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  • Writer's pictureStudent Wellbeing Service

The Power of Poetry

Updated: Jan 12, 2021


Words can have the power to hurt but also have the power to heal.

Poetry has been used for centuries to help express or endure some of life’s most painful and difficult moments. It allows us to use the complexity of language to capture some of the most difficult feelings that humans can endure. Poetry helps us translate the emotions of deep loss, heartache or even depression into verse. It enables us to confront our innermost feelings and thoughts providing a creative and safe channel, which we can share with others.

So, in the modern-day, poems are able to be a form of comfort and transport us out of our own world into someone else’s. Writing your own poetry might even provide a tool to process and explore complex feelings that are difficult to understand. It is also a shared experience and can offer a deep connection with others. It may also help to widen vocabulary and cultural knowledge and there are many great poets to choose from different centuries and cultural backgrounds. They all provide different insights into humanity, opening our eyes to a world of different experiences.

There are a multitude of poets and poems both contemporary and more traditional to choose from as well as books and web-based platforms. The book “Stressed Unstressed” and “101 Poems to Get You Through the Day (And Night)” focus on poems to help through difficult times. I have chosen three poems to share which have helped sustain me.

Invictus by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me, Black as the Pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds, and shall find, me unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

I particularly like Invictus, which Nelson Mandela used as a comfort during his many years of incarceration. I find the last two lines particularly powerful and empowering in challenging times.

Leisure by William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare. No time to stand beneath the boughs And stare as long as sheep or cows. No time to see, when woods we pass, Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass. No time to see, in broad daylight, Streams full of stars, like skies at night. No time to turn at Beauty's glance, And watch her feet, how they can dance. No time to wait till her mouth can Enrich that smile her eyes began. A poor life this if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.

I feel this poem inspires a mindful approach to life and encourages us to slow down and enjoy time to just be.

Rainbow by Hu Diquing

Though we are far apart,

My friend don’t you worry!

Wait till the day

When the rainbow appears,

I on this side of the rainbow

And you on the other side

Together let's grab hold of it

Tightly hold on to it

Then together let's flip it over.

Hooray! What a fine seven-coloured boat!

We’ll paddle with our twin oars

And run with the Spring sun.

I love this poem as it feels so optimistic. When times are tough, which they are now and we are not able to see friends and loved ones, it reminds me that these times will pass and we will be able to meet with friends and family again at some point.

So whatever your taste, background or culture there will be a poem out there somewhere that speaks to. Why not explore the healing power of words through books or online. Below are some links and search terms to help you start exploring:

Viv Farrand

Student Wellbeing Advisor - Faculty of Science

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