Today at BM&L we discuss about language ability in patients suffering from aphasia.

We received from Joan Peters, executive director of the National Aphasia Association (NAA), the best start for our discussion on the subject. The lovely poem below was written by Susan Varon, who acquired aphasia after a stroke in 1989.  Her comments offer an interesting perspective on aphasia and creativity.

by Susan Varon

It's enough for a whole other life
this excess, I could divide my goods
and go off to see the world.
It would be hard
but then I would think, who am I saving this for,
no one but me loves this postcard of Wyeth's crow.
I would give away the aurelia that leans
toward me like a pet, reminding me
I have a lot to be thankful for or else
that it needs water, there are always
at least two messages in everything,
the dead crow in the grasses saying,
Just lie down or maybe,
 Rise up and sing.

Susan's comments: The capacity for poetry was unleashed by my stroke. (I had never written creatively since becoming an adult.) So the aphasia was there from the very beginning of my creative process. It creeps in when I find myself writing "rite" for "write," "know" for "no," "weather" for "whether" …But basically the development of my poetry, pretty astonishingly to me, has proceeded as if I didn’t have aphasia.
    When I write other things—prose, a letter of application, anything other than poetry—I’ve learned I have to proceed slowly over several days—because the first draft
that looks perfect to me now will almost surely contain some glaring errors or terrible phrasing that I just didn’t “see” the first time. I’ve had to become very patient with myself. I can still turn out as good a piece of writing as I could before, but it will take days instead of hours. I’ve learned that I absolutely can’t trust myself to create a flawless first draft.
    But poetry is a different story. Poetry’s whimsy seems to harmonize with my newly configured brain. I would dearly love to hear about other people’s experiences with this. Are there any poets out there?

BM&L-International thanks Joan Peters of the National Aphasia Association.


BM&L-September 2003