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  • For some, poetry is an art. For Rosemarie Dombrowski, it’s medicine.

For some, poetry is an art. For Rosemarie Dombrowski, it’s medicine.

By on September 1, 2021 0

First Phoenix Poet Laureate Rosemarie Dombrowski Uses Art As A Therapeutic Tool

When Rosemarie Dombrowski stood in front of her class and shared a poem about her son, who had been diagnosed with autism and three birth defects, it wasn’t just a show of vulnerability with her students – it was an example of poetry used as medicine.

Dombrowski started working at ASU in 2006 and is currently a lecturer. She has conducted several courses in women’s literature and medical humanities.

But above all, she is a poet.

Dombrowski incorporated his love of poetry into his academic life by practicing the therapeutic benefits of poetry at ASU.

“We were all screaming at the end. It was an incredible, surreal experience,” said Danielle Du, a medical student who attended Dombrowski’s classes.

While his poetry can be heartbreaking, Dombrowski is the antithesis of melancholy. Her students have described her as, strong and passionate, a larger-than-life character who has impacted the ASU community using her greatest tool: poetry.

Dombrowski is designed to hold the attention of a classroom filled with tired students. She plays the role of a living pop-out information book whose delivery turns a seemingly mundane topic into a learning opportunity. Dombrowski’s hands fly with her words, and she is exuberant when given the opportunity to talk about her favorite works by Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson.

“Nothing that I’m saying can prepare you for the reality of what Rosemarie is. You have to experience it,” Du said. “She embodies the writing process by speaking and she connects disparate things.”

In 2016, Dombrowski was named the first Poet Laureate for the City of Phoenix. One of Dombrowski’s primary tools to help empower community members through poetry is what she calls poetic therapy, a process that helps patients cope with trauma and physical ailments through poetry. .

TO Revision Arts, a non-profit Dombrowski founded with scholarship funds, she teaches therapeutic poetry workshops in the Phoenix area.

Participants come together and open up about their lives. As they finish wrestling with their memories and experiences, participants take control of their trauma and the feeling in the room is clearly relaxed.

“The dominant theory behind poetic therapy is that when we are able to rearrange this incident, this trauma, this wound in our own history, we can take back some power,” said Dombrowski. “Instead of letting a diagnosis or a death dominate our lives, we can say, ‘In this space today, I’m going to rewrite this story.'”

Barrett’s students have the opportunity to explore some of Dombrowski’s interests at the intersection of the medical and the poetic in his classroom, Poetry and medicine.

Dombrowski believes the course “really grew out of a lifetime’s work as a poet” and was an opportunity for her as it “advocated for medical poetry as a kind of balm for those who might be in pain and feel isolated. “.

Presenting it in class is a new opportunity.

The first half of the course explores the work of American poets like Rafael Campo and Sylvia Plath, who have used their poetry as doctors. It also focuses on patient poets who used this art form to explore the depths of their subjective experiences, from the horrors of the trenches of World War I to the pains of breast cancer.

The poetry that Dombrowski teaches is not the cliché poetry that people can imagine when they think of art. Rather, it is a translation of cultural and historical data into poetry, Dombrowski said.

The convergence of these poems in the first weeks of class “is a really powerful dose of the medicine of poetry. It is not poetry that speaks to the philosophies of life; it is not poetry that speaks to religiosity; it is not poetry that speaks to an endless vat of hope in the universe. It’s poetry about fucking cancer and fucking cancer treatment. “

Later in the course, students will form small groups and conduct therapeutic poetry workshops for ASU partners at Westward Ho and Phoenix Biomedical Campus. Students should find out what works best for their audience and create an environment where writing exercises can lead to a poem that others want to share.

Shiv Shah, a junior studying biological sciences and literary studies in Dombrowski’s class, did his workshop in Mirabella at ASU, a retirement community in Tempe. After the experience, Shah came away with a new appreciation for the power of poetic therapy.

“It was really amazing. They talked about things they never really talk about. Some of them were veterans. Some of them were even crying about things they could sort out, just because there was someone with a hand on their back to guide them through their emotions, ”Shah said.“ This kind of experience kind of opened my eyes to the kind of therapies and care that people have. who traditionally have no medicine can access. “

Du ran her poetry workshop at Westward Ho. “The creative responses and the way they spoke about their experiences” were so gratifying that she agreed to work with Dombrowski on future workshops.

Dombrowski’s life shaped poetry in his community just as much as poetry shaped it.

As a caregiver for her medically fragile son, Dombrowski used poetry to help her cope with the stress that accompanies her life.

“Poetry is my therapy. This is how I became a poetic therapist. If you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your patients,” she said.

The use of poetic therapy appears in Dombrowski’s poetry. When she had her son in graduate school, she entered the field of disability and medical culture and has remained there ever since. Dombrowski took on the challenges she faced as a caregiver and turned to artistic expression in her first collection of poetry, “The emergency book“, which was a lyrical description of the culture of autism.

With his array of projects and his deeply rooted belief in the benefits of poetry that applies to all facets of life, Dombrowski is not mistaken. She “has always been a creative dreamer”.

“My parents let my creative spirit run wild,” said Dombrowski. “I’ve never been locked up, so it’s really hard for me to spend years germinating these things, these little projects, these classes, these ideas and then not letting them explode into something more. great. I think once we invest in something we’re passionate about, why should we start thinking about the limits of that? There are no limits. “


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