Take Two Stanzas and Call Me in the Morning

News that more than 200 poetry therapists and their entourages have descended upon Costa Mesa—like a murder of crows, let's assume—sounds like what Shakespeare once called "sound and fury signifying nothing."

But descended, have they, these poetry therapists, and backward writing am I in tribute, for poetic do it be.

As one of the few branches of the medical profession not going around handing out drugs willy-nilly, poetry therapists deserve some sort of public tribute 'cause everyone knows poets don't make enough to buy groceries.

Poetry therapists are slightly better earners—they have advanced degrees in things like psychology, and mainly read other people's poetry—but like massage therapists, they get no respect.

That's what Dr. Nicholas Mazza tells me, anyway, and he should know, being the keynote speaker at the National Association for Poetry Therapy's (NAPT) 24th annual conference, today through Sunday at the Hilton Hotel in Costa Mesa.

I believe him when he talks, though I find it hard to believe this has been going on—under my very nose—for 24 years. But it has. He says.

"Poetry therapy is a legit profession to practice," said Mazza emphatically via telephone from Florida State University, where he's a professor. He says it's like music therapy, though not so well-recognized—a discipline that emerged in the late 1960s or early 1970s, when the baby boomers were still expanding our cultural consciousness.

Ancient Greeks, people tell me, invented poetry therapy—prescribing poems by happy Greeks for sad Greeks—but these days, it's a little more sophisticated than that.

You can't just call yourself a poetry therapist; you need a degree for that—available, not coincidentally, from NAPT after hundreds of hours of study—and you also need a real college degree.

This makes it more legit than, say, Bryman College or ITT Technical Institute, which'll learn you to be a manager of broadband operations. (It'll learn you good.)

Most certified poetry therapists don't just sit around reading the perennially popular Robert Frost like a bunch of dirty hippies; they combine it with things like psychology and counseling and wind up helping everyone from AIDS patients to abused children to the mentally ill.

And then they sit around and read Robert Frost like a bunch of dirty hippies.

The National Association for Poetry Therapy's 24th annual conference at the Hilton Hotel, 3050 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 540-7000 or (954) 243-5288. Continues through Sun. Call for more info.


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