Poetry and trauma: exercises for creating metaphors and using sensory detail

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This paper reports on the use of four poetry writing exercises in the Creative Writing stream of the four-week intensive residential programme, Arts for Recovery, Resilience, Teamwork and Skills (ARRTS), with Australian Defence Force participants diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or anxiety disorders. The programme is hosted twice annually by the University of Canberra. As a Creative Writing Mentor for the programme, I have developed these exercises, which have specific goals: metaphor creation, writing from the senses and using detail, and writing about movement and the body to assist engagement; these exercises are generative. These approaches are predicated on the idea that the therapeutic value of writing is assisted by trying to write well. They highlight the need to both restore and explore symbolic language, an ability which is sometimes lost following trauma; to use sensory detail; and the value of writing in embodied ways. After discussing each exercise, the paper reflects on their usefulness to participants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-420
Number of pages12
JournalNew Writing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


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