Poetry has a unique way of conveying depression-related ideas and feelings. It can be fascinating and thought-provoking when the art helps you relate to grief, sorrow, or despair. Many people have found that reading poetry may help them cope with their depression.
Artists and poets are well-known for addressing mental illness in their art frequently because they have personally experienced it and need a method to make understanding of it.
Poets, like artists, pick and blend colors on a canvas to create something magnificent, and poets do the same with words and paper. They provide us with the language we did not realize we needed to express our subjective experience and sensations for which there was no phrase or reference.
It is crucial to raise public awareness about depression to help people already struggling with it. Since poetry is one of the most effective means of communicating sentiments, we could not resist compiling a list of the best seven poems about depression to demonstrate to you how to cope with this unpleasant state and the challenges that come with it.
Since there are so many beautiful poems on the subject, choosing which ones to share is challenging. The top 7 poems about depression have been picked because they feature an important message that we can all learn from them, such as acknowledging the truth of depression connections, the spirit of community, and one’s strength.
“It was not death for I stood up” – Emily Dickinson.
“It was not death, for I stood up” is written by an American poet Emily Dickinson. The poem conveys a frightening feeling of hopelessness, depression, and despair that is difficult to describe, something that is close to death yet not death.
The poet utilized a variety of references to express how depression feels; however, none felt quite fitting. The poem describes the notion that depression is a perplexing state in which one finds it difficult to articulate one’s true sentiments; despite the fact that depression exists, it is difficult to recognize and address it appropriately.
This depression and hopelessness are so intense that they may take you beyond the conventional progressions of time and everyday life. It is so difficult to bear because it is so unexplainable. Therefore, individuals experiencing depression or a sense of despair should be treated with compassion and care and should seek competent medical advice to be correctly diagnosed.
This poem was first published in the posthumous collection Poems in 1891, and it goes like this:
“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—
As if my life were shaven,
And fitted to a frame,
And could not breathe without a key,
And ’twas like Midnight, some –
When everything that ticked—has stopped—
And Space stares—all around—
Or Grisly frosts—first Autumn morns,
Repeal the Beating Ground—
But, most, like Chaos—Stopless—cool—
Without a Chance, or Spar—
Or even a Report of Land—
“The fury of rainstorms” – Anne Sexton.
Anne Sexton, another troubled poet in the realm of creative writing, wrote “the fury of rainstorm,” a poem in which much of her agony drove her work, making her words worthy for anyone suffering from depression and trying to heal. She, too, struggled with postpartum anxiety after the birth of her daughters and relied on writing and reading to help her recover.
When it is raining outside, and you are stuck inside, you do not usually feel energized; instead, you feel sleepy and lethargic. Sexton describes the scene of rain and red ants hitting off her window in an unusual way. The poet refers to herself as the red ant, and the window represents a life difficulty or battle.
The poet is attempting to convey the idea that no matter how tough the circumstances get, you may be on the verge of a breakdown, but there is no way out; you must just survive and focus on your current condition, hoping and fighting for a better time. This principle is also employed in cognitive behavioral therapy, where you are encouraged to focus on your present situation.
Everyone’s experience of depression is unique, and it may be tedious at times. But doing our part to brighten up our cave through self-care can enable us to get through the darkness.
“The rain drums down like red ants,
each bouncing off my window.
The ants are in great pain
and they cry out as they hit
as if their little legs were only
stitched on and their heads pasted.
And oh they bring to mind the grave,
so humble, so willing to be beat upon
with its awful lettering and
the body lying underneath
without an umbrella.
Depression is boring, I think
and I would do better to make
some soup and light up the cave.”
It is primarily a sorrowful composition, but it concludes on a positive note. This sense of optimism may be out of grasp for many individuals suffering from depression. However, writings like these that touch with relevance and end on a positive perspective can potentially change the outlook of people struggling with depression.
“The owl and the chimpanzee” – Jo Camacho.
The poem “The owl and the chimpanzee” is written by Jo Camacho, a professional hypnotherapist and psychotherapist. The internal struggle is common and reasonable, as the author reveals in this poem. We will have a more tranquil path if we learn to control our primitive, frightened mentality more often and listen to our inner soul, which is wise enough to make decisions.
When we are in challenging situations, it is critical, as the poet explains with the metaphor of a “boat filling with water,” to assign decision-making to the wise half of ourselves; otherwise, our situation may deteriorate, leading to high functioning anxiety, hopelessness, and depression.
“The owl and the chimpanzee went to sea
In a beautiful boat called The Mind
The owl was sensible, clever and smart
The chimp was a little behind
The owl made decisions, based on fact
And knew where to steer its ship
The chimp reacted a little too fast
And often the boat would tip
The waves would come and crash aboard
The chimp would start to cry
Large tears would roll right down his face
Afraid that he would die
The chimp and the owl would wrestle at night
When the world was quiet and still
The chimp would jump up and rock the boat
And the boat would start to fill
Then the owl stepped in and grabbed a pail
And started to empty it out
And the chimp would start to get quite cross
And would often scream and shout
The battle continued night after night
Until the chimp started to see
That if it let the owl take control
A more peaceful night it would be”
The mental conflict many of us endure when the more primitive side of our brain (the chimpanzee brain) gains command is brilliantly articulated in this poem. The wise owl in each of us may be seen here battling with the chimp, who appears to be trying to make things worse, disregarding the possibilities of worst circumstances.
It is all in our hands; if we let the sensible half of ourselves take charge of our life, things will be simple for us; nevertheless, the other control or even influence can derail even little tasks.
“Ode on Melancholy” – John Keats
John Keats, a British Romantic poet, composed “Ode on Melancholy” in 1819. In the early 1800s, the term “melancholy” was used to describe depression.
Keats’ poem deals with depression in a unique way. Rather than being a depressing poem, Keats’ poem encourages the reader to overcome melancholy by embracing the beauty surrounding us. It is a motivational poem about conquering depression that provides those who are depressed an optimistic perspective.
“No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf’s-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss’d
By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow’s mysteries;
For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.
But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.
She dwells with Beauty – Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.”
As we can see in these lines, the poet comes out as a counselor, warning against turning to intoxication or suicide as a means of escaping despair. Instead, he proposes that one can embrace melancholy. The poem also makes a connection between happiness and sorrow. Since everything is temporary, be it good or bad, it must come to an end; the poem implies that every beauty is tinged with profound grief.
“Little stone at my window” – Mario Benedetti
Sometimes despair and anxiety are so overwhelming and crippling that we lose sight of what is about to happen. We have this mentality that whatever is going on is forever exacerbating our mental health issues. However, the reality that there is always a calm after a storm should never be overlooked.
Mario Bendetti wrote this poem in which she uses the metaphor of little stones hurled at a window to describe sentiments of excitement, worry, and suppression. This short poem gives a perspective of feeling our whole spectrum of emotions while avoiding the negative part. Bendetti’s words remind us that joy will always find a way in despite having good and bad days.
“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
The poem expresses the idea that the world is full of opportunities and contentment that staying locked up limits our growth and potential. The poem supports the notion of never surrendering, constantly exploring new things, and keeping a positive attitude about what’s coming.
“The soul has bandaged moments” – Emily Dickenson.
This 19th-century poetry gives readers an intimate view of Dickinson’s depression. She depicts a fight between her spirit and the fear throughout the poem, as her soul experiences short moments of freedom and enslavement. Dickinson’s poem elucidates the psychological struggle that many of us encounter regularly.
“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.”
The poem explores two extremes of emotion: immense exhilaration and freedom and terror and a sense of being confined.
The different states of thought are explored in this poem as frequently our hearts are enslaved, preventing us from pursuing our objectives. However, the poem also demonstrates that there are times of freedom. These little moments of liberation are fleeting, and we are soon enslaved by the terror once again.
“Eleven” – Tanya Markul
The poem’s title alludes to the oddity the author experienced as a child growing up in a family struggling with poverty and addiction. There are so many suppressed bruises in the world, according to the poet, that one person’s bravery in sharing their struggle might become another person’s opportunity to compete, compare, evaluate, vent, and severely judge.
This short poem written by Tanya Markul comes from The She Book. It helps us connect and recover from our prior experiences, even if they were traumatic. We must always look for new methods to connect and understand one another, be nice, and encourage healing.
“The pain that made you
the odd one out
is the story
that connects you
to a healing world.”
This poem has a powerful message for anyone suffering from PTSD and depression. It is not a battle to see who has it worse; instead, we are all recovering in our ways from our circumstances, and we are all in this together, so we do not have to struggle alone.
One should always be willing to seek help to recover, and we should create an environment where people can openly discuss their struggles without fear of being judged or ridiculed.
People suffering from depression have often sought comfort in many forms of art, such as movies about depression or poetry. Poems are one of the most effective means of conveying emotions. Depression, as expressed through poetry, reminds us that one should communicate thoughts and feelings with others.
If you feel like no one knows what you are going through right now, these poems about depression and anxiety will show you that you are not alone. The first stage in treatment is to recognize and acknowledge the problem.
You do not have to be a poet to see depression’s devastating consequences. However, if you can connect to any of the sentiments indicated above, remember that there are specialists who can help you manage your feelings and go back to normal life, and it is never too late to seek help.