Long Night’s Journey into Day: Writing Poetry Through and About Serious Illness

with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

chronic illness writing course

August 28, 2024
6 Weeks

Original price was: $445.00.Current price is: $380.00.

Zoom sessions Tuesdays at 5 PM Eastern

Original price was: $445.00.Current price is: $380.00.Enroll Now

Writing through and about serious illness can spark powerful poems into being. It also can help us integrate and learn from our experiences as patients, survivors, and/or caregivers.

Poetry especially—in its compression of language and focus on rhythm and imagery—shifts us out of our usual relationship to words, opening up our peripheral vision and innate voice so that we can access more of ourselves. Receiving a difficult diagnosis, living with chronic or serious illness, or navigating a disability so often strips away the story we thought was ours. By writing and reading poetry, we can remember—a word rooted in bringing together all the parts of us—that we are far more than a single story or diagnosis and that we’re not alone.

We come together in this class as a witnessing community where we can more fully hear ourselves and each other through our poetry. Such witnessing helps mitigate the isolation of living with serious illness. By writing together from wherever you live, we forge a circle of understanding and inspiration that helps us unearth a new normal in our lives and on the page. All the writing prompts are open-ended, allowing us to write about everything from a delightful connection with a friend to the weight of treatment or even grappling with mortality.

In developing a poetry practice that aims us toward meaning, wholeness, and resilience, we’ll widen our perspective and craft to create powerful poetry. Drawing on Transformative Language Arts and Narrative Medicine resources, we’ll consider the research on the therapeutic physical and mental benefits of writing about life’s hardest challenges and how such writing can give us so much more of our broader life story. We’ll also dive into the craft and mystery of writing poetry that lifts us up, connects us with our spirits and each other, and helps us find our true north.

This Course is For:

  • Anyone touched by serious illness or disability, whether you are actively in treatment, recovering, or you’re a survivor or caregiver.
  • Writers, whether just starting out or well-seasoned, who want to learn more about the healing potential, practices, and traditions of poetry.
  • Health professors and healers interested in how writing can enhance physical, mental, and spiritual health and well-being.
  • People who want to explore how writing together and poetry can foster greater community and companionship through life’s challenges.

Learning and Writing Goals

Learning Goals

In this course, you will learn:

  • How many ancient and contemporary poets focus on healing, resilience, and vitality, including Joy Harjo, William Stafford, Rumi, Mary Oliver, Wislawa Szymborska, Rainer-Maria Rilke, Hafiz, Gregory Orr, Mary TallMountain, Sharon Olds, Muriel Rukeyser, Galway Kinnell,  Li-Young Lee, Emily Dickinson, Linda Pastan, and Ada Limón.
  • Basics of Transformative Language Arts, Narrative Medicine, and related traditions and fields that speak to the benefits of writing and reading poetry for our bodies, minds, and spirits.
  • Ways sensory imagery—especially by honing specific detail—and rhythms of poetry can help you see your writing and life from new angles.
  • How to play with free verse and various poetic forms to explore the healing power of poetry.

Writing Goals

In this course, you will have the opportunity to: 

  • Write a dozen or more draft poems in our sessions together.
  • Write in a response to weekly topic on strengthening and sustaining your writing practice.
  • Play with mini writing prompts and community writing exercises to expand your practice of poetry.
  • Give positive and encouraging feedback to fellow students in our Zoom sessions.

Zoom Schedule

Beginning September 3rd, we will meet on Zoom on Tuesdays from 5-7 PM Eastern. 

Weekly Syllabus

Titles are in quotation marks because they are all quotes from poems.

Week One: “Please Bring Strange Things”

In her poem, “Initiation Song,” Ursula LeGuin writes, “Please bring strange things.” Those of us living with or witnessing others with serious illness have seen a lot of strange things—whether treatments or prognoses, reactions of family and friends, sudden or slow transitions—sometimes making us strangers in a strange land.

This week, we’ll come together to write about new or emerging normals in our lives while opening up our writing and vision to a wider view of ourselves and the world. We’ll also learn about the emerging field of Transformative Language Arts (social and personal transformation through the power of writing, storytelling, theater, and other arts).

Craft lesson online: Specific imagery and original detail.

Week Two: “You’re Not Alone”

“You’re not alone,” William Stafford writes in his poem, “Assurance,” reminding us that “The whole wide world pours down.” Reading and writing poetry can give us greater ground under our feet through reminding us that many others have experienced or are currently living through similar circumstances. We’ll consider possibilities found in recent research on the physical benefits of writing.

Craft lessons online: Sound and silence in poetry.

Week Three: “The New Story of Your Life”

In Michael Blumenthal’s poem, “The New Story of Your Life,” he invites readers to consider a story beyond the one we usually tell ourselves. In looking at gap between the story we thought we were living and what we’re actually living, we can find plenty of material for poetry. Writing that poetry can bring us closer to who we are. We’ll investigate the power of Narrative Medicine (writing about health illness to reframe our stories).

Craft lesson online: Rhythm and music of poetry.

Week Four: “Don’t Let Me Fall”

“Don’t let me fall,” Kadya Molodowsky writes in her poem “Prayers: I.” This week we’ll open up our writing to the myriad realities of resilience: how we find our ways back to courage, strength, perhaps even hope, after great challenges or falls, as well as what lessons and understandings we carry forth. We’ll also look at embodied writing and writing from the body.

Craft lesson online: Line breaks.

Week Five: “Blossom to Impossible Blossom”

In Li-Young Lee’s poem, “From Blossoms,” he writes of how our lives can move “from joy to joy to joy, from wing to wing,/ from blossom to blossom to/ impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.” In considering the healing power of poetry, especially in seemingly impossible times, we will read and write about how to seek and celebrate the blossoms in everyday routines, habits, and states of being. We’ll explore how writing can benefit our mental and spiritual health.

Craft lesson online: Stanza breaks.

Week Six: “Your Life is Your Life”

“Your life is your life,” Charles Bukowski reminds us in his poem, “The Laughing Heart,” imploring us to take in our possibilities with eyes wide open. He writes, “be on the watch./ there are ways out./ there is light somewhere.” This week we’ll focus on poetry and writing that illuminates ways out, through, and around hardships as well as how poetry can help us find our way through darkness and uncertainty. We’ll also discuss and reflect on poetry as a healing path open to us throughout our lives.

Craft lesson online: The vision of revision

Original price was: $445.00.Current price is: $380.00.Enroll Now

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Student Feedback for Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg:

I have fallen in love with your writing instruction within the last year. You make us all feel fulfilled and artistic in our striving to express ourselves. Your class has, indeed, saved some lives! – Georgia Copeland

Caryn’s skill, talent, wit, and wisdom have shown me the way to begin writing again, which is a restorative healing process. Caryn has taught me to reach deep within and unabashedly, without apology or shame, to tell my own story. – Julie Flora

Beyond being detailed, caring, and brilliant in her editing, teaching, and consulting work, there is something about Caryn’s warm, authentic, empowering, Inspiring, and joyful presence that I have rarely observed in other leaders. – Harriet Lerner

After each class I recognize the peaceful place the class creates in me. My response to listening to others and hearing your responses to our work fills me with contentment, joy ,and satisfaction. The level of trust that we experience opens us to heartfelt honesty even as deeply painful experiences are shared.  Thank you for the sparks your words create. –  Patricia Durkin

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing and working with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg for the past decade, and have rarely encountered a more insightful, compassionate, or integrous teacher and coach. – Mark Matousek

To work with Caryn is to open your mind to the creative power within, and to show and better appreciate the creative power of others. – Tracy Million Simmons

You are truly one of the best facilitators I’ve ever seen, and your ability to create a safe space for all of us is so magical. — Beverly Stewart

Having taken several classes with Caryn, I find her expertise and thoughtful critique helpful to my writing.  She is a teacher I want to continue studying with, and I am grateful for her work. – Jan Stanton

I have taken two online classes with Caryn and have enjoyed them very much. She encourages a very positive online community atmosphere, provides an inspirational variety of readings and writing prompts, and gives useful and supportive feedback on student writing. – Anne Marvin

Caryn’s workshops provides both hope and a distraction from the issues of those suffering. – John L. Swainston

I found the course to be a gentle invitation to probe one’s life experiences and bring them to the present in a nurturing and kindly way. I especially liked how the course was structured from the immediate to the universal and opportunities for growth. Readings were relevant and inspiring, and it was refreshing to interact with the other participants. – Jennifer Pratt-Walter 

Caryn provides a wealth of material for her students, introducing us to a variety of poets and poems. Her teaching style is generous and nurturing. – Ruth McArthur

I was not expecting your course to change my life, but I was very eager to have the immersion now in more poetry, as well as a structure (which I need) to start up writing again. I also appreciated your very inclusive approach to teaching online, including acknowledgement that people could engage with the material at any level they wished, up what you called “living in it.” – Jan Hitchcock

As a once upon a time educator before my disability, I recognize superlative teaching. And I just want to say that your hand out, the poems you chose, the prompts, the way you hold space for your students, and the rhythm of the workshop you offered all demonstrated that you are a top notch teacher. Your kindness and understanding was like a salve to my hurting and struggling writer self. And I just want to say that aside from your mastery of teaching, who you are shines loving kindness into the dark and difficult spaces. – Marya Summers

August 28, 2024
6 Weeks

Original price was: $445.00.Current price is: $380.00.

Early bird discount!

Zoom sessions Tuesdays at 5 PM Eastern

Original price was: $445.00.Current price is: $380.00.Enroll Now


Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the 2009-2013 Poet Laureate of Kansas, a long-time transformative language artist, and the author or editor of 24 books, including poetry, memoir, fiction, non-fiction, and anthologies.  As a poet, fiction and non-fiction writer, teacher, mentor, and facilitator, she explores and celebrates how the spoken, written and sung word can help us live more meaningful and vibrant lives. The founder of Transformative Language Arts, she values social and personal transformation through the spoken, written and sung word.

Caryn brings to her classes over thirty years of experience teaching at the college level (including coordinating a master’s program at Goddard College) and facilitating community workshops and retreats around the country. As a beloved workshop facilitator with extensive experience she has led workshops for adults in transition, people living with physical or mental illness, intergenerational groups, and multi-cultural communities. She also offers writing and singing workshops and performances with singer-songwriter Kelley Hunt through their business, Brave Voice. With Kathryn Lorenzen, she co-leads Your Right Livelihood, a training to help people discern and plan their creative livelihoods. Along with Joy Roulier Sawyer, she has been teaching workshop and retreat facilitation through The Art of Facilitation. She also offers writing coaching to writers of poetry, memoir, fiction and mixed genre works.

Caryn’s books include: How Time Moves: New and Selection Poems, Miriam’s Well (a novel), Needle In Bone: How a Holocaust Survivor and Polish Resistance Right Beat the Odds and Found Each Other (nonfiction), Chasing Weather: Tornadoes, Templest, and Thunderous Skies in Word and Image with photographer Stephen Locke, and The Sky Begins at Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. 

Visit Caryn's website here: http://carynmirriamgoldberg.com

Learn more about Caryn here! https://writers.com/feature/introducing-caryn-mirriam-goldberg