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The Poetry Cure by Julia Darling and Cynthia Fuller (Bloodaxe Books, 2005)

Here at the Poetry Library, we often receive enquiries from people who are trying to come to terms with the difficult parts of life - bereavement, separation, illness. People often express to us in their emails, letters and phone calls how a certain poem helped them get through these experiences, and helped them understand what was happening to them. In the preface to this book of poetry for those living with their own ill health, or the ill health of their loved ones, Cynthia Fuller explains the need for poetry at these times:

"Finding feelings reflected back to us brings comfort. Poetry can say things in a way that speaks directly to our experience and takes us down to the deepest levels. It allows us to acknowledge the intensity of what we are feeling - doesn't let us pretend we are 'all right'."
The Poetry Cure is a book that reflects this, but also makes a greater claim. The poet Julia Darling, the other editor of this anthology, states in the introduction: "I believe that poetry can help to make you better." This is a book that includes poems about living with cancer, suffering a miscarriage, and being in a coma. There are also poems about hair loss and arthritis and the menopause. Finding a poem that lets you see that someone else has understood your own experience of illness, or caring for an ill person, is both powerful and empowering.

Julia Darling had personal experience of the value of poetry in a time of ill health. While writing her introduction, she had advanced breast cancer, and died shortly after the book was published. You can read more about Julia Darling on her website.


There are other groups that share the belief in 'the poetry cure'. Why not have a look at the following websites for more thoughts on poetry and health:

Poems In the Waiting Room

Survivors Poetry

National Association for Poetry Therapy (USA)

Writing and Health Research Report

Resources for Poetry and Healthcare


Discussion points:

Have you ever turned to poetry when suffering an illness, or dealing with the ill health of a loved one?

Did any of the poems in this book help you understand or come to terms with ill health?

Do you believe in 'the poetry cure'?


If you liked this book, you might also enjoy the following:

The gift: new writing for the NHS / Wenban-Smith, Alan (preface); Morley, David (introduction) -- Exeter: Stride Publications: Stride, (Book) - Adult Anthology  
Abstract: Contains poems to inspire medical workers. Also contains prose 

Lou-Lou / HILL, SELIMA -- Tarset, Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books, (Book) - Adult collection 

Staying alive: real poems for unreal times / Astley, Neil (introduction) -- Tarset, Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books: Bloodaxe Books, (Book) - Adult Anthology 

Sudden collapses in public places / DARLING, JULIA -- Todmorden, Lancs: Arc Publications: Arc Publications, (Book) - Adult Collect 

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