Poetry, writing, and community practice

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Date: Fall 2004
From: Journal of Human Services(Vol. 24, Issue 1)
Publisher: National Organization for Human Services
Document Type: Article
Length: 4,867 words
Lexile Measure: 1230L

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Community practice is one of the most important, yet perhaps most neglected, practice areas within the helping professions. This explores the uses of poetry for community work. It does so by exploring the strengths perspective and its relationships to community practice and by presenting current uses of poetry for community development and change. A case example, taken from experience, is also presented. It is the hope of these authors that this article will inspire human service workers to think creatively about alternative vehicles for community practice.


A worker as a voyeur using a theory that does not exist-planning, development, social activism for a community faced by violence: Let us not forget, when we talk of violence that the death of a young mother in childbirth is violent that the slow starvation of the mind and body of a child is violent, that pain is violent, that hunger is violent, that oppression is violent, that early death is violent and that the death of hope is the most violent of all.

The worker helping to bring hope is the organizer, developer, activist of the community. Beginning her work by discovering the identity and esteem of the collective individuals, brought together by locale or through a meaning. She is a voyeur no longer, she has become a part of them.

She challenges them to look at the direction of their community planning their steps carefully, using their strengths, perceptions, determination to stop and prevent the violence which oppresses them.

Through empowerment, she delivers competence. The binding of relationships, building upon their already formed ties. This is hope, not the death of a community.

The worker is no longer needed and must exit. How could she leave the ones she has struggled to become a part of? She must step out of role, letting the community continue their own growth alone. She finds the goodbye is harder than the first move in her efforts. On to another community of diversity, beginning as a voyeur in the process of practice and healing.

Collins, 2003


Community practice is one of the most important areas within the human service professions (Estes, 1997; Cnaan, 1991; Minkler, 1997). Community development, community organization, consciousness raising, and other forms of macro practice have been important aspects of human services and other helping professions for well over a century (Axinn & Levin, 1975; Harrison, 1991; Ragab, Blum & Murphy, 1981; United Nations, 1955). Unfortunately, the conservatizing of society over the last several decades has led to an increased focus on the individual as the source of various problems, as well as a nexus of change (Bellah, 1985, 1991; Homan, 1999). Consequently, community practice methods and techniques have seen less attention in scholarly publications.

Not only have community-based models of intervention seen a decline in prominence in the United States (Healy, 2001), but "nonscientific" paradigms of helping have also declined in influence. Numerous dynamics within society and the social welfare system, including the increasing influence of the medical model,...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A280967278