Aphasia and the Arts: Poetry

Happy National Aphasia Awareness Month to you all! In honor of National Aphasia Awareness Month, and in recognition of the upcoming, All About MossRehab Through the Arts, we are highlighting people with aphasia who are making a contribution to their communities through the arts.

We’re thrilled for our first feature to highlight, Mark Harder, poet, innovator, and creator of Poems in Speech! Thank you, Mark, for sharing your words with us.

  • Were you always interested in poetry? 
    No – I used to write instructions, lessons, and grants for plastering apprentices, journey workers, and apprentice teachers.
  • What inspired you to write your first poem? 
    Early on my stroke, I was not able to express my frustration, sadness, pain, and loss. I couldn’t tell my wife, children, friends, coworkers, and the doctors what was the symptoms. Then I could finally describe the pain on my right side, (like sunburn) and it was figuratively but so liberating too. My first poem was titled, “To Me, This Is Aphasia”.
  • What is important to you about poetry? 
    I feel that my circumstances have given me a lot of thought (materials). I use poetry as therapy in my soul. I am practicing on my speech, writing, reading, vocabulary, tempo, and creativity.
  • What prompted you to start your virtual poetry group? 
    Before the pandemic, I would go to the MossRehab Aphasia Conversation Group, aphasia support groups, and research – then everything stopped. Slowly, the support groups resumed virtually. But in August, there was another break in sessions. I purchased a Zoom account and invited the Aphasia Conversation Group to continue by ourselves. I think is helped. Then I thought about sharing my passion of recovery through poetry.
  • What’s your favorite thing about the virtual poetry group? 
    I enjoy the camaraderie of struggles and succeed – and just being together.
  • How can people find out more about your virtual poetry group? 
    I post information on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100016348414229,  and Instagram, @poems_in_speech. I created a website named poemsinspeech.com and you can email me for information, mark@poemsinspeech.com.
  • What advice would you give people with aphasia who want to start writing (or reading) poetry? 
    It took months to just say the alphabet and the numbers. But I try to write the things that I was saying too, like – “I want to get better.”, “I’m done.”, and “I locked the door.” I couldn’t rhyme. Try to express yourself in words, emotions, and logic.

Trust (by Mark Harder)

I don’t trust my lips.

I don’t trust my tongue.

I don’t trust my breathe.

I don’t trust my whole mouth.

I don’t trust the words I see.

I don’t trust the voices I hear.

I don’t trust my finger to point.

I don’t trust my head to nod.

I do trust the sun will rise.

I do trust the flowers will bloom.

I do trust the tide will ebb and flow.

I do trust the moon will wobble.

I do trust that the pain will pass.

I do trust that things will change.

I do trust the me inside.

I do trust that God is next to me.

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