Power of words on show

Cate Swannell
Med J Aust
Published online: 29 October 2013

The Dax Centre, a not-for-profit organisation promoting mental health and wellbeing through art and creativity, has launched its poetry collection after a two-year development period.

Dr Jennifer Harrison, a child psychiatrist and published poet, is manager of the Dax Centre’s Poetry Collection and tells the MJA she and her staff of volunteers are curating around 50 poems for inclusion in the collection’s database.

“We are working through the negotiation process with the poets about how they want their work represented and whether they want it just in print, or online as well”, Dr Harrison says.

“Many are documentary poems, relating the mental health experiences of the poets. Many of them see poetry almost as a saving art form.

“The process can be extremely important to a person’s sense of validity and identity, and for working through what the experience meant”, she says.

“Many of the poets are interested in helping others to understand mental illness, because knowing more helps to stop the stigmatisation.

“Poetry is fascinating because it inhabits the space between language and silence and opens up new ways of thinking and seeing.”

The Dax Centre also incorporates the Cunningham Dax Collection — over 15 000 works on paper, ceramics, paintings and textiles created by people who have experienced mental illness or psychological trauma.

The Dax Centre’s Poetry Collection will be holding a special event on 5 December — “Fairytales and fancy: the mind of the child in poetry”. There will be a panel discussion and poetry reading featuring Melbourne poet and psychologist Doris Brett, Dr Harrison and Nick Bland, children’s writer and illustrator, and 2013 winner of the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year for Younger Children for The very hungry bear.

For more information, email or call (03) 9035 6258

  • Cate Swannell



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