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Poetry for recovery

This week at the Nottingham Recovery College, we have been talking about what we like to read and why.

Poetry is not the most popular literary form, but those of us who enjoyed poetry discussed why we liked the poems we liked, it became clear that poetry can be helpful if you are in recovery. We liked that poems are much shorter and that they are more focused so you can complete a poem in one go.

So why don’t we read more poetry? For some of us, it reminds us of being at school, others prefer a different style of writing or in fact a different form of entertainment entirely. However, in line with the popular ‘books on prescription’ promotion, poetry can be a useful way to consider your health from a different perspective and can even help you to gain greater insight into your own thoughts and feelings during your recovery journey.

We spoke about the fact that you have to read a poem more slowly so the act of reading a poem requires a burst of concentration and attention which is quickly rewarded. A poem can have more emotional power as it packs an idea into a much shorter piece of writing.

When you read a poem, read slowly and don’t rush through it as though you are reading a newspaper article or scrolling through your social media. Try to read the poem mindfully, slow your breathing and try to find a quiet moment in your day to help you focus.

It can be helpful to say the poem aloud in your head. This can slow your reading down and help you to focus. It also helps you to pay attention to the rhythm of the poem. A poem also benefits from reading many times. It might mean something different to you depending on how you are feeling at that moment, or at different stages of your life. Perhaps that poem you read at school isn’t so boring after all!

If you prefer to be read to, why not try a poetry podcast or audiobook? The Poetry Foundation has an audio poem of the day and Open Culture has compiled a huge list of audio files to listen to hundreds of popular poems.

Here are some quotes we have found which we feel reflect many different emotions you may feel during your recovery journey (please click on the links for the complete poems):

“When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound.”

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry


“Every day is a fresh beginning;
Listen, my soul, to the glad refrain,”

New Every Morning by Susan Coolidge


“The dark thought, the shame, the malice
Meet them at the door laughing
and invite them in.” 

The Guest House by Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks)


“Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears;”

Everyone Sang by Siegfried Sassoon


“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,”

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver


“I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”

Invictus by W. E. Henley

 

Have you found this blog post helpful? We would love to hear from you on our Facebook page or via our Twitter. Alternatively, please email our blog co-production team on nottingham.recovery.college@nottshc.nhs.uk.

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