Carried on the Wings of Poems

Speaking to Dr Daniela Araujo about what to write in this blog post, I asked what she thought was special about the exchange of poems that have flown back and forth around the world between Chile, Brazil, and now Australia. The conversation went something like the following. Dani paused for a moment before saying, with a twinkle in her eye, that waiting for a poem to arrive from the league of anti-anorexia was a bit like waiting for mail to arrive by“owl post” like in the world of Harry Potter. As you might recall, “owl post” is a wizarding system of sending messages or items using owls as the carriers.

“When you think about it,” Dani mused to me, “Why would you have, in a world of magic where anything is possible, a reliance on such a haphazard and unpredictable form of communication? Anything could happen to those owls! They could be waylaid by storms, or grow weary of flying and go for a prolonged nap, or fall in love with a fellow owl and forget about their mission of carrying the letter to its destination altogether. Yet owl post is precisely the  kind of system of communication that belongs in a magical world.”

And so it is in the Anti-anorexia League. That little ball of feathers has something that an  email or text message can all too often be missing – a tiny heart!

David Epston, a beloved mentor and friend to both Dani and I, first began speaking about the Anti-anorexia League inthe 1980s as a way of sharing insider knowledge between those who were battling or had battled anorexia nervosa and/or bulimia nervosa. Braving the wrath of anorexia/bulimia, and shame, feelings of inadequacy, and helplessness,these insiders have shared their hard won wisdoms and deepest fears with each other through letters, essays, poetry and art. Many of these documents can be viewed today at the archives of resistance (Narrative Approaches, 2021).

The poems carry us

David introduced Dani and I in the hope we could continue the tradition of circulating documents of resistance and solidarity. But as Dani says, it’s not so much that we carry the poems between our leagues, it is more accurate to say that the poems carry us. Max Weber said that “modernity is characterized by the progressive disenchantment of the world”. Weber used the German word Entzauberung, which, although translating into English as “disenchantment”, literally means “de-magic-ation.”

The wisdom of indigenous and ancient cultures reveres the power of words, but often we reduce them to mere meaning-carrying tools, and forget that  they have the power to bring into being worlds of possibilities and transformation. Such is not the case with the Anti-anorexia League documents. We feel that magic passes through us as we read these poems that speak from heart to heart about suffering, endurance, and the quest for joy and meaning. When an email arrives from the Brazilian league I open it with a beating heart. I know that whatever will be written will reach us in a way no scientific paper or book could reach us. Because it was written with the League somewhere in mind, with us in mind.

Whatever suffering or joy that carries the words of that poem, we know that at least some part of that can be shared with us.

Mirror, Our Mirror

While the video of our exchange of poems was being made, the Brazilian League wrote this story. We ran out of time to include it in the video and share it with others as it deserves to be shared, so it is here for the first time on this blog post. It is called Mirror, Our Mirror. We hope that it carries you just as it carries us:

Once upon a time, there was an evil witch who crafted a magic mirror to steal dreams, hopes, aspirations, the joy andthe very life force of people. This witch had a fondness for preying on people, especially if they were talented and sensitive souls.

Knowing that these people wouldn’t be an easy prey to their tricks, the witch kept watching until their intended victim had been shaken by some painful event: an anxiety, a loss, a violence, abuse. Only then the witch would come out and get close, saying they had the solution to their victim’s suffering: “If you follow my instructions you will be safe!” –which is, of course, a lie!

And then they presented the victim with the mirror, which showed each person a replica of the image of their own face, animated by the witch’s voice and intentions – while hiding their soul in the shadow.

However, a group of courageous people, fed up with the witches’ authoritarian regime and torture, decided to join a league to find a way to break that spell. And after much searching, they  finally found a fairy, who revealed a way to break the spell of the mirror: by uniting several of these people, bewitched by anorexia, and facing the mirror together, denouncing the witch for her crimes, the spell is broken. And then the mirror, which remains magical, becomes the“Mirror, Our Mirror”, and begins to reveal the unique glow of the soul of each person who looks at it.

If you are moved by anything you have read here, in these words, in the story of Our Mirror Mirror, or in the poems of the video, please send your own owl post to: Kitty at kittythatcher@gmail.com or Dani at sermente.mindfulness@gmail.com.

References

Go to the Archives of Resistance: Anti Anorexia/anti-bulimia: www.narrativeapproaches.com

Weber, M. (1922). “Science as Vocation.” Web. Weizmann Institute of Science. 1–21. Accessed 8 December 2017.

Video documenting a string of poetic communications between the Chilean and Brazilian anti-anorexia leagues: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-273Ju0175I

About Kitty Thatcher

About Kitty Thatcher
While studying a masters of family therapy at the Universidad de Chile in 2019 in Santiago, Kitty met a 17-year-old “Hermione” who would change her life. A Harry Potter fan and lover of English literature, Hermione was bright, funny, kind, creative, and was also battling to free herself from anorexia. So began their earnest attempts to form a support network around them which included contacting a fledgling League coordinated by Andrés Villafaña in La Serena in the North of Chile. While in training with Kay Ingamells, David Epston and Tom Carlson in the narrative apprenticeship, David introduced Kitty to Dani in Brazil. Enthralled by Dani’s passion and sharp intellect which she used unwaveringly in the pursuit of social justice, Kitty was thrilled when letters began to circulate between the Chilean and Brazilian leagues. And so began the poetry owl post. Kitty lives in Australia and is soon to begin work at Headspace, a national youth mental health foundation in the town of Grafton, NSW.

About Dr Daniela Araujo
Dani first came across narrative therapy through anti-anorexia in 2007, while doing a PhD about life histories and eating disorders and working as one of the co-founders of the outpatient eating disorder’s unit at the State University of Campinas. As an anthropologist and an eating disorder survivor she was mesmerized to find an approach that addressed the role of gender and power relations and the cultural issues involved and framed eating disorders as a justice issue. Her enthusiasm for narrative therapy drove her to train as a family and community therapist. Dani’s academic career took her elsewhere (always with one foot on anti-anorexia) and after focusing more on mindful eating and mindfulness, she decided it was time to dive deeper in narrative therapy again. She joined an apprenticeship program after learning about it from David Epston in 2019 when he came to Brazil to teach. She and her clients had started the Brazilian League for Anti-Anorexia, and shortly after, David introduced Dani to Kitty and her creative approach to anti-anorexia. They were soon circulating therapeutic documents in the form of poems.

All articles by Kitty Thatcher

One Response

  1. Karyn Braveheart says:

    Nothing speaks better than when I am in poetry mode. This is when can tell what I could never speak and when I can speak what I want to say in ways most are touched and reached by. I often read my own poetry of my own hell and I wonder who wrote that? I feel for myself in ways I never could through my own words and almost always leave a message of some kind of hope for the misunderstood at the end. My poetry is hidden away but recently is coming to life again even better than before…unstarving the brain is worth it even though the pain is still there.

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