Monday, 23 February 2015


The words on my book, Layers of Possibility, are written by Dr. Robert Carroll, Department of Psychology, UCLA. He and I have been long-time members of The National Association for Poetry Therapy. His words express how and why poetry matters. Robert writes, "Poetry can promote healing, growth, and transformation." My experience of  Bob's knowing continues when I accompany victims/survivors, inmates, and prison staff. The essence of my talks, lectures, and writing workshops, is to remind those in my formal and informal classes, that their story and their voicing of that story matters.

In our societies and communities, even as deep want for justice as a lived and living experience appears to be wanted, what stands out, is how quickly, easily, and sinisterly our stories and our voices are silenced; most often for "our own good." Justice that makes room and takes time is not a justice which hears only part of the story; is not a justice which likes "to get this problem over with as quickly as possible," to move on to the next problem.

Justice, according to Judge John Reilly, with whom I traded a copy of my book, Sawbonna: A Real Life Restorative Justice Story, for his book, Bad Medicine: A Judge's Struggle for Justice in a First Nation's Community, is "right relationship and harmony." These can only occur when we stop pretending that ignoring and categorizing crimes and hurts of any shape and size, will make things better, and as fast as possible. Depersonalizing justice wants quick solutions. Poetic Justice does not view this as good policy.

In sharing conversation with Howard Sapers, Correctional Investigator of Canada, we both agreed that any policy: public, private, or else, which denigrates human rights, insisting on depersonalization (deontologification) with disregard for individual voices and individual stories, is a menace to our communities and our societies. Is toxic. And it is only when we listen, when we hear, when we witness, when we are witnessed, not from places of power-over, or prepackaged professional masking, but rather from our shared-humanity, that we live the values of Restorative Justice, in the Crucible of Sawbonna. Those values: Respect - Responsibility - Relationship. And Wonder. For to cease depersonalizing ourselves, we cease speaking and listening from an us versus them idea of what and how humanity means. To stop hiding behind titles and masks, and to enter into "right relationship" clear, authentic, and vulnerable, is to live justice.

(From my book, The Other Inmate: Mediating Justice Mediating Hope; also in French. The translation was Funded by Correctional Services Canada)

Listen, it's a mad, mad world,
And I am filled with words.
Words I want to spill upon a page.
Upon pages. And pages.

I can't make any promises,
Well, maybe one: I will tell my truth.
I will write my story.

Just listen. Please. I will listen
To your story too.


  1. "To appreciate "the inner meaning of another's experience"requires something not often considered part of "the strenuous mood" - the ability to listen truly and well. All "community" begins in listening. "Spirituality," "wisdom," "that-which-all-seek" is initially transmitted from one person to another by attending, one of James's favourite words, which means to be present in a hearing way, to listen to others in such a way that we are willing to surrender our own worldview. Only by such "attending" can we discover the way of life that we really seek - a way of life that is more than knowledge and love is more than acquaintance. What happens first, in any 'community,' is that those who would participate in it ~ Listen ~ " (Taken from "The Spirituality of Imperfection" by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham

  2. Sawbonna, Catherine Ann.