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The power of poetry

It’s true that poetry can be mindbogglingly confusing, but it can also be ever so simple. It can be several pages of complicated verse, or a few simple, easy-to-read words. Whatever form it takes, writing poetry is a unique and personal way of telling your story or making sense of your journey.

Can anyone be a poet? That’s a tricky question and a lot like asking if anyone can be an artist. In theory, anyone can learn the techniques of writing poetry, but, like anything, writing poetry takes practice. Once you start though, it is almost impossible to stop, and you’ll quickly find that every time you start to feel anxious or depressed, you pick up a pen and start writing. And this really does help you settle your thoughts and focus on other things.

So, how do you start writing poetry for mental health? Simply take a notepad and pen everywhere you go and start making notes about what you see, think, feel and experience. Note down just one or two words, or a short sentence. We remember things more easily if they are attached to an emotion, so if you practice this every day, you’ll start to build a portfolio of memory-based words, relating to your experiences, which you can then use to start composing your poems.

Read a poem a day too, ideally from different eras, cultures and styles. Stick to just one a day, as this helps you concentrate on one particular style at a time. You’ll slowly start to gravitate towards your preferred style of poetry, as well as developing your own ‘voice’ when writing poetry. You may prefer the simple haiku, more complicated sonnet, or the open style of free verse. You may find a specific rhythm and beat within your poetry, or you may prefer to use rhyming verse. You may prefer repetitiveness within your verses to highlight a point, or the style of one or two words per line.

But one thing is for sure – writing poetry will quickly become an amazingly creative way of helping you grow and develop, and ultimately heal. Get writing!

Anxiety UK poetry competition results 2022

A huge thank you to everybody to submitted their poems. We hope you have all found the benefits of writing and continue with this creative outlet. Our theme this year was nature and they were a joy for the judges to read. With thanks to Listening Books for their contribution, and careful consideration from all the judges, we are pleased to congratulate our 2022 winners…

1st place: Debra Williams - Sitting with Sparrowhawks
2nd place: Mat Robinson - My lived experience...
3rd place: Cecilia SC Harris - On Growing, Becoming, Being

You can read the winning poems below.

With special mention to…

Chris de Mercado
Oliver Piepereit
Lisa Smith
Maz Sanjoori
Stephanie Kenny
Sarah Mills
Eleanor Lowe
Cotty Vicary

1st Place
Name: Debra Williams
Title: Sitting with Sparrowhawks

I am slow, plodding through this wood, worried about stumbling, as in life,
But I am here anyway, and that’s a start.

I wade through a wide, deep sea of cool green and dappled shade,
Brushing past swaying knee-high fronds.

My shoulders relax, my breathing deepens as nature works her magic,
And my stress hormones slow their swirling.

Soon, I am sitting on soft bark carpeting the woodland floor,
Leaning back against a tree to wait.

I focus my mind deliberately, painstakingly, on the present,
Pushing away the rumination.

At first, it’s a struggle, but suddenly a high-pitched cry sounds from above,
And my heart floods with excitement.

The adult female sparrowhawk in all her ferocious brown beauty,
Flies towards her nest of young.

Three downy white heads lift up, then lower to their meal,
Fluffy white rears upending as they feed.

Observing them so intently, I am released from stress and worry,
Captivated by these fine young hawks.

Their antics bring me joy and – for a while – the day to day retreats,
Future fears, past problems, what ifs…

All gone, replaced by sitting in the moment with this wild family,
Going about their day to day.

Sleep. “Feed me!” Wing flap, hop up onto a branch – surprise!
Back into the nest, sleep again, carefree.

Below them, sitting peacefully now in this tiny sunlit clearing,
I know exactly how that feels.

The journey I have undertaken with these birds has been a joyous one,
They will fly high soon and so will I.

2nd Place
Name: Mat Robinson
Title: My lived experience…

Places of interest at the local gardens.
A view across a tree lined valley.
Nice places for a picnic.
Interesting rock formations.
Clouds wrapped around mountain tops, are all off limits to me.

Apple blossom.
Nice long walks though undulating meadows.
Xtreme climbs down shale faces.
Ice creams on park benches.
Egrets fishing in a lake.
Tracks through newly sea-washed sand.
Yomping along muddy paths,

are all off limits to me.

Flower buds about to pop.
Ears of corn patiently listening.
Above us birds of many hues,
Ravens, blackbirds, robins too, are all off limits to me.

Nature is beautiful
And nature is scary.
The caveman system in my head
Urges me to run and to fight, not to enjoy.
Rural idylls are tainted by fear.
Every step from my front door being painful,

is my lived experience.

3rd Place
Name: Cecilia SC Harris
Title: On Growing, Becoming, Being

I’m not a bird but today I grow wings
And with the butterflies I will fly
I’m not the ocean but today I let it flow
And with streams and rivers I’ll dive as deep as I can
I’m not the sun but today I become warm
And with the fire and its rattle and wriggles I’ll dance
I’m not the wind but today I move on
And with children I play by blowing love throughout the planet
I’m not the stars but today I light up
And in the darkest hours along with the moonlight I will shine
I’m not a tree but today I bury the seed of the future
And a plant will grow whose flowers will be of hope.

Nobody realizes that real and fantasy come apart in the end.
I’m not the sky but today I am bright, warm, shining.
However there are moments when I also wake up raining.

Here is what our winners received… Look out for future poetry competitions

1st place
• Featured in Anxiety UK’s Autumn issue of Anxious Times
• 1-year free Anxiety UK membership (or renewal when due)
• A 1-year membership to Listening Books’ audiobook lending service (which usually costs between £20 to £45 per year)
• A copy of ‘Practical about Panic’ by Joshua Fletcher

2nd place
• Featured in Anxiety UK’s Autumn issue of Anxious Times
• 50% discount on Anxiety UK membership (or renewal when due)
• A copy of ‘Practical about Panic’ by Joshua Fletcher

3rd place
• Featured in Anxiety UK’s Autumn issue of Anxious Times
• A copy of ‘Practical about Panic’ by Joshua Fletcher

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