Poetry has always been a medium for the subjects we least like to discuss. It’s a way to describe our innermost thoughts without saying exactly what we mean, and that’s why it’s so special. A poem is always open to interpretation, and that means that many readers will never truly understand the mind of the poet. But that’s okay. This style of writing is meant to be fluid.
Many readers believe that a number of writers who have committed suicide left clues in their poems–Sylvia Plath chief among them. According to research on the subject, writers who have committed suicide veer toward subjects of social detachment and narcissism, in stark contrast with writers who lived to a ripe old age or died naturally.
Writers are known to commit suicide at a greater rate than average, poets in particular, so it might not come as too much of a surprise that depressed writers tend to choose darker words and explore darker subjects than happy writers. According to the same research, struggling writers often stick to the first-person point of view, using the word “I” at higher rates.
Today, poetry is used as a medium in order to prevent suicide. It is used to explore our feelings of grief after a loss or teach others about options to cope with depression.
There are those who believe it’s the nature of poetry that causes depression among poets. When you write, you most often do it alone. As a species, we most often focus on the negative over the positive. Poetry is a means of personal expression, and therefore it focuses on the bad over the good. Then again, poets also have increased rates of mental illness. Is creativity a predictor of depression or other mental illness?
Poets tend to die an average of six years earlier than those in other professions. This is due to increased rates of alcohol and drug abuse, suicide, and all the health concerns that result. Whether or not this is causative is open to debate. Perhaps those who are depressed are simply more likely to turn to poetry as a means of coping.