Poetry Reading Event: Saturday, October 26, 2013

It’s with great honor that we invite you to be in community with an inspirational group of brain injury survivors at Rediscovery Project’s Public Poetry Reading. This event is free and open to the public.

Rediscovery Project Poetry Reading

Saturday, October 26th, 2013
10:30am to Noon
Book Passage Bookstore
51 Tamal Vista Blvd, Corte Madera, CA 94925

Out of the Darkness

A print anthology of the writers’ works, Out of the Darkness: A Poetic Journey for People Living with Acquired Brain Injury, will be available for purchase at the event. After the event, the anthology can be purchased at Book Passage or Brain Injury Network of the Bay Area . All book sale proceeds benefit Brain Injury Network of the Bay Area.

The Rediscovery Project is presented in collaboration with Brain Injury Network of the Bay Area and is generously funded by Institute of Poetic Medicine, Bread for the Journey – Marin Chapter and John Fox, CPT. This event is supported by Poets & Writers, Inc. through a grant it has received from The James Irvine Foundation.

For more information, contact Krista at 415-461-6771 or krista@binba.org



After a brilliant 10 weeks, Rediscovery Project’s group sessions wrapped up last Friday. We’re now busy publishing our anthology, Out of the Darkness: A Poetic Journey for People Living with Acquired Brain Injury, which will make its debut at our public poetry reading on Saturday, October 26th (10:30-noon) at Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA.

Marie Gray’s poem, “Protection”, is just a taste of the raw, powerful poems and art that will grace our anthology. Please enjoy.

by Marie Gray

Bleak.   Naked.   Surrounded, in a vultures’ circle.
Summon.   Protection!
Hands are up, head’s up.

Trident – warding trident:
feathers form antennae; attuned to the wind,
we breathe.

All who
resist the temptation
to feast with privileged bullies,

hands down.
That’s my line,
“Step away, back down.
You’re out of bounds, step away.”
My trident.

I gotta draw the line, at last, here:
we stand for each other.
Clean boundaries make good neighbors.
Our privacy is respected.
We guard it & LAUGH.


Voices of Recovery: Giselle

by Giselle A. Burgos, Rediscovery Project Participant

My name is Giselle A. Burgos.  I was a registered nurse with a Master’s Degree for thirty years until I had my brain surgery.  It took me 2-1/2 years to start recovering.  I left nursing and was not able to work anymore because of some issues with blindness.

I attend the Lighthouse for the Blind and the Bay Area Brain Injury Network, which I enjoy tremendously.  They have helped me through my recovery and continue to do so.  I am re-learning how to read and write.


Rediscovering Humor

by Ted Echeverria, Rediscovery Project Participant

Being handicapped leads me into some funny situations.  The most frustrating situations are sometimes the funniest.  I was vacuuming our flat in Tamales with an upright vacuum cleaner that did not have a retracting cord.  With my spastic fumbling I wrapped the cord around my feet, caught it on the wood stove, snagged a chair, caught it under the bathroom door, and then I was stuck and tangled up with this noisy, loathsome contraption.  The situation was so ludicrous that I felt like screaming.  Instead of screaming, the silliness of my predicament overwhelmed me and I doubled over laughing.  This was the first time I remember laughing in the years since I had the stroke.


The Search for Self

by Ivy Sandz, Poetic Medicine Intern

On the Hero’s Journey, as in life, we search.  We search for meaning.  We search for answers.  We search for the gift in the muck.  We search for true wisdom.  We search for allies, and community and belonging.  Beneath all of this stone turning, we ultimately search for ourselves.

At The Rediscovery Project, the path to self is poignant. As this group of brain injury survivors each engage in a deeply personal process of searching, uncovering and rediscovering, two selves often emerge: the self before brain injury and the person who is here now.  Perhaps in any setting where there is a stark dividing line between “me before” and “me after” there is this element.

With brain injury, this line is pronounced. Memories, voice, energy, use of limbs, eyesight, cognition, personality, relationships, independence and more can all be affected, intensifying this sense of  two selves.  In the midst of loss, shock, survival and profound, unanticipated change, it can be difficult to cross the bridge from an old self to a new self.

The participants in our circle refer to this sense of two selves frequently and from many vantage points.  One person described a sense of always having the person he once was standing behind his shoulder.  In her poem, Kindness, Naomi Shihab Nye says once we are able to find the gift in our loss, kindness goes with us everywhere “like a shadow or a friend.”  But what if it is not kindness who is our shadow, but our former self, our abilities, our sense of safety in the world, our position in our families, workplace and community?

This situation can make the search for self, at times, like a mirage, a mirror, an old friend, a shadow.  It may be challenging to have compassion and care for the new self, who is definitely not the old self; difficult to find meaning and purpose in the new life, which is not the old life.  And yet, it does happen.  I am witnessing profound gratitude and pride as people see themselves…their “now” selves, clearly and compassionately.  I have heard a woman declare how “damned proud” she is of what she has accomplished since her near death and catastrophic brain injury, and how fascinating she finds her journey, her rebirth.   I have listened to a man speak about how glad he is to have each day of his life, this life, with all its challenges and opportunities to show up.

This community has much to teach us about persistence and courage and re-imagining.  They are doing the work.  The hard work Marge Piercy speaks of in her poem, To Be of Use:

“The people I love best
jump into the work head first
without dallying in the shallows…
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.”

I believe we all carry pairs of selves who need acknowledgment and care, selves who require work and patience and the clearing of a new path…the child self and the adult self; the wounded self and the healed self; the self who is in jet lag about who and what we are, and the self who knows.

The process of finding ourselves and re-finding ourselves is a life’s work.  And it is beautiful work.  And, in the words of Rumi, “When we have surrendered totally to that Beauty, we shall be a mighty kindness.”  Kindness is no longer “a shadow or a friend;” it is closer than that. It is us.


The Hero’s Journey: The Dark Night

By Ivy Sandz, Poetic Medicine Intern

As a Poetic Medicine intern participating with the Rediscovery Project at The Bay Area Brain Injury Network, I have the honor of sitting in circle with people who are not only being guided through the stages of the Hero’s Journey as a process of exploration in poetry and art, they are men and women living the Hero’s Journey.  As are we all.

One aspect of the Hero’s Journey is the descent into the Dark Night, the place where we face, and even open to, our grief and loss.  We find ourselves at the threshold of the uninvited and unwelcome initiation.  The place none of us wants to go.  The place we do not want to wake to find ourselves.  And yet, we do.

As the Rediscovery circle began an exploration of the Dark Night, of grief and loss, I began to ask myself “why?”  Why go to these places?  Why not hide?  Why not build walls?  But as Angeles Arrien teaches in her work in the wisdom traditions, “Where there is grief, there is sacred ground.”   Our deepest losses lead to some of our most sacred experiences.   If we don’t go there, we miss out on something essential to our spirits, to our growth, to our ability to hold wisdom.

The poem, “I Sing” by Martin Jude Farawell speaks of what may be lost if we don’t risk the vulnerability grief asks, even demands, of us:

If I Sing

If I sing, I weep.
If I sing joy, even sing joy, I weep.
If I weep, if I weep, if cries splatter from me,
if I sputter snot and spit
down my chin, my shirt, your shirt,
if I shake and shake until you fear I’ll shake apart,
don’t be afraid for me, don’t be ashamed;
I will not break from this, will not die,
but from lack of it, from the closing,
and I will not close anymore, will not deny anymore
the child I was who could not
cry out has kept crying in
me.  And now that I can cry I will sing,
even if my song comes shoved out
on the wave of snot and spit I swallowed not
to cry, I will sing.

It is true.  If we build walls to hold grief inside, to hold tears inside, those same walls imprison our song, our medicine, our gifts.  By allowing our grief and loss to remember the words of Naomi Shihab Nye in her poem, “Kindness:”

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

The only way is through.  Indeed, there is something important about understanding that our own sorrow is tied to the sorrows of all others — that we can see the size of  the cloth.  And it is in this brave act, this powerful vulnerability, we can shift into compassion for ourselves and others, claim the gift, stand on sacred ground:

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

All too often, our culture expects us to handle our losses alone, or behind closed doors.  The Rediscovery Project is a place where people have a place to voice and express and feel the often catastrophic losses associated with brain injury in a safe and supportive community of peers and expressive arts therapists.  Many indigenous cultures understand the importance of honoring and processing grief and loss within the community.  The Dagara Tribe of Burkina Faso in West Africa holds regular grief rituals.  They do this as a way to help each person move and release the energies of grief in a way that is held by the group.  They also know that any individual sorrow impacts the entire community, and conversely some of our deepest personal sorrows are cultural or communal challenges.

At the other side of this three-day ritual is a time for each individual to be welcomed home, because making it through grief to the other side is a rebirth, a time that calls for community witnessing of the fact that this individual has been challenged, has survived, has grieved, and has made it to the other side a changed person, a stronger person, a different person.  It is time to greet them anew.  It is a time for acknowledgment.  It is a time to understand their new gifts and how those gifts are important for the community as a whole.

The poem Krista chose for the circle’s transition from the Dark Night to finding an awareness of the sacred was “Strange How Deserts Turn Us into Believers” by Terry Tempest Williams.

“Strange How Deserts Turn Us into Believers”

I believe in walking in a landscape of mirages,
because you learn humility.
I believe in living in a land of little water,
because life is drawn together.
And I believe in the gathering of bones
as a testament to spirits that have moved on.
If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place
that allows us to remember the sacred.
Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert
is a pilgrimage to the self.
There is no place to hide and so we are found.

At the Rediscovery Project, we are making this pilgrimage.  We are finding ourselves, each other.  Yes, there is grief.  Yes it takes courage.  But we are on Sacred Ground…Together.


Touchstones and Talismans for the Journey

by Krista Wissing, MFT

In my years of working with people who’ve experienced acquired brain injury (ABI), one of the more common themes I hear is how destabilizing ABI can be.

The thing about ABI is that nine times out of ten there is no warning. Be it a head trauma, stroke or a virus attacking the brain, ABI barrels in like an unexpected wind and divides one’s life narrative into two – life before and life after brain injury.

It’s the kind of phenomena that rocks one’s foundation to the core.

It’s the kind of phenomena that leaves the bearer asking tough questions. Why did this happen to me? What kind of life lies ahead? Where do I belong?  Why do I feel so alone? And what of my dreams? My purpose? My identity? My faith? What does this all mean?

It’s the kind of life altering experience that holds the transformative potential of the Hero’s Journey and merits the healing elixirs of poetry, art, community and circle.

When a life once familiar is suddenly jarred into something radically unfamiliar, our need to ground ourselves in a touchstone, talisman, ally, mentor or muse grows.

In her book How to Read a Poem and Start a Poetry Circle, poet/author Molly Peacock illuminates how a poem can become a talisman. She writes, “But a hold on life is what I got from my favorite poems, and I tote them around like amulets against the world, using them to ward off every evil.”

The creative process can bring us a talisman that roots us, that comforts us, that inspires us. A poem, a collage, a painting, a special stone, a beaded necklace, a page out of a journal – each can carry the vital energy needed to keep one foot moving in front of the other.

This week, I invite you to reflect upon your own life affirming touchstones, talismans, allies, mentors and muses. If you feel compelled, create a collage using images that symbolize an energy you’d like to ground yourself in. You’ll need magazines, paper, scissors and a glue stick.


  • If you only have use of one hand, placing a weighted object on the page you’re cutting can be helpful.
  • Ripped images (rather than using scissors) can also create an interesting effect.
  • If you need assistance, ask someone you trust if they can set an hour aside to help you create your talisman.