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  • Writer's picturePaul White

Poetry for Depression

Updated: Mar 3, 2020


Quietly, I lay quill to parchment

Something stirs and lights inside

A deep-seated, mysterious compartment

That no longer wishes to hide.

The significance of traumatic events, big or small, in our lives can leave an indelible mark on our consciousness. If we have no effective outlet, it will only lead to self-destruction, PTSD, depression, and anxiety (to name a few possible outcomes). The mental chaos caused by trauma needs to be ordered before one can make sense of it; poems were designed to provide room for the ordering of emotional material. Lyric poetry is a means by which we consciously make sense of powerful events.

Pulling out my high school journal has been a treat for me; it has followed me for over twenty years and through many moves. A week ago, I dove back in and discovered some poetry I had forgotten about. One of the poems spoke of a difficult time in life where I was processing the passing of my grandmother. My family did not speak of emotional issues, so it was up to me to figure out how to deal with the passing of this wise woman. Reading it brought back all the feelings of the severed connection. I would argue that was one of the moments in life where I felt the most disconnected from my family and that void has not been bridged to this day.

Poetry has always lent itself to bringing healing and understanding between myself and the world. The creative act connects us to ourselves, he also noted the act of creating poems has been around for thousands of years. Examples of lyric poetry from as early as ancient Egypt and Greece show the importance of using words for healing. Putting pen to paper for the purpose of recording our emotional state not only allows room to explore and connect with ourselves but to a worldwide tradition that has been practiced throughout recorded history.

In Orr’s book "Poetry as Survival" (2002), the author had been utilizing lyric poetry from a very early age to help him process the death of his younger brother from a hunting accident. He recounted the tale with vivid detail. He described how he caused the accidental firing of the weapon which led to his brother’s death. His parents only ever told him that it was an accident, but he craved a deeper meaning. Orr found the best way to express himself in a meaningful way was through poetry; that is precisely why I began all those years ago. Just as the author, I needed to discover myself in a way that allowed my voice to be heard and my experience(s) acknowledged.

Of course, you do not have to dive so deeply into lyric poetry. Like my poem at the top, you too can explore the meaning of deep personal healing through the scribing (or writing, if you will) of a short four-line poem or through a haiku.

Go ahead! Give it a try! And if you wish for a little more guidance on such an activity, reach out to me and I would love to help you!

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