Poetics of the Mind is a collection of poetry from both famous and new who have lived with mental health disruptions and share that experience in their work. We hope you’re able to immerse yourself in the words and worlds of these poets.
I shall never get you put together entirely,
Pieced, glued, and properly jointed.
Mule-bray, pig-grunt and bawdy cackles
Proceed from your great lips.
It’s worse than a barnyard.
Perhaps you consider yourself an oracle,
Mouthpiece of the dead, or of some god or other.
Thirty years now I have labored
To dredge the silt from your throat.
I am none the wiser.
Scaling little ladders with glue pots and pails of lysol
I crawl like an ant in mourning
Over the weedy acres of your brow
To mend the immense skull plates and clear
The bald, white tumuli of your eyes.
A blue sky out of the Oresteia
Arches above us. O father, all by yourself
You are pithy and historical as the Roman Forum.
I open my lunch on a hill of black cypress.
Your fluted bones and acanthine hair are littered
In their old anarchy to the horizon-line.
It would take more than a lightning-stroke
To create such a ruin.
Nights, I squat in the cornucopia
Of your left ear, out of the wind,
Counting the red stars and those of plum-color.
The sun rises under the pillar of your tongue.
My hours are married to shadow.
No longer do I listen for the scrape of a keel
On the blank stones of the landing.
Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 27, 1932. Her mental health impacted her poetry as the depressive Plath committed suicide in 1963, She garnered accolades after her death for the novel The Bell Jar, and the poetry collections The Colossus and Ariel.
I’m Not Okay
Taz is a spoken word poet from the United Kingdom. She writes honest, confessional pieces about her experiences with depression and self-doubt.
Ernest Hemingway was an American novelist, short story writer, and journalist. His economical and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Much has been written about Ernest Hemingway, including discussion of his well-documented mood disorder, alcoholism, and suicide.
by Neil Hilborn
Neil Hilborn made waves when his performance of “OCD,” a slam poem about falling in love when you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, went viral.
by Jack Kerouac
fall, hands a-clasped, into instantaneous
ecstasy like a shot of heroin or morphine,
the gland inside of my brain discharging
the good glad fluid (Holy Fluid) as
i hap-down and hold all my body parts
down to a deadstop trance-Healing
all my sicknesses-erasing all-not
even the shred of a ‘I-hope-you’ or a
Loony Balloon left in it, but the mind
blank, serene, thoughtless. When a thought
comes a-springing from afar with its held-
forth figure of image, you spoof it out,
you spuff it off, you fake it, and
it fades, and thought never comes-and
with joy you realize for the first time
‘thinking’s just like not thinking-
So I don’t have to think
Jean-Louis “Jack” Kerouac was an American novelist and poet who experienced mental health and emotional turbulence throughout his life. Kerouac was discharged from the Navy with a diagnosis of dementia praecox, a term that has since been replaced by schizophrenia. His later drug and alcohol use has been linked to bouts of depression. Kerouac’s poetry, which like his novels sought to incorporate an awareness and understanding of the rapidly changing world he found himself a part of, features the recurring themes of introspection and personal loss. He is considered a literary iconoclast and, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, a pioneer of the Beat Generation.
by Yashi Brown
Yashi Brown is an author, poet, speaker and active leader in the mental health community. She writes about living with mental health, anti-stigma and her experiences with bipolar disorder. Her recent book of poems is called “Black Daisy in a White Limousine.”