From the Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages November 2005

Healing Words: Poetry & Medicine

Filmed at the University of Florida’s Shands Hospital, where pediatric oncologist Dr. John Graham-Pole and poet John Fox work in tandem, this documentary invites comparison to last year’s Born Into Brothels : Both films salute the utilitarian integrity of artmaking as a means of transcendence. If this position seems to reduce the actual work to an exercise in self-actualization, Fox’s pep talk to a reluctant chemo-ward bard–“It doesn’t have to rhyme; just speak from your heart”–would seem enough by itself to hush any cynic. (That some of the patients are sharp wordsmiths is almost beside the point.) Though Graham-Pole provides a rational explanation of the therapy’s merits by offering that inventive activity releases endorphins, I’d direct skeptics to some of the more evocative examples of healing–such as the teenage girl who performs a lyrical dance from her bed, tubes hanging from her fingers and years of scar tissue encasing her outstretched arms.

~ Eric Henderson

Amazon Reviews of Healing Words: Poetry & Medicine

Inspiring and possible

This film shows the inspiring work of John Fox, poetry therapist, and other remarkable artists and medical professionals engaged in the use of the arts for healing. I work as a medical family therapist in pediatric hematology-oncology and what has touched me the most is seeing what is possible. Often we see inspiring work and think that we could never do anything like that, or it wouldn’t work in my setting, or in some other way feel disconnected form the work presented, as if great people do things differently from ordinary people at their jobs. In this film we see that art and healing are truly for us all. We see what a difference someone truly engaged and listening can make. The healing extends to us a viewers, as well. It has affected my work and I have shared it with colleagues. I expect to continue to do so for the rest of my career.

Oh, my. Watching this video changed my life.

What else need I say? Watch it if you need to be inspired and to have hope in what medical people can do when they allow the arts into hospitals.

Poetry heals

I write poetry one on one with residents at our health care center. Words that come out of the soul, come forth creatively, and as a result they heal. This DVD validates the work that I do daily with older adults who are in skilled nursing care. This DVD brought me to tears as I watched the words and the movement come forth in those who would otherwise be “bound up”. The arts set the inner self free to be creative and in turn bring wellness.


This DVD shows the possibilities of healing that exist when patients find poetry and other forms of art available during recovery and treatment following illness and medical problems. The doctors at Shands Hospital invite and encourage healing by their willingness to participate in the Arts in Medicine program and by showing their own human responses. And poet therapist John Fox is amazing as he helps patients and doctors find the words to speak what is in their hearts. Watching this is a healing experience!

Poetry & Medicine!

Great portrayal of poetry (and other forms of art) in the medical setting. Very inspiring!

Healing Words: Poetry and Medicine

This documentary is truly inspirational, often moving, as well as informative; it really demonstrates that art and poetry can and should be more widely recognize as effective components of the healing journey. The film also shows that poetry can build connectedness as it erases the barriers of roles between patients and physicians. Healing Words gives hope, that it’s possible for medical care institutions to shift from their cold and sterile atmosphere, to become more hospitable to the soul and to honor the strengths of the human spirit.