Can Poetry Help With Depression?
Yes, poetry can help with depression for both writers and readers.
When we write poems, we share our feelings, experiences, and internal battles. By writing poems, one can express, and thereby release the sorrow and pain inside of them.
Writing poetry that talks about depression isn’t only important for the writer, but it can also help deal with the stigma surrounding the issue of depression.
The readers can relate to the issues being talked about in depression poetry and that can help them feel less isolated in their battle with depression.
When the writer shares their poetry, it helps the readers who are also dealing with depression to see how deep depression can become.
Therefore, the more we write poetry about depression, the more encouraged people are to talk and write about their battles with depression.
15 best poems about depression
1. We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Naxy, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
2. It was not Death, for I stood up by Emily Dickinson
It was not Death, for I stood up,
And all the Dead, lie down—
It was not Night, for all the Bells
Put out their Tongues, for Noon.
It was not Frost, for on my Flesh
I felt Siroccos—crawl—
Nor Fire—for just my Marble feet
Could keep a Chancel, cool—
And yet, it tasted, like them all,
The Figures I have seen
Set orderly, for Burial,
Reminded me, of mine—
3. Real Depression by Atticus
is when you stop loving the things you love.
4. A Lesson by Lang Leav
The girl who smiles all the time
is the one who’s never fine
The boy who surrounds
himself with friends
wishes that his life would end.
For those who say they never knew—
the saddest leave the least of clues.
5. Sadness by Erin Hanson
They say happiness will find you,
But I think sadness will find you too,
It sneaks up on you in darkness,
Just when you think you’ve made it through,
It opens holes in what was solid ground,
The kind you never know are there,
Until you go to take another step,
And find you’re standing over the air,
The world around you passes by,
In blurs of colour and sound,
Nothing around you making sense,
As you continue your plummet down,
You can’t remember how it started,
And you don’t know when it will end,
But you know that you’d give anything,
To stand up on your feet again,
Sadness is that feeling,
When the falling doesn’t stop,
And it saps your life of meaning,
And of the good things that you’ve got,
So when you finally hit rock bottom,
And you look back up at the sky,
What you once had seems so far away,
The only thing left to do is cry,
People all yell out “save yourself”,
Calling things about “happiness” and “hope”
But they’re too busy with their lives to realise,
It’d be a lot quicker if they let down a rope.
6. Little Stones at My Window by Mario Benedetti
for roberto and adelaida
Once in a while
joy throws little stones at my window
it wants to let me know that it’s waiting for me
but today I’m calm
I’d almost say even-tempered
I’m going to keep anxiety locked up
and then lie flat on my back
which is an elegant and comfortable position
for receiving and believing news
who knows where I’ll be next
or when my story will be taken into account
who knows what advice I still might come up with
and what easy way out I’ll take not to follow it
don’t worry, I won’t gamble with an eviction
I won’t tattoo remembering with forgetting
there are many things left to say and suppress
and many grapes left to fill our mouths
don’t worry, I’m convinced
joy doesn’t need to throw any more little stones
7. Patron Saint of Manic Depressives by Clementine von Radics
For Vincent van Gogh,
Patron Saint of psychotic manic depressives.
Often, I think of Vincent.
And the meat that was once his ear.
How he gave it to a pretty girl,
that was not certain of his name
and then spent the night alone –
trying not to bleed to death.
And ever since my own diagnosis,
some part of me is always alive and inside that moment.
And I picture the scared girl,
the bleeding painter,
the jagged flesh between them.
And sometimes, I am the girl.
Sometimes, I am the dripping blood.
But most often I am the one,
offering up some unwanted mess of myself
and calling it a gift.
8. “The Rainy Day” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.
My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
9. Riders on the Back of Silence by Cyrus Cassells
Brooklyn, the present day
I. The Spirit Box
A son is a steadfast
keeper of secrets,
a cupped palm, a calyx,
a son is a spirit box, listen—
I was born after armistice,
the fissured cities,
but slept nights
with a human smoke.
And though I never shuddered
from a black rouge
of rationed coffee
to keep clean,
the frost and sullen mud
of a forced march,
the unspoken, the unspeakable,
became my life:
I was a boy bathed in dreams
by a menorah fashioned against
the penalty of death,
a mysterious klezmer.
A son is a spirit box, imagine.
10. “Depression” by Alison Pick
I come by it honestly,
an heirloom passed
from my father
and grandmother before me.
In the bed by the window
she stares at the ceiling,
pills untouched on the dresser.
Cancer uncurls in her brain.
She says she feels nothing,
the heavy deadness
which also weighs me down.
Don’t worry, love, depression comes
and then goes. Soon
it will be over.
She says this to me.
And to herself.
11. Tulips by Sylvia Plath
The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.
Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in.
I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly
As the light lies on these white walls, this bed, these hands.
I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions.
I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses
And my history to the anesthetist and my body to surgeons.
They have propped my head between the pillow and the sheet-cuff
Like an eye between two white lids that will not shut.
Stupid pupil, it has to take everything in.
The nurses pass and pass, they are no trouble,
They pass the way gulls pass inland in their white caps,
Doing things with their hands, one just the same as another,
So it is impossible to tell how many there are.
My body is a pebble to them, they tend it as water
Tends to the pebbles it must run over, smoothing them gently.
They bring me numbness in their bright needles, they bring me sleep.
Now I have lost myself I am sick of baggage——
My patent leather overnight case like a black pillbox,
My husband and child smiling out of the family photo;
Their smiles catch onto my skin, little smiling hooks.
12. Six Months after Contemplating Suicide by Erika L. Sánchez
Admit it —
you wanted the end
with a serpentine
greed. How to negotiate
mist, the fibrous
To cease to exist
and to die
are two different things entirely.
But you knew this,
Some days you knelt on coins
in those yellow hours.
You lit a flame
to your shadow
scorpions with your naked fingers.
So touched by the sadness of hair
in a dirty sink.
The malevolent smell
When instead of swallowing a fistful
of white pills,
you decided to shower,
the palm trees
nodded in agreement,
of crickets singing
13. The Soul has Bandaged Moments by Emily Dickinson
The Soul has Bandaged moments –
When too appalled to stir –
She feels some ghastly Fright come up
And stop to look at her –
Salute her, with long fingers –
Caress her freezing hair –
Sip, Goblin, from the very lips
The Lover – hovered – o’er –
Unworthy, that a thought so mean
Accost a Theme – so – fair –
The soul has moments of escape –
When bursting all the doors –
She dances like a Bomb, abroad,
And swings opon the Hours,
As do the Bee – delirious borne –
Long Dungeoned from his Rose –
Touch Liberty – then know no more –
But Noon, and Paradise
The Soul’s retaken moments –
When, Felon led along,
With shackles on the plumed feet,
And staples, in the song,
The Horror welcomes her, again,
These, are not brayed of Tongue –
14. The Naked Surgeon by Michael Hartnett
The sky is alone tonight —
the moon and stars
seek some presence
in the firm quiet, in the hard lack.
A meteor falls in the empty dark.
Someone is absent, the universe is bare
listen, God, are you there?
Sand silts the world —
dockleaves in the yard,
broken teeth eat sadness
in the hayless barn.
Silence knocks on men’s doors
and silence answers it —
but music is heard in space.
Lichen eats the stone,
old arrogance eats peace:
female salt eats being,
angry rust eats blood.
Beetle and seal are dead,
poisoned children in lakes —
but music is heard in space.
Weak whistle-music moves
beyond Orion’s Belt,
silk threads in a cave
float in the dark.
Some player in the solitude
with a hopeful song
but destruction still goes on.
15. “Depression isn’t obvious but suicide is” by Amy Louise Kerswell
Depression isn’t obvious but suicide is.
My pain nobody sees.
My mangled body they shall see.
My head was all but a mess.
Depression overtaking me.
Suicide was to be my bid for freedom.
Because depression isn’t obvious but suicide is.
Depression is never obvious even when it’s staring them in the face.
But now suicide will be obvious how can it not?
Now my life is too much to bear.
Suicide I shall commit.
Now it’s obvious but it’s all too late.
Poems can help people deal with depression—and they can help both the writer and their audience.
Poetry gives us the means of expressing our fears, feelings, and experiences, thereby offering us a way to let out negative things in our minds.
It also helps us fight the stigma that surrounds the topic of depression. It makes depression feel like a battle that we are all fighting, a battle we can win if we talk and share our experiences.
I believe that some pieces on this list were inspired by the writers’ own experiences with depression.
I also believe that there’s— at least—one poem that you can relate to and can inspire you to win your battle against depression.