“here, with my view of the creamy peach sunset
off this highway
even    the    vowels
drip between consonants
the way that hammocks are slung between trees
and the Spanish moss, antique lace in the air,
makes a breeding ground
of the breeze.”

-Excerpt from ”Louisiana, Route 82” by Samantha Barrow

Meet Samantha Barrow, or Sam as she prefers.  Sam is a 35 year old poet who currently splits her time between New York City and Martha’s Vineyard with her wife.  Sam has her undergrad in writing from Eugene Lang in New York City and is currently working on her Masters Degree at Columbia University.  She is an avid motorcyclist and prides herself in her humor and sassiness.  However, things haven’t always been so easy.

Sam has experienced many of the same experiences that many artistic students and young adults go through in order to get by with their trade.   She has taken demeaning jobs, moving to a new city in order to afford rent, and struggled with promoting her work.  What makes Barrow stand out from the rest is how she has succeeded in turning negatives into positives for her poetry and helping others heal themselves through creative writing.  She is determined to bring creative writing and the medical industry together.

Why poetry? “I feel poetry is the first thing you reach for before the story of what is actually happening.  Culturally we don’t have a very good relationship with poetry. At the end of the day I am able to go home and know myself intimately and most people I know don’t know themselves in the same way,” Sam explains.  After finishing her undergrad, Sam moved to Philadelphia to save money, “Cheaper rent lets you figure out things you like to do rather than making money.”  She was involved in a freak pop band drumming for four years and was waitress at several different restaurants.  She says she was fired for not wanting to wear lipstick. 

Sam involved herself in Lady Fest, a music festival based on a post punk feminist movement. Lady Fest promoted concerts and D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) movements for women.  She learned how to arrange events and use a soundboard.  She felt that being involved with lady Fest gave her an informative experience she could never have in college. 

Like most of us in our lives, Sam went through a very difficult break-up.  This prompted her to embark on a cross-country motorcycle tour. Put out her first chap book, a 30 to 68 page book that poets publish between other manuscripts. She made at Kinko’s and sold while she was on tour in order to afford the trip.  She took notes and stories from the tour and wrote a book of poetry, “Grit Tender Memories”.

Back in Philadelphia, Sam began with children and adults with their writing and started Sound/Body/Love/Poem, an erotic writing workshops for survivor of sexual abuse.  It was during this time she realized that she realized she was hitting a wall and needed her Masters of Social Work in order to have credibility.  She just wasn’t equipped to work with important companies.  That’s when she discovered the Narrative Medicine program at Columbia, “I’ve been able to enroll in the program and think about different ways to tell stories and how to be more responsible with issues like trauma,” she explains.  

Is this a pseudoscience? Sam is firm, “People know the system is broken. The way we think of the body and illness isn’t working, technology is expensive and diagnosing hasn’t improved.  If it [narrative medicine] didn’t come from the medical community it would be considered pseudoscience.  It is still looked down on” by some, but it isn’t exactly a pseudoscience.  Body and illness aren’t only made up of numbers.”  Because of this, Sam is driven to make a difference with patients and wounded soldiers. “I want to bring the story back into the illness instead of it just being a series of biological events.  Some people report that the person is in the way of the biological problem that needs to be fixed,” she says, “There is money coming from the Veteran’s Administration and there are a lot of wounded soldiers needing help so it [the medical industry] needs an intervention with working in groups.”

Artists struggle to find their voice in the world.  The key is to be able to motivate others to see the artistic abilities in themselves.  “I have an obsession with the body, illness, trauma and resilience and I think that poetry is desperately needed in these fields,” Sam states. She believes everyone has the ability to write poetry and write creatively.  “A simile is a good thing to pay attention to and they can be exercises to start a comparison,” Sam explains, “We need magic and we need the imagination which we’ve been taught to take out of our lives and healing.”

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