delicate, vibrating range of difference, that an ‘I’ can become a ‘we’ without extinguishing others, that a partly common language exists to which strangers can bring their own heartbeat, memories, images. A language that itself has learned from the heartbeat, memories, images of strangers. (Rich 2003: 86)

The New leaves writing project was designed to provide people experiencing life-threatening illnesses the poetic tools to help gain self-confidence, literary skills and some kind of aesthetic satisfaction by creating their own poems. Because poetry often utilises the language of the subconscious, it has a unique capacity to help people uncover and listen to the deeper meanings of their lives (Harrower 1972; Mazza 1999). Poetry enables people to feel their lives, rather than to withdraw, or retreat into emotional numbness or states of paralysis in times of crisis. Participants in our project found writing poetry helped build an interior space and – when undertaken in a group led by Judith Beveridge, who is an experienced practitioner – connect their work to a wider community. This article focuses on the ways in which the creation of metaphors and symbolic images enabled New leaves poets to represent the knowledge and experience of illness while moving dialogically from an isolated ‘I’ to a connected ‘We’ by participating in the workshop and publication process.


Used by permission: the author(s).

Copyright © 2019 Carolyn Rickett, Judith Beveridge, Jill Gordon and Paul Race. First publication rights granted to the Axon journal.

This is an open access article.