Guest Speaker Carmen Bruno Uses Poems to Help Clients “Open Up”

Lara Russell-Lasalandra

Child Psychiatrist Dr. Carmen Bruno visited English Teacher Brenda Feldman’s Creative Writing class on Oct. 16. She discussed her translation of Eugene Field’s book, Lullaby-Land and how she uses poetry in her practice. Photo by senior Lara Russell-Lasalandra.

Psychiatrist and literary translator Dr. Carmen Bruno spoke to students in English teacher Brenda Feldman’s Creative Writing class on Oct. 17, about how she uses poetry to help counsel her patients.

Bruno grew up in Argentina and came to the United States to complete her residency on Child Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. She always had a deep passion for poetry and wanted her children to experience the power of the written word as well. She especially loved the works of Eugene Field, a man whom she considered was one of America’s best children’s poets. Bruno initially translated parts of Field’s book Lullaby-Land from English to Spanish so that she could share his stories with her children. She then translated Field’s entire book under the Latin American Literary Review Press for publication. She used translated poems like the ones from Lullaby-Land to help her clients feel more comfortable.

“It is easier [for clients] to relate to a poem that expresses a similar emotion or situation that they are are in,” Bruno said.

She and the students read “Telling the Bees,” a poem written in the perspective of an adolescent who lost a grandfather. Bruno then asked students in the class if any of them had experienced the death of a family member. Some students shared their stories of loss. Bruno believed that reading this poem allowed people to feel more willing to speak about their emotions, which may have been too difficult to do prior to reading the poem.

“Poetry is to be able to communicate with very pretty words,” Bruno said.

Bruno firmly believes that “pretty words” have the power to break barriers; poetry may facilitate the first steps toward treatment for responsive patients. She spoke about how patients often refuse to tell her why they are distressed. One patient didn’t even say a single word during the entire first month of therapy. Bruno emphasized the fact that simply stating what was really bothering someone was a major accomplishment, and poetry was one of many different methods she used to help her clients take that huge first step.