Poetry that frees the soul.

Cristina Domenech gave this amazing TED talk in October 2014. She teaches writing at an Argentinian prison, and tells the moving story of helping incarcerated people express themselves and understand themselves through poetry.

“It’s said that to be a poet, you have to go to hell and back.”

Cristina’s moving tale is about finding freedeom whatever our circumstances.

“All of us in our hell burn with happiness when we light the wick of the word”.

Peaceful Combat

The Olympic Games, were held every four years [an Olympiad] in Ancient Greece, in honour of the gods. Attributing them mythical origin, the games were more than simply entertainment but festivals of peace giving. Atheletes travelling to the games we granted amnesty via, The Olympic Truce, to travel safely to the games through enemy territory. The games served to unite the city states of the Grecian peninsula into Panhellenic unity.

Interestingly, both sport and story telling featured as part of the festivities, and the gods were said to descend from Mt Olympus to enjoy the revelries. The peaceful games in their honour, presented combat, both in the playing arenas and in the amphi-theatres, and brought the combat to a peaceful resolution. Instead of war – wrestling, javelin throwing, horse racing, foot races and boxing were undertaken by trained athletes while citizens spectated and cheered. This “play combat” externalised inter-state conflict without making it bitter.


Likewise, stories externalise inner conflict, jealousies, rivalries, revenge, madness and hatred.  These dramas played out by trained actors while spectators cheered offered catharsis for human inter-personal and intra-personal struggles. Even more interesting is that modern pscyhology and mental health theory has taken elements of ancient stories and converted them into therapy.

In the ancient world

Gods and heroes of Greek myths have been of interest to psychoanalysts, who find them as symbols of human intrapsychic life, evolution, and conflicts. Many of these gods and heroes, like Oedipus, Electra, Eros, and Narcissus, have had their names given to psychological situations, conflicts, and diseases. Freud picked the myth of Narcissus as a symbol of a selfabsorbed person whose libido is invested in the ego itself, rather than in other people. The term narcissistic personality disorder, also taken from the myth, describes a self-loving character with grandiose feelings of uniqueness – Arash Javanbakht


The theatrical side of the Olympics has since been lost in favour of the sports. Maybe this can become a new form of international relations –  more poetry and story telling in foreign policy and play out global tensions harmoniously? Maybe we can approach story as medicine for our soul – to help us work through inner ills and understand ourselves better?

Door way stories and the relativity of time

“So these Kings and Queens entered the thicket, and before they had gone a score of paces they all remembered that the thing they had seen was called a lamp-post, and before they had gone twenty more the noticed that they were not making their way through branches but through coats. And the next moment they all came tumbling out of a wardrobe  door inthe the empty room, and they were no longer Kings and Queens in their hunting array but just Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy in their old clothes. It was the same day and the same hour of the day on which they had all gone into the wardrobe to hide.” – C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion,  The Witch and The Wardrobe.


Old English faery tales tell the opposite scenario, a young maiden is carried off into the land of faery, and lives there a while. Upon returning to her home, she finds her mother and father long dead and years passed, even though for her the span had been but a few short months.  This common motif in narrative is an interesting feature.  Stories take us on a journey, and while the world around us might tick by to the solar clock, our soul can travel through an age long quest and return to the planet, so to speak, changed and transformed –  and surprised the world is still as it is.  The doorway story simply captures that with a metaphor of traveling between two worlds.

Ever notice that intense emotion heightens a feeling of time?! An epic day such as a family wedding seems to fly by in a blur, yet each moment seems burned in the memory. A car-crash or fearful experience seems to slow time down immensely. Watching the kettle boil, slows time down. A day at work or being busy and distracted, speeds time up. For children, time is counted in sleeps until a big day. For adults, each year is remarked upon “Is it Christmas again? how time flies by!?!” And the older you get, the faster time seems to fly by.

body clock

I once fasted for 21 days. The experience was a fascinating experiment of observing  time passing. The act of not eating brought on aches and pains, fatigue and boredom. Mostly it helped me detox, rest and consider life deeply. Time truly slowed down to a point that half an hour meditation yielded more than a day of busy activity. I distinctly felt that I was traveling. I felt my soul time in relation to solar time had shifted, that I was journeying through inner experiences at a more intense pace than normal. The only other time I’d experienced this was to go on a journey through a good story.

If youth equates to a more vital soul time – children experience days and weeks very profoundly – and old age equates to less vital soul time – adults remark on years and even decades passing in a flash  – they what does this tell us about story?  Einstein’s theory of relativity states that the speed of the individual traveling will affect their experience of time. Rather than time being a constant by which we measure reality, time shifts relative to the speed of the traveler.

I don’t believe the secret to immortality lies in story telling or story reading – but I do know that reading stories, takes the reader on a journey through inner experiences, and speeds up time again relative to the solar clock, returning them to a vitality of experience akin to being a child.