Why Do Poets Write About Self-Inflicted Pain?

Pain in poetry is nothing new. Many people will tell you that the core characteristic inherent in all writers is injury, self-inflicted or not. Physical or emotional. Writers write because they want to explore those feelings that we generally do not discuss openly in society. It’s their way of providing hope for everyone else who feels lost or like people generally don’t understand their hopes, desires, emotions, etc. 

Why do they do this? Because life isn’t just about what happens out in the open. It’s about what happens behind closed doors — or, in the case of writers exploring personal injury through poetry, that which happens within the mind, a sack of fat and fluid that holds our deepest, darkest thoughts. That’s why so many people have a passion for poetry! It uses imagery and metaphor to tell a story that normal prose cannot. 

Interestingly, many professional poets have explored self-inflicted pain both personally and thematically. Fans of poetry or novice writers have done their best to explore this topic online, through non-official contests, like this one. PouncingXXkitten said, “I want to hear your best poems about self-inflicted pain.”

Dozens of entries were collected, not for a tangible prize or recognition, but instead for personal fulfillment. Titles were as dark as you’d expect: “Razor Blade Obsession,” “This is Humanity,” “Re-Chained,” “Gorgeous Eyes Shine Suicide,” and “Permanent Memories” were all ranked near the top.

Of course, the real turmoil was explored in the stanzas themselves.

This was Gorgeous Eyes Shine Suicide:

“Tears run down my face and arm

Carrying pain and carrying harm

Some are red and some are clear

Filled with sadness, filled with fear.

Flowers bloom upon my skin

Bold, bright and red; the colour of sin

The dark poppies on the white of flesh

How could anybody ever guess?

The only way to release my pain

But the freedom is always followed by shame

I never want anyone to see me like this

That why I hide the scars that cover my wrists

Because who could love a girl like me?

To my stone cold heart there is no key

No-one can know my secret of desire

The need, the thirst, that painful fire

One look at my scars and they’re filled with disgust,

No-one can know my true feeling of lust

I’m a cutter addicted to the high that it brings

I crave blood and pain more than anything

I know how it feels to be so shut out

You just want help, but no-one hears your shout.”

This isn’t just a piece about the fears of growing up in a judgmental society with few hopes and dreams to live for — it’s a piece that reminds all of us that we should treat everyone with love and respect because we never know what’s going on beneath the surface. Is this narrator living through a nightmare as bad as she believes? Maybe. But maybe not. 

If you are struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek professional help and support