Visitors’ Page

Here are poems people have suggested because they found them helpful or best express their feelings about being ill. To suggest a poem which you think others might benefit from, go down to Poem Suggestions at the bottom of this page.


30 May 2012: from the editor

Two poems recently suggested have been about loss (still in copyright so I have linked them to other sites where they appear). They are Elizabeth Bishop‘s ‘One Art‘, beginning ‘The art of losing isn’t hard to master’, the poet putting a brave face on a loss which clearly pains her greatly; and Roger McGough’s sadly humorous ‘A Poem Just for Me‘ about loss of identity – ‘Where am I now when I need me…?’

Another suggestion was for Anna Swir‘s beautifully resigned ‘Tomorrow they will carve me‘, which is on YouTube read by the poet herself – if you click ‘Show more’ there is also a good biography of the poet and (scrolling down) the text of the poem.


13 March 2012: from the editor

Lately I have been reading the expressive and entertaining poetry of Ciara MacLaverty (born 1968), who fell ill with ME at the age of 18 when she was studying arts at Glasgow University and remained largely bedbound for the next twenty years. Many of her poems recall her earlier childhood with lively observation and sharp humour, qualities which make her descriptions of living with her illness all the more moving. She also kept a blog – – about her illness, her writing, the therapies she tried, and her extraordinary recovery thanks to the mind–body technique the Mickel Therapy. ‘To my happy surprise, I’m now a new mother (age 42). I have a boy and a girl and many days I just can’t believe my luck.’ Her poems are published in Seats for Landing (Dreadful Night Press, 2005). Here is her sardonic account of first being wheeled about in public:

Nice Wheelchair

‘That looks a nice one,’ says Dr Walker, standing erect.
I smile at her from my bed.
Luftwaffe grey with tyres the colour of dough;
More compact than I expect –
for the right fit, a woman from social services
draped her measuring tape
around my bony pyjama-ed hips.


28 February 2012: from Sister Mary Francis

Like all nuns, I say the Divine Office every day, and this book, as well as the prayers, psalms, readings and hymns for each ‘Hour’, also contains a supplement of suggested poems as alternatives to the printed hymns. John Donne’s works feature strongly, and I love reading and meditating and trying to work out his complicated, splendid language. I like the sincerity of his ‘Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness’, for the utter honesty of a man facing up to his own death. I like the hope that runs all the way through it – Donne never doubts that he will go to Heaven – and the complete trust and acceptance he has in God. The last verse really speaks to me – I can see the purple cloak of Jesus wrapping round the poet as he breathes his last.
John Donne, like all the Metaphysical poets, delights in being clever – he loved literary puns and conceits. This religious poem needs careful reading to get out all its riches, but it is well worth the effort. (See my notes at the end of the poem.)

Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness

Since I am coming to that Holy room,
Where, with Thy choir of saints for evermore,
I shall be made Thy music; as I come
I tune the instrument here at the door,
And what I must do then, think here before;


15 January 2012: from Allan

I have had ME for seven years now, and what most frustrates me are the things I  can no longer do. Not just things for myself, but the things I used to do for  other people; these days I feel I am letting people down. I was reminded of the  line ‘They also serve who only stand and wait’, so looked it up to discover it  comes from John Milton’s Sonnet no. 16, ‘On his blindness’. The more often I read it, the more it spoke to me: not completely removing my frustrations but at least easing them.

Sonnet: On his blindness

When I consider how my light is spent,
E’re half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide,
Lodg’d with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
Doth God exact day-labour, light deny’d?
I fondly ask; But patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts, who best
Bear his milde yoke, they serve him best, his State
Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’re Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and waite.

[John Milton (1608-74) was completely blind when he wrote this poem, based on Jesus’ Parable of the Talents (Matthew, 25: 14-30). Ed.]


25 September 2011: from the editor


When compiling Through Corridors of Light I was disappointed not to come across many genuinely funny poems about being ill that were well-constructed enough to include in the book, but one exception was the following limerick by Lauri, who suffered from depression for ‘three years of hell’ before being rescued by the drug Lamotrigine (European name, Lamictal):

Those who don’t know true depression
Might have the misguided impression
That the pain that surrounds us
And practically drowns us
Is just a neurotic obsession.

To which I found this pertinent sequel by ‘Anon.’:

There was a faith-healer of Deal
Who said that though pain is not real
When I sit on a pin
And it punctures my skin
I dislike what I fancy I feel.


31 October 2011: from Jessica

Thank you for this site. I can’t wait to see your book, which my daughter has promised me for Christmas. I found the following poem by Erma Bombeck, an American humorist, on a website called Inspirational Poems about Illness. She was dying when she wrote it: I still have time to heed her warning!

If I Had My Life to Live Over
(Written after she found out she was dying from cancer)

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would
go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day.
I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.
I would have talked less and listened more.
I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained or
the sofa faded.


30 October 2011: from the editor

After finishing my anthology Through Corridors of Light:  Poems of Consolation in Time of Illness I came across the extraordinary deathbed poems of Marin Sorescu (1936-96), the Romanian satirical playwright and poet. During the last five weeks of his life he recorded his thoughts on approaching death in The Bridge (Bloodaxe, 2004) in poems of painful honesty and macabre humour. He suffered from cirrhosis, hepatitis and liver cancer, though it was a heart attack which finally killed him.

Here are three that particularly appealed to me:

Balance Sheet
I have two serious diseases,
A few others, extremely serious,
Plus three more, no less than dreadful
(Every one, I’ve been assured, is incurable).


18 October 2011: from Euphoria

I second Annabel’s comment. I’m really glad that someone at last has created a site for good poetry for people who are ill.  This verse by the 17th century poet Henry King makes me think of my blighted life as still brilliant and majestic as an afterglow of what it once was:

Sic Vita
Like to the falling of a Starre;
Or as the flights of Eagles are;
Or like the fresh springs gawdy hew;
Or silver drops of morning dew;
…


30 September 2011: from Annabel

What a brilliant website – I’m honoured to be the first to enter a poem!  I’m really going to enjoy coming here as I’ve often searched the net for poems about being ill but rarely found any that weren’t doggerel. [The web situation has changed a lot since this was written – see Books & Links here for good sites. Ed.] But here’s someone who can write: Rodney Robbins has coeliac disease, migraines (2-3 times a week) and periodic paralysis (a rare genetic disorder). This poem reminds me how much more difficult some people’s lives are than mine:

‘If Only’ versus ‘What If?’
Chronic illness can affect not only how you feel and how you live, but also how you think. Sometimes it is smart to examine what’s going on inside your head and see if there is a better way to approach your problems. Here are some examples.

If only I didn’t have this stupid illness!
If only I wasn’t so shaky all the time!
If only I could afford to buy my medicine!
What if I decide to enjoy life anyway?
read more… >>


Poem Suggestions

Please enter the details or text of any poem(s) you find especially relevant to living with your illness – ie, poems  you turn to for comfort or inspiration, that give you strength or courage, that alter the way you feel about your illness, or that help you escape from your suffering or circumstances.

(Please resist sending in poems you have written yourself – unless you are really sure they’ll be as helpful to others as they were to you when you wrote them. There are other more appropriate sites where they can be displayed.)


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