Well-being through the poet’s speaking: a reflective analysis of well-being through engagement with poetry underpinned by phenomenological philosophical ideas about language and poetry

  • Kathleen Galvin


The poet speaks in a particular way that can “bring things to nearness”. This particular way of bringing things to nearness may have some useful implications for understanding human wellbeing. Sometimes I have noticed that, when I read a poem that really “speaks to me”, the poetic language puts me in touch with well-being in a very palpable way, and this has brought me to wonder about this question: What is it that is taking place in a much loved poem that can bring me close to a felt sense of well-being? This paper will draw upon some philosophical insights from the writings of Heidegger and Gendlin to explore what poetry opens up and holds in order to speak of well-being. What is it about poetry that is adequate to hold the deepest roots of hearing with the fullness of what is speaking? Heidegger’s later ideas about the essence of language and its nonrepresentational power held within the unity of “the fourfold” may be helpful here. And what is it about poetry that can open up worlds, open us to sensation, and carry us beyond the literal words into the experience of well-being? Gendlin’s ideas concerning “thinking beyond patterns” and “carrying forward” may illuminate how poetry holds open what other language cuts off for us. The paper will conclude by pointing to poetry as a crucial form of adequate human discourse that is up to the task of understanding well-being and is therefore highly relevant to health and social care.


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eISSN: 1445-7377
print ISSN: 2079-7222