Books and Links

(With links to www.; overseas readers please go to the relevant Amazon site for your country.)

Therapeutic poetry

Laura Barber, ed., Penguin’s Poems for Life (2007) – poems for all the stages of life, from infancy and adolescence through to working, family life, ageing, approaching death, and bereavement.

William Barclay, Prayers for Help and Healing (1995) – prayers for sickness, pain and anxiety in hospital, and for those who care for the sick.

Mary Batchelor, ed., The Lion Christian Poetry Collection (1995) – an exhaustive (almost 600-page) anthology of poems spanning 1000 years, including a high proportion of rewarding lesser-known and modern poets not to be encountered in conventional anthologies.

Mark S Bauer, ed., A Mind Apart: Poems of Melancholy, Madness and Addiction (2009) – more than 200 poems from seven centuries that reflect a wide range of mental states, from despondency and despair to melancholy, mania, and madness.

Julia Darling and Cynthia Fuller, eds., The Poetry Cure (2005) – poems about illness, hospitals, loss and bereavement.

John Andrew Denny, ed., Through Corridors of Light: Poems of Consolation in Time of Illness (2011) – a consoling, encouraging and inspiring companion for the seriously or chronically ill, comprised of poems chosen by sufferers themselves for their healing and soothing qualities.

Peter Forbes, ed, We Have Come Through: 100 poems celebrating courage in overcoming depression and trauma (2003).

Daisy Goodwin, ed., 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life: An anthology of emotional first aid (1999) – poems for crises, the blues, bad luck, loss and other bad stuff.

Roger Housden, ed., Ten Poems to Change Your Life (2003) – choosing poems by Mary Oliver, Antonio Machado, Walt Whitman, Rumi, Kabir, Neruda, Merwin, Walcott, and St John of the Cross, Roger Housden ‘shows how these astonishing poems can inspire you to live what you always knew in your bones but never had the words for’.

Beverley McAinsh, ed., with Mark Tully, Something Understood (2002) – a rewarding anthology of poems and prose to aid understanding of love and friendship, youth and age, aspiration, yearning for God, consolation in pain and trouble, and the spiritual trajectory of our lives.

Jon Mukand, ed, Articulations: The Body and Illness in Poetry (1994) – contemporary poems by patients, their families and friends, doctors and other health-care professionals to help them understand and embrace the experiences of healing, illness, and death.

William J O’Malley, Daily Prayers for Busy People (1990) – a stimulating cycle of daily devotions made up of poems, extracts from the Bible and other works of literature, as well as nourishing original prayers written by the editor. There is a second volume, More Daily Prayers for Busy People (2003), by the same editor.

Kim Rosen, Saved by a Poem: The transformative power of words (2009) – a lucid exploration of the ways poetry can bring the reader pleasure, healing and change. There’s an accompanying CD of the poems discussed in the book.

Ken Smith, and Matthew Sweeney, ed., Beyond Bedlam: Poems written out of mental distress (1997) – historical and present-day verse that is testament to the value of the imagination in transcending the distress of mental illness.

Poets writing about their own illness

Jane Colby, ed., Young Hearts: Inspirational poetry by children and young people with ME (The Young ME Sufferers Trust, Ingatestone, Essex, 2004) – movingly honest poems by the young that express every aspect of living with this illness.

Jane Darling, Sudden Collapses in Public Places (2003) – ‘poams about a difficult, scarey subject, cancer, that circle around it lightly, on light dancing feet, and every so often whack you on the head’ – Jacke Kay.
—- Apology for Absence (2004) – ‘poems about chronic illness, friends, daughters, about the fragile beauty of what we have, about dying, but above all about living’ – Jo Shapcott.

Ivor Gurney, Collected Poems (2004) – among his large output of verse are poems that describe the symptoms and consequences of his bipolar disorder, his service in the trenches in the First World War, and  finally his tragic confinement in an asylum without the sympathetic care he needed.

Katie Ruth, A Route of Hope (2009) – a brave book to publish, being the author’s therapy poems written to help her recover from severe panic disorder lasting for two years when she was in her early twenties: ‘My poems…are in no way an attempt to be clever or sophisticated… When I have felt overwhelmingly full of emotions, I have grabbed a pen, and the poems have flowed out of me like sneezing on a page’. This book teaches humility, sincerity, appreciation of the blessings in your life, and above all, hope.

Rachel Hadas, Unending Dialogue: Voices from an AIDS Poetry Workshop (1991) – fruit of the inspired workshops run by Rachel Hadas for AIDS sufferers at New York City’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis, containing 57 of their poems about living with illness, plus sympathetic commentary and further poems by the poet.

Molly Holden, Selected Poems (1987) – unfortunately out of print now, this selection contains many extraordinary poems chronicling the author’s feelings about her decline and death from multiple sclerosis.

Elizabeth Jennings, New Collected Poems (2002) – a classically fine poet whose poems about her mental illness are all the more searing for the restraint of their treatment of her emotions. The most refined of all ‘confessional’ poets.

Linda Martinson, Poetry of Pain: Poems of truth, acceptance and hope for those who suffer chronic pain (1996) – a verse chronicle of suffering from severe pain caused by fibromyalgia, through frustration, anger, depression, acknowledgement, acceptance and hope. The (American) author is a prominent campaigner for more sympathetic treatment of pain sufferers by doctors, who are encouraged to read her book as part of their training. Read her story here.

Carole Satyamurti, Changing the Subject (1990) – witty and beautifully crafted poems, containing in its title sequence her responses on being treated for cancer.

Jason Shinder, Stupid Hope (2009) – ‘a generous, entertaining, and disturbing collection by a poet who left us all too soon. On full display is Shinder’s gift for confronting the truths of sex and sicknesss, luist, and the betrayal of the body from within – all part of a search for the path that will lead him out of lineliness and into love’ – Billy Collins.

Marin Sorescu, The Bridge (2004) – the poet’s farewell to life, poems of painful honesty and macabre humour composed over five weeks as he waited for death to take him.

John Updike, Endpoint and Other Poems (2009) – Updike is much better known as a novelist, but while his poetry is robust and more prosaic than lyrical, he writes with effortless skill and great honesty about things as he sees them. In his title sequence he takes stock on each of his last seven birthdays, ending dispassionately with poems about the illness that finally killed him.

Sarah Wardle, A Knowable World (2009) – in which the poet chronicles her year’s detainment in a London psychiatric hospital, written with great clarity, courage and humour.

On the healing art of writing poetry

John Fox, Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making (1999) – a practical workbook by the leading American ‘poetry therapist’ about how to draw on the healing force of creative writing about one’s experience of illness.

Robert Carroll, ‘Finding the Words to Say It: The Healing Power of Poetry’ (2009) – a powerful article (from Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine) designed to help the reader experience the potential of poetry to heal by feeling its power through your own voice, with moving examples by the author.

General anthologies

Nicholas Albery, ed., Poem for the Day One (1994) and its sequel, Poem for the Day Two (2005) – a good mix of well-known and little-known poems, one for each day of the year, each with a fascinating commentary on the poem or the poet’s life.

Neil Astley, ed., Staying Alive: Real poems for unreal times (2002) – 500 life-affirming poems, the majority by contemporary poets, ‘helping us to stay alive to the world and true to ourselves’. There are two sequels, Being Alive (2004) and Being Human (2011).

Griff Rhys Jones, ed., The Nation’s Favourite Poems (BBC Books, 1996) – all the best-loved poems that everybody can recite some of or half-remember some lines from.

Paul Keegan, ed., New Penguin Book of English Verse (Penguin Books, 2004) – a fresh and varied collection of the best of English poetry.

Christopher Reid,  ed, Sounds Good: 101 poems to be heard (Faber & Faber, 1998) – mellifluous poems that revel in the musical qualities of verse.


Get Well Soon poems – poems about illness and healing, hospitals and doctors.

Poems for Illness – a listing of poets who have written about the experience of illness from the sufferers’ as well as the carers’ or onlookers’ points of view. An Academy of American Poets website.

The Poetry of Illness – a fascinating exploration of the way various modern poets have approached illness, loss, and grief, in the excellent blog Writing Without Paper: Art*Dance*Poetry*Music*Musings.

Poetry Foundation: poems about Health & Illness – a miscellaneous listing of poems loosely relating to health and ill health.

Poetry Archive: Poems about Illness – poems from the archive loosely relating to illness.

Healing Words: Poetry and Medicine – a medical project founded on the belief that healing is an art, not merely a skill, and that the practice of medicine should combine the fruits of science and technology as well as the arts in a spirit of compassion. The essence of the project is demonstrated in the made-for-TV programme of the same title.

Writing and Healing – the most compendious site I have seen on the subject of the healing power of writing, compiled by a former physician and now high-school teacher of English who has spent several years gathering healing writings and preparing to write her present work-in-progress, One Year of Writing and Healing.

Poems in the Waiting Room – online version of poetry pamphlets sent to doctors’ waiting rooms to give patients something inspiring and thoughtful to uplift them while they are waiting to be seen. The printed pamphlets can be obtained by contacting the website.

Poetry Chaikhana: Sacred Poetry from Around the World: Pain and Wounding – an exhaustive collection of poetry by mystics, saints and philosophers for whom pain is a gateway to deeper understanding and union with the Divine.

Dear Thyroid – a community of thyroid cancer sufferers and their families who come together to air their feelings about the disease in frank, uninhibited submissions in the form of letters, poems, fiction, jokes, photographs, video, audio, etc. A fun site, in spite of its subject.

Poems, Philosophy and Cancer – a repository of hundreds of moving, often searing, but ultimately healing poems written by sufferers about their experience of living with cancer.

What Matters Now – provides free personal websites for people whose lives have been affected by serious illness or injury, to help people be surrounded by the love and support of family and friends, and have space for reflection when facing a life-changing situation. Can also be used as a space for carers, etc, to post inspiring or encouraging poetry along with any other supportive messages.

If I Should Die – ‘Poems and Words of Comfort’ from a site the purpose of which is to provide as much practical information and support as possible, aimed at everyone, whether they are considering their own death, coping with the death of a loved one, arranging a funeral, thinking about making a will, or just needing comforting words for some of the most difficult and painful emotions and feelings associated with death and bereavement.


Through Corridors of Light jacket

Through Corridors of Light

Poems of Consolation in Time of Illness

Royalties to be donated to ME Research UK

232pp attractively illustrated throughout with line drawings.
Published in the UK by Lion Hudson @£9.99 and
in the US by Trafalgar Square Publishing @$14.00
or order direct from me @£7.99 post free (UK customers).
To pay by cheque, or for overseas customers to ascertain postal cost, please contact me.