Revived by Meeting You

TLA Member Sherry Reiter shares this reflection on her recent travel and work in South Korea:


“My life was revived by meeting you and
inspired to send out a joyful fragrance”

These words from Korean poet Lee Hae-In are still reverberating for me. I have just returned from South Korea, where John Fox, myself and nine other speakers from around the world were invited to The 2nd International Conference on Humanities Therapies at Kangwon University. How clever for the team of professors at Kangwon National University to discover a term that Korean people can accept more readily than “therapy,” a term that still carries stigma for many Asians. As Yong Jung Kwon, President of Kangwon National University said, “The goals of our university lie in the pursuit of dignifying all human beings, seeking knowledge, creating truth for new generations, and promoting creative and productive human resources for happier life.”  
“Humanities therapy” is an umbrella term inclusive of all the creative arts therapies and related topics such as psycholinguistics, Rogerian therapy and philosophical counseling. As Dae-Beom Lee, Director of the Humanities Institute stated, “We want to investigate the ontological status that happiness takes a role in our life and to unite various viewpoints and theories… to develop original theories and methods of humanities therapy.”  On July 9th and 10, 2010, I had the immense pleasure of  presenting “In the Orchard of Contentment; Planting the Seeds of Poetry Therapy.” John Fox, who has presented at previous Power of Words conferences, spoke about “Poetry, Community and the Flourishing Heart; Poetry Therapy As a Catalyst for Resilience and Connection.” Proceedings were translated in a publication so that the audience could read in their own language as the speeches were given.  

From there, John Fox and I were hosted by the gracious So-Young Choi, Director of the Korean Poetry Therapy Institute. So-Young directed the Second International Poetry Therapy Workshop on 7/12 and 7/13 in Seoul. About fifty writers, therapists, professors and students gathered for two days of workshops. The group was loving, expressive and very open. To say that we were warmly received would be an understatement. We left with hugs, gifts and an appreciation of new ideas and great personalities. 

Although something is lost in translation, the struggle for survival and coping with a multitude of emotions through writing is universal.


“I am just a flower
rising from the dead.”

Although bibliotherapy in the form of short stories and books, is not a new concept, the use of poetry is relatively new to South Korea. The Korean Poetry Therapy Institute directed by So-Young Choi and  The Korea Center of Journal/Poetry Therapy, directed by Bhongee-Lee, have sprung up in the last few years. It is inspiring and heartening to see that on the other side of the world, transformative language is blossoming.


    When my faith floats upwards
like a victorious fragrance,
                  angels in their white garments blow on trumpets.


The lines of poetry quoted are from Sister Lee Hae In, from her poem “A Few Words From A White Lily” in From the Sea of Dandelions; A Collection of Love Letters to Myself, My Neighbors and to God. Sister Lee Hae In is a cancer survivor who is a beloved poet in South Korea.
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