I was intrigued about the work of this elegant woman whose soft voice can easily mutate into energetic beats when the verses of her writing require it. I was eager to know who was behind the idea of using poetry to heal.
When I asked her about herself she took her journal and read me a poem. She looked at me, smiled and invited me to write with her.
Life itself is perhaps one of the main sources of inspirations for Bahareh Amidi, an American-Iranian spiritual poetess and psychologist, who believes poetry can help us find peace within ourselves. In Abu Dhabi, where she resides, Dr. Amidi has initiated a series of poetry recitals that have attracted people from all emirates.
“Poetry therapy is the releasing of feelings and images in one's heart and soul through poetry, both reading and writing of poetry that is,” she explained.
Her Eastern roots, Western upbringing and experiences in the Middle East are all merged in her writing. She describes the encounter of poetry and medicine as something natural “like horse and carriage, sea and sea shell.”
This concept has experienced an increased interest by the local population, drawing a large crowd to the Speak Abu Dhabi event organized by Dr. Amidi and Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi earlier this week. It is a first of its kind event, giving local poets a voice while creating an opportunity to share their feelings and views about the situation in the region.
The first poetry recital organized by Bahareh Amidi started with around 60 people in Al Arabia coffee shop one year ago, and since then it has grown to the point where it gathered 500 people at the Sorbonne University Auditorium.
“It is not about the number of people, it could have been five. It is about the energy created,” she highlighted.
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The diversity in cultures and communities coexisting in the UAE has showed a good reception of the initiative. It is perhaps the fact that Dr. Amidi talks about things that transcend us all that creates this connection. In addition to organizing recitals, she also provides workshops for migrant workers in labor camps, and support to women in safe houses.
“Wounds that can not be seen can be treated with poetry therapy. Poetry gives us the voice we need for healing to happen,” she explained.
There is no secret science or complicated method behind “Poetry Therapy”. It is about connecting the individual with her emotions. It is about finding a moment for ourselves, and putting words on liberating images and feelings. Dr. Amidi always emphasizes the importance of reading our poems out loud in order to liberate our own voice, embrace it and make it heard.
Poetry Therapy could be understood as a way to do introspection. Introspection, or the self-examination of our cognitive processes, is in fact a powerful tool at creating motivation and resiliency. Keeping a regular journal or initiating a creative writing process is usually used as a complement in psychotherapy.
There is not doubt we live in an agitated world and some of us would argue there is little time to sit down and write about feelings. But, what if this is perhaps the way we can contribute to our society? Maybe we only need some minutes a day to create a connection with who we really are, in order to generate a change in the way we relate to each other. This would become then a radical step towards mutual understanding.
It is sometimes refreshing when we are reminded that a construction of bridges among ourselves is possible. We do not live in a homogenous world anymore; diversity is now our major characteristic. The emirate of Abu Dhabi, for example is composed only by 28% of nationals; immigrants from South East Asia, North America and Europe compose the remaining 79%, according to the last census in 2011. While surrounded by so many beliefs and ideologies Dr. Amidi proposes poetry as a force that creates respect and unity.
“If each of us finds a temple in our core, then the world would be nothing but a sanctuary. I would respect your temple and you would respect mine, and we would not care what color our skin holds, or if we were a cross, crescent or star,” she said.
Now, more than ever, we are urged to reconsider the way we relate to each other. It is hard to state that poetry is the key for the resolution of complex political and social conflicts. However, many would agree with the fact that the first step to achieve peace in the Middle East is to learn how to speak up about our own feelings while learning to listen what the others have to say. Poetry might be a good first step in this direction.