Many male survivors have discovered that composing poetry can be a very useful recovery tool. It offers a powerful way to express feelings, while at the same time it doesn’t require a guy to produce a continuous narrative, which may not yet be appropriate or even possible for him.
If you've been considering writing your own poetry, you are on the verge of setting out on a path already followed by many guys. The sections below will give you an idea of how much has already been done. It's worth remembering that for most of these men their goal hasn't been artistic achievement, but recovery. It has clearly helped them, or there wouldn't be so many of these guys! Why not join them? After all, writing poems doesn't mean you have to display them to the world, unless that is what you really want to do.
You may be wondering how to get started. There are numerous guides “out there” on composing poetry, but for survivors an essential read – and profoundly encouraging – is a different sort of work:
Ferlinghetti, Lawrence. Poetry as Insurgent Art. New York: New Directions Books, 2007.
Ferlinghetti's little book, which can easily fit into your pocket, briefcase, or backpack, basically urges us to take back our power, declare our truth, own our feelings, forget the pretenses, and let others think what they will.
Wondering what other guys have done? A good place to start would be the anthologies edited by Neal King, Jill Kuhn, and Mike Lew (listed below). All of these works are dedicated entirely to the work of male survivors. On the subject of survivor poetry itself, see:
Apffel, Robyn. Metamorphosis: a Poetry Manual for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2014.
Chavis, Geri Giebel. Poetry and Story Therapy: the Healing Power of Creative Expression. London: Jessica Kingley Publishers, 2011.
Fox, John. Poetic Medicine: the Healing Art of Poem-Making. New York: Penguin Putnam, 1997.
Don’t be deterred by the self-deprecating thought, “I’m no poet.” Yes, the poets listed here include celebrated professionals like Francisco Alarcón, Richard Hoffman, Norbert Krapf, Harold Norse, and Bruce Weigl, but the majority are guys more or less like you and me – survivors who decided to give it a shot. Again, you don’t have to show what you write to anyone until you want to do so, and the purpose isn’t to produce exquisite verse (although yours may in fact prove to be very good). The idea is to try a new recovery tool that only requires a piece of paper and a pencil.
And try to write that way – with paper and pencil. You can always keyboard and revise your work on the computer later, but it’s a powerful experience to feel and see the words forming as you write.
The Foundation has collected a corpus of over 150 volumes of male survivor poetry, most of it in collections by single authors, but also including material in anthologies. Most of the known work has so far been in English, but German, Icelandic, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish are also represented. The authors come from every continent in the world, except Antarctica. The magnitude and scope of the material already suggest its utilitiy as a research resource, and many of the books are available in libraries or as eBooks.
The topics covered include not only specific abuse issues, but extend to the entire range of life itself. So already, this work highlights the crucial point that in the aftermath of sexual abuse a survivor’s life isn’t necessarily dominated by the consequences of abuse. In fact, many of the poetry collections below reflect the author’s engagement with topics that non-survivors would readily recognize as their concerns too. The material can also be fruitfully researched according to such categories as gay survivors, ethnic minorities, clergy abuse, and female offenders.
If you know about, or own, or have published a volume of poetry by a male survivor not listed below, we would be grateful if you could click here and let us know the details.