Pathologising Poets

Below is an essay I wrote in the final year of my undergraduate degree (2019). I think the topic is still relevant today, so I thought I’d share.


Exactly when the stereotype of the ‘tortured artist’ first engrained itself in the collective consciousness is unclear, but the idea that mental illness and creativity are intrinsically linked appears to have existed for centuries. In the Ion, Plato writes, ‘the lyric poets are not in their right mind when they are composing their beautiful strains.’[1] Regardless of its origin, the popularity of the stereotype seems to have reached a fever pitch in the past decade or so. During this time, ‘suffering creative’ films have practically become their own genre, with the release of Pollock (2000), Frida (2002), Modigliani (2004), Walk the Line (2005), La Vie en Rose (2007), Séraphine (2008), Black Swan (2010), Girl With a Pearl Earing (2013), Mr. Turner (2014), Frank (2014), Love & Mercy (2014) and many more. These films coincided with a rise in morbid listicles, with titles like ‘Top Ten Suicidal Writers’, ‘The 10 Most Tortured Beat Generation Poets’ and ‘Top 10 Tortured Artists’.[2] Meanwhile, the media and crude hobbyists have become obsessed with cataloguing popular musicians who die at twenty-seven in the so-called ‘27 Club’.[3]

Only in the past few years has this popular culture surrounding mentally ill creatives come under serious criticism. Thankfully, it’s now much rarer to come across phrases online which glorify and trivialise mental illness, like ‘Many great artists live tortured lives, which makes for good drama. Here is a palette of painters and sculptors who truly suffered for their art’.[4] Instead, it’s far more common to find articles, blogs and social media posts criticising proponents of the tortured artist stereotype for romanticising the suffering of creative people.[5] Furthermore, the media is increasingly turning its attention to how artistic hobbies such as poetry can be beneficial for wellbeing.[6]

On the whole this change is clearly a positive thing. Mental illness is romanticised less frequently, and when it is, people are quicker to condemn it. Poetry is beginning to lose its tragic associations as the media is becoming less interested the pain of past poets like Keats or Plath, and more interested in new-fangled ‘slam poets’ or how spoken word can act as a form of therapy.

However, this narrative leaves a lot of issues unaddressed. As someone who is involved in the Birmingham poetry community and has competed in national and international student slams, I know more poets who suffer from mental illness than don’t. At a typical slam or open mic, I’d estimate at least 20% of the poems performed describe experiences with trauma or mental illness, and I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve seen break down and find it difficult or impossible to finish their own piece. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve also spoken to many people who report feeling drained or depressed after attending these events. One member of my university’s poetry slam team has decided not to re-audition next year, because the stress of competing made her feel incredibly anxious and disillusioned her from writing for several weeks. Since I first became involved in spoken word three years ago, I’ve developed a sense of alienation towards the poetry scene. Not because of the people (they’re all lovely) but because of how drained I feel after most events, and how much pressure I feel to write and perform ‘perfectly’. I’ve gradually developed a suspicion that, despite being an invaluable form of self-expression, involvement in spoken word can actually produce and exacerbate mental ill-health. That said, I am aware that my evidence is entirely anecdotal. I therefore decided to create a survey to better understand the relationship between poetry and mental health.

The design was fairly simple. The first section asked participants how regularly they engaged with poetry in different ways, and whether or not they identified as a poet. The second section was comprised of questions from the GAD-7 and PHQ-9: common medical questionnaires focused on identifying anxiety and depression. The final section gave participants an opportunity to write down words or phrases which described how they felt after engaging with poetry in different ways, as well as any thoughts, comments or experiences they had relating to poetry and its relationship with mental health.

In total, 92 people responded, and the results were mixed. I discovered that the average anxiety score for those who do notidentify as poets was 9.8, whereas for those who do identify as poets it was 11.3. The average depression score for non-poets was 10.4, whereas for poets it was 13.1. According to the GAD-7 and PHQ-9’s scoring system, this meant that on average, the non-poets would be classed as experiencing moderate anxiety and moderate depression, while the poets would be classed as experiencing moderately severe anxiety and moderately severe depression. Of all non-poets, 40.5% fell into the moderately severe or severe anxiety categories, as opposed to 51% of poets. More starkly, 38% of non-poets fell in the moderately severe or severe depression categories, as opposed to 62% of poets.

Although my findings supported my expectation that poets would, on average, have greater struggles with anxiety and depression than non-poets, my findings failed to show any real correlation between how regularly people attend live poetry events and how high their anxiety and depression scores are. As the scatter diagrams below shows, there is no obvious line of best fit between the two.

So overall, my survey told me frustratingly little. Poets were, on average, a little more anxious and depressed than non-poets, but I was no closer to knowing why. It’s also important to note that a sample size of 92 is relatively small, and because I shared the survey on Facebook and Twitter, a significant portion of participants were likely student poets who I’m in contact with, and the mental health crisis amongst university students has been well-documented.[7]

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned from the exercise was that, just as countless studies on the issue of tortured artists contradict each other, some declaring it a myth, others supporting the theory, my numerical results could really say anything I wanted them to. I could choose to reveal that, of those who watch poetry once a month or more, 62% are moderately severely depressed or severely depressed, as opposed to 43% of those who do not, while failing to mention that this difference represents only 8 people, so is statistically insignificant. I could focus in on one question-statement from the survey and announce that 58% of poets reported ‘Feeling bad about yourself – or that you are a failure of have let yourself or your family down’ more than half the days or daily, as opposed to 40.5% of non-poets, while omitting questions which suggest poets to be the healthier faction. I suspect that many of the clickbait headlines popular in the early noughties were based off similar highlighting and omitting of data.

Instead, I found the real story was in the text responses at the end of my survey. Making word clouds composed of how people reported feeling after engaging with poetry gave a good indication of just how varied its effects can be. (Each person could list as many words and phrases as they chose, within a certain character count.)

How do you feel after reading poetry?
How do you feel after writing poetry?
How do you feel after performing poetry?
How do you feel after watching poetry performed live?

The clouds indicated that while positive emotions such as relief and inspiration tend to be the most common response to poetry, they often coexist with negative ones such as frustration or exhaustion.

This complexity was further highlighted by people’s longer text responses in the final comment section. Overall, fourteen responses focused exclusively on the positive benefits of poetry, eleven exclusively on the negative effects, and sixteen were mixed in their estimations. Within these broad categories there were several common themes.[8] Four participants, for example, mentioned how poetry helps them understand and relate to others, and feel less alone.

Four mentioned how poetry is therapeutic and provides a coping mechanism for those already struggling with poor mental health (including those unable to access professional help.)[9] Three mentioned how poetry is cathartic and allows them to get emotions out of their system by putting them onto a page or stage.

Within the responses which primarily focused on the negative impact of poetry, six mentioned that poetry can promote fixation on negative emotions and experiences, often in a way which is unhealthy to the poet or audiences. Three mentioned that involvement in a poetry community can create a sense of competition, a need for perfection, and/or feelings of inferiority.[10]

Within the mixed responses, eight people mentioned that poetry is cathartic and aids communication when consumed/produced in moderation, but it can be emotionally draining or overwhelming when one becomes too immersed.[11] Six mentioned that writing poetry privately can be beneficial, but one can develop a toxic relationship with poetry if one’s primary focus is the audience.[12]

Unlike my rather sketchy statistics, this qualitative data was quite illuminating. Only through asking for opinions did I discover common patterns and issues that need to be addressed. While it is clear poetry provides an invaluable opportunity for catharsis and self-expression, changes need to be implemented to combat how many people feel drained and overwhelmed after attending live poetry events. Similarly, I feel it is important to address the sense of competition within the poetry community, and how this can lead to feelings of inferiority. Many are already having these conversations on social media (I would recommend Tim Clare’s excellent thread on jealousy, and Malaika Kegode’s brief poetry manifesto) and within small friendship circles. [13] I hope this will become more commonplace. Let us not pathologise poets, nor declare poetry a miracle solution to mental illness. Instead, let’s ask poets themselves how poetry affects their mental health, and discuss how we can make our creative environments and attitudes happier and healthier.


[1] Plato, trans. by Benjamin Jowett, ‘Ion by Plato’, in The Internet Classics Archive <http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/ion.html> [accessed 18 April 2019].

[2] Mike Devlin, ‘Top 10 Suicidal Writers’, Listverse, (2012) <https://listverse.com/2012/01/30/top-10-suicidal-writers/> [accessed 18 April]; Lisa Flowers, ‘The 10 Most Tortured Beat Generation Poets’, Ranker (ND) <https://www.ranker.com/list/hardcore-1950s-poets/lisa-a-flowers> [accessed 18 April]; Heather Matthews, ‘Top 10 Tortured Artists’, TopTenz, (2009) <https://www.toptenz.net/top-10-tortured-artists.php> [accessed 18 April 2019].

[3] Anon., ‘27 Club’, in Wikipedia <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/27_Club> [accessed 18 April 2019].

[4] Marcelina Morfin, ‘13 Films That Depict the Fascinating Lives of Artists’, Culture Trip, (2016) <https://theculturetrip.com/europe/france/articles/13-films-that-depict-the-fascinating-lives-of-artists/> [accessed 18 April 2019].

[5] Yashi Banymadhub, ‘The tortured artist is a dangerous myth’, The Guardian, (2018) <https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/world-mental-health-day-tortured-artist-dangerous-myth-pain-art-depression-suicide-a8576971.html> [accessed 18 April 2019];
Jane Harkness, ‘You Don’t Have to be a Tortured Artist’, The Writing Cooperative, (2018) <https://writingcooperative.com/you-dont-have-to-be-a-tortured-artist-5fca0af60a5> [accessed 18 April 2019]; Nadia El-Sherif and Panayot Gaidov, ‘Don’t Suffer for Your Art: Critiquing the Myth of the Tortured Artist’, The McGill Daily, (2018) <https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/10/dont-suffer-for-your-art/&gt; [accessed 18 April 2019]; Ryan Booth (@ryanbooth), ‘While I do appreciate that you can be down and still make something compelling, I truly believe the myth of the “tortured artist” is one of the most pernicious lies around. You do not need to self-destruct to have something to say. You do not need to destroy your life to make art’, (2018), <https://twitter.com/ryanbooth/status/1003005707262857216> [accessed 19 April 2019].

[6] Lucy English, ‘The growing popularity of performance poetry is a boost for mental wellbeing’, The Guardian, (2016) <https://www.theguardian.com/culture-professionals-network/2016/jun/02/performance-poetry-boost-for-mental-wellbeing> [accessed 19 April 2019];
Joanna Moorhead, ‘How poetry can light up darker moment’, The Guardian, (2018) <https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/sep/30/how-poetry-can-light-up-our-darker-moments-mental-illness> [accessed 19 April 2019];
Ann Matturro Gault, ‘The Power of Poetry: How Reading Poems Can Help You Feel Better’, PsyCom, (2019) <https://www.psycom.net/poetry-how-reading-poems-can-help-you-feel-better/> [accessed 19 April 2019];
Shaloo Tiwari, ‘World Poetry Day 2018: miraculous health benefits of writing poetry’, The Health Site, (2018) <https://www.thehealthsite.com/news/health-benefits-of-writing-poetry-w1217/> [accessed 19 April 2019].

[7] Scott Aronin and Matthew Smith, ‘One in four students suffer from mental health problems’, YouGov, (2016) <https://yougov.co.uk/topics/lifestyle/articles-reports/2016/08/09/quarter-britains-students-are-afflicted-mental-hea> [accessed 21 April 2019];
Jade Yap, ‘The declining state of student mental health in universities and what can be done’, Mental Health Foundation, (2018) <https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/blog/declining-state-student-mental-health-universities-and-what-can-be-done> [accessed 21 April 2019].

[8] Appendix, p. 14-18.

[9] Appendix, p. 14.

[10] Appendix, p. 15.

[11] Appendix, p. 16-17.

[12] Appendix, p. 17-18.

[13] Tim Clare (@TimClarePoet), ‘Even though I’m a lot better than I used to be, I still get quite jealous of other authors. But the better I get at acknowledging it, the happier I am & the less it translates into acting like an actual arsehole. ON JEALOUSY: a thread for creative folk’, (2019), <https://twitter.com/TimClarePoet/status/1114574695083446273> [accessed 7 April 2019];

Malaika Kegode (@MalaikaKegode), ‘-More Happy Poems -Less reverence for those who don’t respect us -More acceptance of personal down-time -Less beating ourselves up for not getting that magazine/book deal/gig/article/list -More innovative work, might not be immediately popular but is what you always wanted to do.’, (2019) <https://twitter.com/MalaikaKegode/status/1119598945137778688> [accessed 21 April 2019].


Bibliography

Anon., ‘27 Club’, in Wikipedia <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/27_Club>

Aronin, Scott and Smith, Matthew, ‘One in four students suffer from mental health problems’, YouGov, (2016) <https://yougov.co.uk/topics/lifestyle/articles-reports/2016/08/09/quarter-britains-students-are-afflicted-mental-hea>

Banymadhub, Yashi, ‘The tortured artist is a dangerous myth’, The Guardian, (2018) <https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/world-mental-health-day-tortured-artist-dangerous-myth-pain-art-depression-suicide-a8576971.html>

Booth, Ryan, (@ryanbooth), ‘While I do appreciate that you can be down and still make something compelling, I truly believe the myth of the “tortured artist” is one of the most pernicious lies around. You do not need to self-destruct to have something to say. You do not need to destroy your life to make art’, (2018), <https://twitter.com/ryanbooth/status/1003005707262857216>

Clare, Tim (@TimClarePoet), ‘Even though I’m a lot better than I used to be, I still get quite jealous of other authors. But the better I get at acknowledging it, the happier I am & the less it translates into acting like an actual arsehole. ON JEALOUSY: a thread for creative folk’, (2019), <https://twitter.com/TimClarePoet/status/1114574695083446273>

Devlin, Mike, ‘Top 10 Suicidal Writers’, Listverse, (2012) <https://listverse.com/2012/01/30/top-10-suicidal-writers/>

El-Sherif, Nadia and Gaidov, Panayot, ‘Don’t Suffer for Your Art: Critiquing the Myth of the Tortured Artist’, The McGill Daily, (2018) <https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/10/dont-suffer-for-your-art/>

English, Lucy, ‘The growing popularity of performance poetry is a boost for mental wellbeing’, The Guardian, (2016) <https://www.theguardian.com/culture-professionals-network/2016/jun/02/performance-poetry-boost-for-mental-wellbeing>

Flowers, Lisa, ‘The 10 Most Tortured Beat Generation Poets’, Ranker (ND) <https://www.ranker.com/list/hardcore-1950s-poets/lisa-a-flowers>


Gault, Ann Matturro, ‘The Power of Poetry: How Reading Poems Can Help You Feel Better’, PsyCom, (2019) <https://www.psycom.net/poetry-how-reading-poems-can-help-you-feel-better/>


Harkness, Jane, ‘You Don’t Have to be a Tortured Artist’, The Writing Cooperative, (2018) <https://writingcooperative.com/you-dont-have-to-be-a-tortured-artist-5fca0af60a5>

Kegode, Malaika (@MalaikaKegode), ‘-More Happy Poems -Less reverence for those who don’t respect us -More acceptance of personal down-time -Less beating ourselves up for not getting that magazine/book deal/gig/article/list -More innovative work, might not be immediately popular but is what you always wanted to do.’, (2019) <https://twitter.com/MalaikaKegode/status/1119598945137778688>

Matthews, Heather, ‘Top 10 Tortured Artists’, TopTenz, (2009) <https://www.toptenz.net/top-10-tortured-artists.php> [accessed 18 April 2019].


Moorhead, Joanna, ‘How poetry can light up darker moment’, The Guardian, (2018) <https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/sep/30/how-poetry-can-light-up-our-darker-moments-mental-illness>

Morfin, Marcelina, ‘13 Films That Depict the Fascinating Lives of Artists’, Culture Trip, (2016) <https://theculturetrip.com/europe/france/articles/13-films-that-depict-the-fascinating-lives-of-artists/>

Plato, trans. by Benjamin Jowett, ‘Ion by Plato’, in The Internet Classics Archive <http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/ion.html>


Tiwari, Shaloo, ‘World Poetry Day 2018: miraculous health benefits of writing poetry’, The Health Site, (2018) <https://www.thehealthsite.com/news/health-benefits-of-writing-poetry-w1217/>


Yap, Jade, ‘The declining state of student mental health in universities and what can be done’, Mental Health Foundation, (2018) <https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/blog/declining-state-student-mental-health-universities-and-what-can-be-done>


Appendix

  1. Link to survey results: https://poetrymentalhealth.typeform.com/report/GNxefE/yZKftdCwZJbl7WQM
  2. Link to PHQ-9 and GAD-7: https://www.torbayandsouthdevon.nhs.uk/uploads/score-sheet-gad-7-anxiety-and-phq-9-depression.pdf
  3. Word cloud generator: https://www.jasondavies.com/wordcloud/
  4. Text responses to the question, ‘Do you have any thoughts, comments or experiences relating to poetry and its relationship with mental health which you’d like to share?’ categorised by theme:

The Good

  1. Poetry helps individuals understand and relate to others, and feel less alone

‘It’s helpful to write down how you feel, especially in such a creative way like poetry. To read someone’s poems that can relate to your own feelings can be so invigorating and less lonely’

‘poetry has been a mode of communication for me personally in terms of being more open about mental health and also learning about others’ experiences’

‘I feel like poetry does a lot for the poet as it allows them to articulate their feelings, and the act of reading poetry that deals with mental health is hugely beneficial – usually, I feel better because on a base level, I’ve just experienced something beautifully crafted, but more personally, I can relate to the issues and not feel so alone’

‘I’ve often thought of poetry as an insight into events, experiences, or ideas I would not otherwise be able to have (or share with others). When it comes to mental health, poetry (in all its forms) has been helpful as a therapeutic/cathartic outlet, and it has also helped me to understand more of other people’s experiences with mental health.’

2. Poetry is therapeutic and provides a coping mechanism for those already struggling with poor mental health (especially when they might be unable to access professional help.)

‘Performing poetry has been hugely beneficial to my mental health’

‘It is my therapy, the way I process difficult things, stress, sadness.’

‘It becomes like therapy for those who don’t feel ready to speak out to a doctor’

‘it’s definitely a coping mechanism for me’

3. Poetry is cathartic. It allows people to get negative emotions out of their system and onto a page (or stage).

‘I find that poetry is a great way of writing down how I feel, as sometimes mundane words just can’t capture it properly. I always feel relieved after writing a particularly emotional poem and feel as though I can move on from the situation/feeling once I’ve written it down. It also helps to clear my brain when it’s buzzing with anxious thoughts.’

‘I write frequently about my own struggles with mental illness and I find it incredibly cathartic and it’s a healthy release for me. I think struggles and poetry are best friends.’

‘I often write poetry about my brain, and I find it cathartic’

4. Poetry is reflective. It helps individuals to explore their own emotions and process them.

‘It is a comfort to turn to when experiencing bad mental health and can be used to explore your thoughts and feelings and lay them out on a page’

‘Writing in any form feels like an effective way of accessing and understanding problems’

5. Poetry provides a confidence boost and emotional high

‘The few times when I can write/read something that someone else says something positive about, it’s the biggest confidence boost and emotional high.’

The Bad

  1. Poetry can promote fixation on negative emotions and experiences, often in a way which is unhealthy to the poet or audiences.

‘Poetry faps into trauma and breaks it open for all to see and I’m not sure that’s always a good thing’

‘Poetry is used as a form of self-therapy in many circumstances and I myself have fallen victim to this idea. However, by forcing myself to revisit traumatic experiences or negative emotions, it can have the adverse effect of worsening how I feel.’

‘It can be damaging to focus so much on your own mental health and then get a round of applause for it.’

‘can be really bad for mental health re: wallowing in negative feelings + spreading them to others at performances. can also be cathartic (apparently) but have seen less evidence of this, especially as a consumer rather than a producer’

‘I feel like more needs to be said about the relationship between writing about your mental health in poetic form, and how cathartic / toxic this can be for a person. I’ve had to change my relationship towards this due to how toxic this sort of thing became for me, which has improved my relationship towards writing in this craft. But that’s not to say I don’t write about my mental health or trauma at all: it’s just making sure I take care of myself when I do.’

‘When my mental health was consistently worse, I wrote as catharsis – however overtime I got some recognition for those cathartic poems, and started prizing brute reaction over interpretation in my poetry. My imagery became more shocking, and this came at the same point as a sudden downturn in mental health – I stopped writing and began to focus on my mental health, and now try to avoid glorifying the damaging outlooks in my poetry, especially as I felt that I didn’t believe the things I was writing. As a result, although my mental health has had some trying experiences recently, my poetry is less focused on brute reaction, and I avoid ‘edginess’.’

2. Involvement in a poetry community can create a sense of competition, a need for perfection, and feelings of inferiority

    ‘It is something I was drawn to as a teenager to release feelings. I find my poetry too substandard and I have turned more to art. It makes me more upset that I can’t create something perfect anymore.’

    ‘I think writing poetry as part of a university course adds to poor mental health as you compare your writing to others’ too much’

    ‘I think it can be equally as good as it can be bad. The competitive nature of the scene and feeling like you have to share what you’re achieving can be quite debilitating at times’

    3. People can begin to associate writing with negative mental states

    ‘I find I’m more inclined to write poetry when Im having an extreme down, the words flow smoother. When I’m doing well mentally I struggle to write poetry that I believe to be good, as there’s no true emotion behind it as I’m not really happy but I’m also not down.’

    ‘I write when I feel down generally, but often not about feeling down- when I’m happy though, I tend to write far less.’

    The Mixed

    1. Poetry is cathartic and aids communication when consumed/produced in moderation, but it can be emotionally draining or overwhelming when you become too immersed, especially if you are not emotionally ready.

    ‘Poetry has helped my mental health in many ways as it gives me an outlet for a lot of feelings and memories. However writing or watching poetry can sometimes be emotionally draining or triggering.’

    ‘i think poetry is a great way to express loads of things and a good outlet for thoughts you struggle to articulate, however, a lot of poetry, especially spoken word is very heavy and can drag me down a bit’

    ‘It helps give me a platform to share my mental health experiences with friends and family, but it does make me feel overwhelmed’

    ‘I think poetry absolutely can benefit your mental health if you read/perform things that you are comfortable with – however for people who don’t know their own boundaries properly due to their already bad mental health, I would argue it can do quite the opposite’

    ‘There have been times when even seeing a few lines of poetry shared somewhere has brought me to some kind of catharsis, and times when writing poetry has stood in for more unhealthy coping mechanisms for a Bad Day. At the same time, I find that if I expose myself to too much poetry in too short a space of time – books, performances, videos, festivals – the intensity of it can put me in a strange mental space where I become very reactive and almost volatile in my emotions.’

    ‘it’s a good break when not overdone.’

    ‘I feel like a person needs to be reasonably comfortable in expressing negative emotions to write good poetry that relates to poor mental health , or to read / listen to certain poetry without feeling critical.’

    ‘I feel like it’s incredibly complicated, but ultimately, it sustains me, even if it can be taxing at times’

    2. Writing poetry privately can be beneficial, but you can develop a toxic relationship with poetry if your primary focus is your audience.

    ‘I think that audience can layer additional strain on my mental health in regards to writing poetry. I guess with poetry and it’s immediacy compared to fiction means that you are able to share material with an audience with sentiments and emotions and experiences that have just occurred and perhaps haven’t been processed. Though vulnerability is a primary asset of any artist, for it allows sincere messages to be delivered, in terms of mental health that vulnerability can be harmful to the poet. I think writing poetry allows for an individual to gain clarity into their own lives, but from my experience performing a poem that details parts of my life that I have not gained closure on can make my mental health worse. Additionally, I think that when I am distanced from a moment that I write about, that it actually creates better art because I’m able to find further clarity into my emotional state and find better ways of communicating, as I tend to ramble and go on tangents in those early stages because I still need to get all my feeling out on the page and have very few reservations— both emotionally and technically. And I’ve come to realise that I don’t need everyone to know how I feel and put all of myself into my work and that realisation has also helped my mental health.’

    ‘Poetry for oneself can and ought to be used as an outlet for coping with mental health problems. Poetry in a public space is a less appropriate outlet for that.’

    ‘Think poetry is a great medium to explore mental health issues within, but there’s a spectrum of sorts with this exploration. Can range anywhere from catharsis and representation to shock value as currency.’

    ‘I write poems to be appreciated for the sufferings i endure. But my friends hardly read them. And creative writers think i scream dramatically. For me, it’s the only escape. I hope someday when I’m gone, someone takes interest in them to feel the way i have felt when reading other poets.’

    3. Poetry doesn’t solve problem but helps you understand them

    ‘I think, for me, poetry doesn’t necessarily solve mental health problems or what’s been on my mind, but helps me come to terms with and process everything that’s going on around me’

    4. Other

    ‘Poetry and mental health, for me, are closely intertwined, as what I tend to write heavily stems from things in my life that I can relate to or emotions that I want to capture and convey to others. Therefore, if often I am having a bad mental health day, producing poetry based on my thoughts and feelings can often be a mixed bag of emotions on the page, and hard to revisit in editing or even performing on stage if it gets that far. I know several poets who have had struggles with mental health, so I tend to be there is a commonality among expressive, creative types, myself included, where their sensitivities are highly connected to their work, for better or for worse.’

    ‘Most poets I have met are either happy over achievers or severely depressed. Few swing between the pendulum. They’re always interesting and sometimes boring. Almost always have blurred boundaries, which enables them to share intimate details of their lives and workings of their minds. They’re mainly very kind people.’