Cancer patients’ own poetry of hope temporarily tattooed on their bodies in O, Miami project

Cancer survivors, their friends and family members recently participated in a two-day O, Miami Poetry Festival project called “This Dreaming This Living” at the Lennar Foundation Medical Center. There were two components to the project: a writing workshop and a henna tattoo session.

At the latter workshop on March 5, participants wrote poems addressing their bodies, and then — if they wanted — had words that sprang from the workshop tattooed in henna on their bodies. The henna designs were created in consultation between the patient and artist Elia Kalaf, and were tattooed on the patients’ bodies by henna artist Farah Mehndi.

“The words they read and write become an expression of the complex inner feelings and thought processes patients go through every day,” Marlen Rodriguez-Wolfe, a music therapist at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in an essay to the Miami Herald.

©GesiSchilling-33.jpg

Farah Mehndi tattoos Richard Hargett’s own poetry his head as part of “This Living This Dreaming” poetry workshop and henna session for Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center patients. The henna tattoos are temporary.

Gesi Schilling

A documentary is being made of the workshops and the henna sessions. O, Miami plans to screen the film after it’s completed. For information, visit omiami.org.

“Using the writings that came from this workshop, a henna tattoo artist drew some phrases from the poems onto a few patients. It was a meaningful experience for everyone involved,” Rodriguez-Wolfe said. “The stories that were shared weren’t ones of despair or hopelessness, but of endurance, faith and love. People were able to connect with each other and share deep meaningful writings that explored the complexity of this prevalent diagnosis in a way that highlighted the triumph of the human spirit.”

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