A means of expression, or a channel for open communication; an emotional crutch, or words of inspiration. There are many ways in which poetry can help us to achieve, or move towards, good mental health.
From the considered to the concise, visual to verse; here are six poems for Mental Health Awareness Week, selected by Librarian Chris McCabe, from the National Poetry Library’s heavily stacked shelves.
by Linda France
British poet, writer and editor, Linda France has published seven full-length poetry collections, a number of pamphlets, and was editor of the influential anthology, Sixty Women Poets. In 1997 France’s collection The Gentleness of the Very Tall, was long listed for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and in 2013 her poem ‘Bernard and Cerinthe’, won the National Poetry Competition.
by Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett’s poetry addresses issues including identity, race and sexuality and takes its power from a sense of inquiry rather than polemic. He is a former UK Poetry Slam Champion and in 2014 won the International Slam Championship in Rio. Beyond poetry, his play, Safest Spot in Town, was performed at the Old Vic and on BBC Four in 2017 as part of the Queers series.
‘That you cannot see where you tread’
by Paul Peter Piech
Born in Brooklyn in 1920, Piech made his home in Wales after the Second World War and went on to study at the Chelsea School of Art. After working in advertising he became a freelance artist in 1968. His preferred medium was printmaking; his work often combining words or slogans with imagery. ‘That you cannot see where you tread’ features the words of Helen McNabb.
by Mimi Khalvati
Iranian born Mimi Khalvati has lived most of her life in England. She has published eight collections of poetry with Carcanet Press, including The Weather Wheel, and The Meanest Flower, which – as well as being a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and a Financial Times Book of the Year – was shortlisted for the 2007 TS Eliot Prize.
‘A Bit of Zen’
by A.D. Winans
Born in 1936, A.D. Winans is an American poet, essayists, short story writer, and publisher. As founder of San Francisco’s Second Coming Press, and long-term editor of Second Coming magazine, he published writers including Charles Bukowski, Bob Kaufman, Allen Ginsberg and Josephine Miles. To date, Winans has written 63 books of poetry.
by Caleb Femi
Using film, photography and music, Caleb Femi pushes the boundaries of poetry both on the page, in performance and on digital mediums. Between 2016 and 2018, Femi was the Young People’s Laureate for London, working with young people on a city, national and global level. ‘WISHBONE’, is a dancing words film which he both wrote and directed.
If you are concerned about your own mental health, the Mental Health Foundation encourages you to seek advice and support from your GP immediately. If this is not possible, they also signpost to a number of other organisations who can offer you support.
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