Touch: The Journal of Healing



The Voice of Elizabeth Landrum

Though Elizabeth Landrum is new to Touch: The Journal of Healing, she is not new to the art of healing.  Landrum practiced as a clinical psychologist for thirty years and counseled people who lived and suffered through “losses, cancer, and other life-changing illnesses.”  Her immediate family members have been touched by these things as well.  Though now semi-retired, she continues to practice with a focus on illness and grief.  She “relishes” the time she now has to “pursue her love of poetry,” an interest that began in 2007.

Landrum describes her progression into poetry with these words, “I spent [thirty] years as a ‘talk therapist,’  witnessing how verbal expression, and sometimes finding just the right word or phrase, can lead to clarity and change; for many years, I used my journal as a therapeutic tool to ‘sort’ my own thoughts and emotions; and later, I discovered poetry (reading and writing) as an art form to hold many spheres in a few words.”  Deeply affected by the resilience she witnessed in these individuals’ journeys from grief and illness towards healing, she drew inspiration from their “transformation.”  Her poems reveal a clarity and insight that could only have grown from roots that reached to such depths.

The four poems featured as Editor’s Choice encompass a progression from the initial failures of physical and mental wholeness that are witnessed in a loved one to the days and weeks that follow their death.  The poems reflect the tumultuous moments we all experience and remember when emotions are raw and fraught with ambiguity.  Landrum writes of this work, “each of these poems represents for me the way that finding words to express feelings and images at times of confusion, loss, and change can be amazingly therapeutic.”  “Personally, the close witnessing of my father's aging and death (seen in the poems you chose) brought with it many profound questions, some unanswerable yet important to ponder.”

We begin with “Everything changes,” a poem about the time of a death, and the tasks that must be performed by family members in the days that follow.  It reflects upon the moment that death arrived and chronicles the impact of the death on the narrator, and the narrator’s reaction to it.  The personal articles that belonged to the person are infused with meaning as they are sorted and designated as personal keepsakes, to be discarded, and I can only presume for possible donation to others.

The next poem, “Precipice,” is aptly titled.  It speaks to the time when we witness the failure of health in a loved one and how we deal with this failure.  The poet writes “we salvage what we can,” a reflection of what we grasp for in what still remains of the person we once knew.  What I most appreciate in this piece is the momentum with which it carries the narrator up to the the last moment she has with the loved one.

The third poem, “On the Edge of Redemption,” reveals the emotional turmoil that follows death.  The more I reread the poem the greater I admire what the poet had done here.  In very few words, she has infused it with the struggle and strife we experience when we focus on what a loved one said before death.  We try to understand what they meant, and we interpret and reinterpret their words so we can give meaning to their death as we reach for closure.  Those final few words can linger for years.

We close with a retrospective poem, “Then the Stillness,” in which the narrator reflects on the moment when permission to leave was requested by the loved one, how their focus changed when they looked beyond, their final breath, and what was felt both physically and spiritually by those who remain.  Anyone who has been present when someone dies imbues meaning into what is remembered from that moment.  We touch the body to learn whether the person has really gone.  We feel a hollowness inside and realize, yes.  We wonder, did the soul linger, was the flutter of the curtains them?

Each of these poems reflects the same death, yet they do so from different perspectives, from different moments in time, and from different levels of understanding.  They reveal that what we go through as we process death is influenced by how we acted and what we did during those final days.  These poems will resonate with many readers, as they did for me.

Landrum makes each word count in her poems.  There is nothing here that is extraneous or that does not heighten an awareness and an understanding of what it is she intends to convey.  Nowhere is this more evident then when she adheres to the poetic premise of an economy of words, but even where she does not, it is for good reason.

It is with great pleasure that I present to you a voice of Touch: Elizabeth Landrum.

O.P.W. Fredericks, Editor

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Touch: The Journal of Healing

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Editor’s Choice