To Awaken Soulfulness in the Human Voice

Poetic Medicine


The Best Thing About

Being Clean

Is being clean

Being clean feels like a dream,

I'm running and running

to clean

But right now it feels like a dream

So keep me clean and let me sleep

For the thoughts I have are too deep,

The best thing about being clean

is waking up being me.

—Karrie K., workshop participant






Project Star

IPM Partner: Jim Hornsby

Women’s recovery home in southeast San Diego

Jim Hornsby, M.A., LMFT, is on the Advisory Board of the Poetic Medicine Institute.  He is a past Poet-in-Residence at The Encanto Boys and Girls Club where he directed the Encanto Children’s Poetry Choir and a past board member of the African American Writers and Artists.  Hornsby is currently a Teaching Artist at Young Audiences of San Diego, and Resident Poet at the Juvenile Court And Community Schools.  Jim was an original  member of the Langston Hughes Poetry Circle, and now serves on the Program Committee of San Diego Writers, Ink where he also teaches poetry workshops.   He was recently appointed as a Regional Editor for the San Diego Poetry Annual.  Mr. Hornsby is a Vietnam Veteran, and a member of the Barbareno Chumash tribe.  Under the pseudonym of Jim Moreno, he published his first book of poetry, Dancing in Dissent: Poetry For Activism (Dolphin Calling Press, honorable mention D.I.Y Book Contest, 2007, and the international London Book Contest, 2007 ). He has also published two cd's of poetry and music, reversing the erased: exhuming the expunged, and A Question From Love, .

Jim will publish Jim Crow Poems: Teaching Poetry in Youth Lockups, with Dolphin Calling Press later this year. You can contact him at or (760) 802-2449.

  • Project Star Workshop — Overview

    Two projects each containing six monthly poetry workshops for women in early recovery from chemical dependency.


    Women in early recovery from chemical dependency.

    Purpose and Goals

    A women’s poetry workshop can be an important part of the recovery formula in the first ninety days of sobriety.  It is a crucial time of recovery of brain and central nervous system function.  It is also the initial reparation of major body organs which significantly effect mood and affect.  The introduction of a workshop which intervenes and transforms the rationalizing, compartmentalizing, minimizing, etc. denial aspects of the disease of addiction can enhance and accelerate the recovery process.

    Project Description

    Cultural Circle Poetry Workshops (CCPW) blend indigenous philosophies (more traits, attitudes, and values than philosophies) with the learning theory of Kurt Lewin, and the Dunn & Dunn cross-cultural theories of teaching and counseling.

    In CCPW all students are welcome and equal no matter culture or color of skin (inclusion). All students sit in the circle (the we vs. the I), and all students regardless of sex, religion, or race have the right to tell their own story (equality & tolerance)

  • Follow-up Report

    The Cultural Circle Poetry Workshops continue to produce strong poems from the women addicts and alcoholics. As the women move through the workshops and also receive the counseling and structure support of Project Star, they continue to grow as women of sobriety.

    In spite of clinical evidence of early sobriety symptoms including mood swings, attention deficits, depression, confusion, and low self-esteem, most of the women write and write well. This workshop continually creates cohesion among the women, including the women who suffer from the above symptomatology.

    When they discover that the anthology which will ensue from the workshops will be sold to provide a bed for a woman who is indigent they are especially proud to participate.  Such a beautiful example of thinking of how they can help others!

    In the summer we sit on the front porch

    The sun's last rays bright in the forest.

    My great pyrenese & mastiff pup runs circles

    amongst the trees, then tires on my feet.

    Lemonade is served on ice very graciously.

     —Marcia T.


    The poetry expressed covers existential themes of early recovery: the search for identity without drugs and alcohol, the wish to repair the wreckage of alcohol and drug behaviors, regrets, hopes, dreams, and wishes for a positive drug free, and alcohol free future; fear of failure, internal polarities of cravings vs wishes for change, low self-esteem, grief at the lost life style or for losses in relationships, opportunities, and time.

    The Mask

    My hidden me

    Lies deep beneath a mask

    A mask of fake smiles

    And real tears

    She's lonely, confused, scared

    Choices that were made

    does not show

    the kind, giving, kindred soul

    who wished to emerge

    If she knew who she was

    The shattered mask would be painted

    on the wall, not her face

    —Cristina Richey


    In my experience, physicians with minimal training in addiction have considered addicts and alcoholics to be suffering from a Valium deficiency and the possibility of an iatrogenic relapse looms on the client's horizon. In the case of writing poetry, many of the mood and mind swings which cause physician anxiety are diffused or outright removed by the nonviolent writing expression ameliorating or alleviating mood and mind polarities and the overuse or misuse of psychopharmacology in early or mid treatment.

    It follows that the writing of poetry for alcoholics and addicts addresses the spiritual malady of the substance sick: spiritus contra spiritum. Poetry is transformational. Poetry transforms symptomatology in a manner that defies pat formulas.

    Poetry transforms the craving for substance and substitutes a craving for meaning, for dignity, for loyalty to a sobriety identity. As the pencil moves down the page anxiety, depression, angst, moves down the continuum of power and a spirit of change, a spirit of health, a spirit of dignity captures the zeitgeist in the room and in the heart of the writer.

    The Best Thing About Being Clean

    Is being clean

    Being clean feels like a dream,

    I'm running and running

    to clean

    But right now it feels like a dream

    So keep me clean and let me sleep

    For the thoughts I have are too deep,

    The best thing about being clean

    is waking up being me.

    —Karrie K.



    What I like

    About staying sober

    waking up


    drinking coffee

    to stay awake

    but not using

    anything illicit

    staying sober is what I like

    —Debra C.


     This is what you will see and feel in the poems I have enclosed. These are poems of clean and sober power. This is poetry of human beings in transformation, assisted by a process of transformation in an art of transformation.

    I thank The Institute for Poetic Medicine for funding this most rewarding project. The women of these poems are not only clients. On account of the spiritual component inherent in writing verse, they are also writing sisters, writing nieces, writing daughters; young and old women of recovery rediscovering, relearning straight spine, head-held-high dignity. Poets of transformation walking the warriors path of the heart.

  • Participants Response

    When I Die

    When I die

    I'll keep on living

    You'll always have my love

    Seeing you through


    I'll be your angel up in heaven

    All my love will shine down on you

    Cause I miss you

    And I love you

    —Maureen S.


    Live Life

    I will find myself

    And not be afraid

    So I won't willow away

    As long as I pray

    I will be ok and not

    willow away from life.

    —Debra H.


    Promised Life

    This poem is for you,

    Mom & dad

    I love you with

    all my heart

    I feel loved and

    involved with my

    life because

    of you.

    Thank you

    I would like to

    preserve all my dreams

    and I think they

    are clear as ice

    I feel truly promised

    in becoming old

    and at starting New

    I love being Clean

    and I'll ask my

    Higher Power for a

    Clear mind each and

    every day, I don't feel

    lost and I wish for

    life eternity forever



    I ask my Higher Power

    for forgiveness

    for Love

    for gracefulness

    to strengthen me to be a good mother

    things I ask for my Higher Power



    I Wish For These

    I wish

    I wish, I say

    I tell my wish

    To my Lord each day

    I wish

    For peace

    For peace of mind

    I wish for peace

    In the Lord I find

    My peace

    For truth

    The truth from you

    I wish for truth

    In the Word I find

    The truth

    For love

    In a heart sincere

    I wish for love

    Love without fear

    I wish for Love

    —Nita H.

    Angel of Mine

    Sometimes I sit in silence

    to gather my thoughts

    Thinking of how I lost my

    nephew to gunshots

    Oh how I miss him

    An angel up above

    Watching down on me

    with a lot of love


    Missing You

    Mom, I know that

    I will be by your

    side one day soon

    but right now I

    really do miss you

    a lot but I know

    that you are my

    angel in heaven

    looking down on me.

    But I'm lonely

    without you.

    —Shannon L.


    I Feel

    I feel good

    I feel free

    I feel like a bumble bee

    I feel glad and sad

    I'm glad to be me

    —Sonny W.



    I'm tired of false promises

    I'm tired of hearing them

    I'm tired of making them

    I'm tired of false promises

    The promises of my mother

    The promises of my father

    Those of my sister

    and more from my brother

    And then there are those from

    My Lover

    the ones from Him

    the ones from Her

    they run together

    they're all a blurr

    —Tamara C.



    I ask my Higher Power who do

    I become,

    I ask my Higher Power where

    do angels come from,

    He answers in a strong &

    clear voice,

    It's you my love that has a


    Angels come from a far off


    They come & go without a



© 2006-2016  The Institute for Poetic Medicine and John Fox