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Volume 26, Number 6 — June 2019

The Arts as Therapy: Creative Writing

Delilah O'Haynes conducted
Delilah O'Haynes conducted "Poetry as Therapy" workshop recently in Abingdon.
Additional photos below »

New Endeavor helped Her Heal"

By Angela Wampler | August 01, 2007

In July, Delilah Ferne O'Haynes offered a workshop entitled Poetry as Therapy at The Arts Depot in Abingdon, Va. Participants used poetry as a tool to reshape their experiences.

O'Haynes practices what she preaches. A survivor of rape, abuse, and cancer, she now devotes much of her time helping other victims become survivors through her books and workshops on journaling to healing, using poetry as therapy, overcoming violence, reclaiming native heritage, and surviving cancer.

She is a widely published and celebrated author of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, with educational and literary articles in journals, poetry in many recognized publications, and Appalachian fiction in publications such as Potato Eyes and Potomac Review. Her first book, an artistic collaboration of poetry and photography entitled The Character of Mountains (Walk Free Press, 2006), has been nominated for the Appalachian Book of the Year award. Upcoming books include Rise, Woman, Rise; Walk Free from Fear of Cancer; Fearless Woman; and From Fearful to Fearless: Real Stories, Real People.

For O'Haynes, "Writing puts everything into perspective. Shaping a poem helps you take control of a situation, restructuring it to make it your own. That's what I do with poems and books. I have always used writing as a catharsis." Shaping The Character of Mountains was "a creative endeavor that helped me heal."

O'Haynes is currently Creative Writing Professor at Concord University in West Virginia, where she admits, "I end up doing more counseling than teaching." As a child, one of her students had been abused and molested by her father; during college, she was drugged and raped. Today the student is a poet, musician and visual artist. "If she didn't have her music and poetry to get out her anger, she would probably be insane," O'Haynes concludes. The same student has painted graphic, disturbing artworks. O'Haynes says one painting "haunts me. It depicts a woman who has ripped out her heart and offered it to the world, asking 'Is this good enough?'"

The daughter of a coal miner, with Irish and Cherokee heritage, O'Haynes grew up in Clintwood, Va. She is a member of the Appalachian Authors Guild, Appalachian Writers Association, Appalachian Center for Poets and Writers, and West Virginia Writers.

"Delilah has allowed this Yankee from Maine, Harvard, and a lifetime of Manhattan network TV production to cross the threshold of her shanties; share her cornbread and the pain of brutalized living imposed by coal mining economies; taste the odors and flavors of her childhood and coming of age; I feel I actually know her people, spent time with them, suffered with them, and with her."
— Sean O'Sullivan, poet/actor/director/playwright, who retired to Abingdon, Va.

READ ON: To read poems by O'Haynes and view pages from her journal, click here.

"The Character of Mountains" has been nominated for Appalachian Book of the Year.