Saved by a Poem is a manual for taking the great legacy of
human writing as medicine. Poetry opens the heart, helps
us shed our past and open to a different
—Pol Stafford


Our retreat was such a lovely combination of wisdom, love and hilarity. Each person’s poem still resonates for me and tells me much about the speaker. I have managed to learn another poem. I can’t believe it! I have been saying the two poems over and over and I know they are working on me in their own way. They are inner medicine working in an alchemy of transformation.

—Anne, a university professor from Dublin, Ireland

The beach’s waves and Jami’s cello and Kim’s voice still resonate in my brain and my body. I am still astounded by how Kim wove everyone’s threads together, and how she was able to be present as each of us seemed to need. She responded to each of us in ways that each of us needed and then used that need as a platform, an invitation, for the rest of us to deepen our own work. I truly am in awe of what I was able to see and experience through this journey.

—Lyn, a university professor from Victoria, British Columbia

I was so impressed by the delicate balance you achieved between being warm and empathic and delivering an invitational challenge to us to open up a bit. And you did it all from (because of) a warm, secure heart. Thank you!

Reading my poem aloud was a new and major experience. Speaking that poem was much more powerful than writing it – and writing it was pretty powerful in itself! While reading, I could hardly see the page for tears after just a couple of lines, and was shaking so hard by the end of it I thought I might rattle.

Your workshop was a landmark experience.  I remember your warmth and clarity, and your skill in making sufficient, invitational space for things to happen. I thank you again for such a powerful event and for facilitating what can only be called a true healing experience. Your workshop was one of the high spots in this damn process that is healing from grief.

—Alan, a businessman from San Mateo, California

I treasure the week you gave us at Wisdom University. I realized that there’s much in my life that I haven’t given voice to—an awareness I credit to your fierce, beautiful and unfailing teaching about this.
THANK YOU for surfacing in me the importance of giving voice!  For that and for the poetry, and for who you are, I think you will be with me forever.

—Madeleine, from Oakland, California

To tell you that workshop changed me profoundly is an understatement. I tell people often that this one workshop was the best I had encountered to date. The best part was that the workshop was able to service us all, wherever we were in our process, in as much as we were willing to dive in.  I see the changes daily in my practice where my sense of knowing how to open the space for my clients healing is so much better and the results are that each of them, adults and children alike, are benefiting by going deeper into their fears and coming out the other side with palpable differences. I have never been busier and felt more energetic about my work. Your workshop came at a time when I was questioning my abilities, so what a gift it was to replenish that wellspring and be able to again bring them forward in a renewed way. If they knew, my kids would be thanking you too!

—Louise, a child psychologist from Philadelphia

If I was to sum up my experience in one word I would say: FANTASTIC, or maybe AMAZING, or maybe SHHHEEEAAGHHH!!  The retreat was way beyond anything I could have imagined.

Your process of igniting the creative juices was exciting, stirring the pot with Jami setting deep patterns of rhythms and you reciting poems. WOW! It really worked for me. I haven’t let loose creatively like that in years. The words poured out of me like magic, no thoughts steering the flow, just raw in the moment inspiration. Something big opened up inside me, expansive awareness I could feel as part of me, and somehow it felt impersonal too, like I joined something outside/inside myself.  I touched areas of deep wounding from childhood and expressed the emotional charge and basically discharged a lot of that energy in a very forceful, yet healing way. The energies moved fluidly. The breathing practices were powerful, and on the third night I felt a state of otherworldly bliss (I remember you put your thumbs on my third eye with gentle pressure and all the chi flowed there and lifted me into an ecstatic state). I appreciate every aspect of the journey, how well thought out and planned. Your gentle power held us on a very steady course, gave me confidence to just let go and sink deep into the process. I have deep gratitude for your leadership and inspirational poetry recitation. Your practice of memorizing poems served us well. I can only thank you and Jami for an amazing adventure.  I feel like a changed man.

—Ed, a musician from Santa Barbara, California

I heard my soul speaking to me!

— John, a teacher from LA

Thank you for showing me how holy poetry really is.

— Patti, a poet from Santa Cruz

I feel I’ve shifted to a deeper, more “me” place, and the shift feels permanent. I will never forget being held in my friend’s arms as I let the poem take me into the grief I’ve never been able to allow before. I carry the poems I learned in my heart and even more, the freedom I’ve discovered by letting them be my teachers.

—Lyn, a university professor from Vancouver

Learning my poem by heart pressed me up against all sorts of limitations I had set for myself about what I was allowed to say and how much I was allowed to feel, not to mention what my memory could hold! Now it is inside me, and I am a greater, truer, more human being because of it

—Monnie, a nurse from Berkeley

Not only did the workshop heal something deep inside of me but my own poetic voice is changing as I discover the ability (me whose brain is like a sieve!) to learn poems – my own and others – by heart. I’m paying more attention to the rhythm and cadence of my language, and what comes out is blessedly different and surprising. Thank you for showing me how holy poetry really is.

—Patti, a poet from Santa Cruz

This past weekend my partner and I had the opportunity to attend a workshop at Kripalu entitled “Beyond Words: Poetry and Music as Passion, Prayer, and Practice” led by Jami Sieber and Kim Rosen.

All I can say is that I was totally blown away by the weekend and let me tell you why.

Get your feet wet and sample the waters? Heck no! This workshop started with jumping into the deep end of the pool and it just got better from there. So quickly did it usher in a torrent of opening in me that I spent much of the first night lying awake in bed tossing and turning. I could hear the strong winds and rain battering the trees and the building. A previously stagnant pattern of muggy hot weather was being replaced by an autumn like chill. A similar stagnant pattern inside of me was also being shaken and stirred. Early the next morning around sunrise I wrote the following two paragraphs in my journal:

A great wind rattled the shutters and trees echoing through the halls of the building and my heart. Bringing with it the declaration of an opening, a shift from stone to the softness of leaning in and letting go to flow.

Music and word brought forth such power that even the clouds were called to move once again.

Have you ever been deeply moved by a piece of music? Have you ever been captured and compelled by a word, phrase, or poem? Now for a moment imagine those experiences combined in a way that is so powerfully delivered by two women that it transcends the physical people involved and alchemizes with a circle of participants to create a space in which magic and miracles can and do occur. Jami’s improvisational and deeply emotive electric cello acted as both a backdrop for the experience as well as a second wordless poet; Kim wove some of the greatest poetry ever written – Rumi, Oliver, Neruda, and her own original work – into a tapestry that guided each of us into our own deeply personal experiences. I must confess that growing up I had never been a big fan of poetry. Perhaps it was institutionalized English teachers that scared me off or the seemingly untouchable poet friends that made me run for the hills. Or, maybe it was simply my left brain mathematical mind that was so ticked off because there was no “right answer” and I couldn’t cope with the ambiguities. It is only in the last decade that I’ve invited it back into my life in fits and starts. There are people who can read poetry or act out a phrase or story, but Kim Rosen isn’t one of those people. The way she has embodied the words she reads and writes is on a deeper level. The words are embedded deep within her DNA which allows her to deliver the goods in such a commanding, accessible, yet highly spontaneous way that it will dumbfound your logical mind and hit you at the core.

The weekend consisted of a series of different poetry deep dives as they called it which invited the circle of participants deep into their own heart. My experience was that some of the dives were intensely painful and emotional while others were highly insightful and still others were filled with boundless joy. That is the beauty of the way they (and the rest of the circle) held the space – all experiences are welcome in the circle.

For me much of the process was rooted in my deep fears around taking the plunge from unhappy corporate slave to full time business owner. Sure I’ve been running my business for several years, but the move from part-time to full-time is a big one filled with uncertainty. In the cradle of cello and voice and a circle almost devoid of time and space I was able to dive deep within and allow overwhelm, fears, grief, loss, and hidden desires wash over me. I took risks with pen and paper, in the sound and expression of my voice, and even in a spontaneous opportunity to let a borrowed guitar be my voice. (Anyone who knows me would know I rarely if ever play my guitar for others other than the old days of highly structured classical guitar performances and sure as hell not in the presence of a professional musician I highly respect. But I took the truly incomprehensible statement “we’re all going to play something in the key of D-minor” in, forgot about every musical fear and expectation I ever had of myself, swallowed hard, and hurled myself off the cliff. It was a bungee jump I’d highly recommend.)

Also part of the process for me was connecting with my partner on a deeper level. She had her own deeply personal experience but we also had a shared one. If there is one thing I know for sure it is that this willingness to communicate, explore, and grow individually and as a couple is the #1 best thing you could ever hope for in a relationship. After over 15 years as a couple it is possible to create a newness and mystery that deepens and enriches if both people are willing to be vulnerable and evolve. I was personally stunned by some of the risks she took this weekend and can share in that dance of joy with her. Very cool indeed!

—Paula, a business coach from Pennsylvania – read more from Paula

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