Can you suggest poems about mental health issues?
August 6, 2018 5:20 AM   Subscribe

My workplace is holding an event and one of our service users will be reading a poem about the struggle with mental health challenges. Do you have any suggestions please?

Poetry isn't something I know much about so nothing is coming to mind, and I'm not finding google to be much help. Ideally the poem would reflect the difficulties in struggling with mental health issues, and the realities of that, but also hopefully with a mention of recovery, or resilience, or hope, or strength in the face of the struggle. It would be good if the language was easily accessible to the reader and listeners, so maybe more modern poets would be good, but I'm open to all suggestions. Thanks.
posted by billiebee to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
My favorite is Jane Kenyon's "Having it Out with Melancholy."

A good amount of Jane Kenyon's work is about struggling with depression.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:03 AM on August 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

There are a lot to choose from, but I’ll recommend Janet Frame’s poetry.
posted by Celsius1414 at 6:06 AM on August 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

"Bottom of the Ocean" by Bob Hicok (also available in his book Insomina Diary, which is great).
posted by dapati at 6:40 AM on August 6, 2018

I'm extremely fond of Portia Nelson s "hole in the sidewalk"
posted by Jacen at 7:34 AM on August 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

With the Sun's Fire
by David Ignatow

Are you a horror to yourself?
Do you have eyes peering at you
from within at the back of your skull
as you manage to stay calm, knowing
you are being watched by a stranger?

Be well, I am seated beside you,
planning a day's work. We are contending
with the stuff of stones and stars,
with water, air, with dirt, with food
and with the sun's fire.
posted by colfax at 7:40 AM on August 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was at my local bookstore and this whole book, Madness by Sam Sax, looks of interest, although it's got sex-related themes that may or may not be OK in your workplace context.
posted by thelonius at 7:49 AM on August 6, 2018

No Hemlock Rock, maybe.
posted by bunderful at 8:07 AM on August 6, 2018

If you're going old-school, Gerald Manley Hopkins's "'No worst, there is none'" would qualify.
posted by praemunire at 10:55 AM on August 6, 2018

I had a quick look on the Poetry Archive and found a couple - Audrey Wills by Andrew Motion, Ringing the Bells by Anne Sexton, Collapse by Melissa Lee-Houghton. The last one might need a content warning for reference to self-harm - the poet has spent some time in the mental health system themself.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 11:08 AM on August 6, 2018

Mentions grief specifically, but relates generally to mental illness and coping: "The Thing Is" by Ellen Bass.
posted by Carouselle at 4:15 PM on August 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Stevie Smith's "Not Waving, But Drowning" makes a good analogy between failing to see that someone is actually drowning, and failing to see that someone needs mental health help. (Read the poet's introduction included on that page, about her inspiration for the poem.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:17 PM on August 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Neil Hilborn - OCD
posted by yawper at 8:51 PM on August 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think about "Having It Out With Melancholy" and "Six Months" a lot.
Jeanann Verlee's At the junction; The Session; Good Girl (all of hers, honestly)
Shira Erlichman's Odes to Lithium: 188, 600 (But if you could see what they gave me: Years. // The side effect of side effects is living your life.)
Nick Flynn's Philip Seymour Hoffman
Andrea Gibson's The Nutritionist
Adrienne Rich's Twenty One Love Poems VIII (Well, that's finished. The woman who cherished her suffering is dead... I want to go on from here with you/ fighting the temptation to make a career of pain)
posted by ahundredjarsofsky at 9:52 PM on August 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

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