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The Poetry Pharmacy: Tried-and-True Prescriptions for the Mind, Heart and Soul

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In the years since he first had the idea of prescribing short, powerful poems for all manner of spiritual ailments, William Sieghart has taken his Poetry Pharmacy around the length and breadth of Britain, into the pages of the Guardian, onto BBC Radio 4 and onto the television, honing his prescriptions all the time. This pocket-sized book presents the most essential poems In the years since he first had the idea of prescribing short, powerful poems for all manner of spiritual ailments, William Sieghart has taken his Poetry Pharmacy around the length and breadth of Britain, into the pages of the Guardian, onto BBC Radio 4 and onto the television, honing his prescriptions all the time. This pocket-sized book presents the most essential poems in his dispensary: those which, again and again, have really shown themselves to work. Whether you are suffering from loneliness, lack of courage, heartbreak, hopelessness, or even from an excess of ego, there is something here to ease your pain.


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In the years since he first had the idea of prescribing short, powerful poems for all manner of spiritual ailments, William Sieghart has taken his Poetry Pharmacy around the length and breadth of Britain, into the pages of the Guardian, onto BBC Radio 4 and onto the television, honing his prescriptions all the time. This pocket-sized book presents the most essential poems In the years since he first had the idea of prescribing short, powerful poems for all manner of spiritual ailments, William Sieghart has taken his Poetry Pharmacy around the length and breadth of Britain, into the pages of the Guardian, onto BBC Radio 4 and onto the television, honing his prescriptions all the time. This pocket-sized book presents the most essential poems in his dispensary: those which, again and again, have really shown themselves to work. Whether you are suffering from loneliness, lack of courage, heartbreak, hopelessness, or even from an excess of ego, there is something here to ease your pain.

30 review for The Poetry Pharmacy: Tried-and-True Prescriptions for the Mind, Heart and Soul

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ilse

    Any healthy man can go without food for two days--but not without poetry. Charles Baudelaire I liked the concept and premise of this variegated anthology a lot. A fine poem a day keeps the doctor away. As a believer in the power and the necessity of poetry, I cheer William Sieghart’s laudable mission to listen to people’s problems and administer a “prescription” in the shape of poem to those affected by what he classifies as “conditions” (mostly ‘spiritual ailments’ as there are, addiction, despai Any healthy man can go without food for two days--but not without poetry. Charles Baudelaire I liked the concept and premise of this variegated anthology a lot. A fine poem a day keeps the doctor away. As a believer in the power and the necessity of poetry, I cheer William Sieghart’s laudable mission to listen to people’s problems and administer a “prescription” in the shape of poem to those affected by what he classifies as “conditions” (mostly ‘spiritual ailments’ as there are, addiction, despair at the absurdity of the world, aging, the emotions connected to love, regret, self-recrimination, heartbreak, depression, isolation, various forms of fear, grief, lethargy, illness, worrying and many, many more - the array of human suffering is wide). As a devotee and promotor of poetry, having founded National Poetry Day in Britain, he understood that suffering is the access point to poetry for a lot of people and that such offers a momentum to introduce people to poetry as they are ready to open their ears, hearts and minds – and find poetry as a balm, a comfort, a smile, a succour, or simply a help to embrace one’s feelings in certain situations (infatuation, grief) The poems are presented in five categories, touching on mental and emotional wellbeing, motivations, self-image and self-acceptance, the world and other people, love and loss. (Heinrich Vogeler, Sehnsucht (Träumerei), 1900) Sieghart introduces each poem by a page-long meditation reflecting on what we might need if we are overwhelmed by certain emotions and why he selected that particular poem to come to an aid. As much as I liked reading his considerate reflections on the human condition, about one third in I reversed the order of reading and first read the poem before turning to his commentary, as his musings started to distract me from the poetry as well as taking away somewhat the joy of discovery and interpretation under my own steam. Having approached the book in two ways – first time dipping in and out, the second time reading it from cover to cover – I enjoyed dipping in the most, just opening this lovely, pretty volume and imbibing what the random two pages offered – admittedly, like the princess in Leskov’s story The Spirit of Madame de Genlis found out by opening a book at random trusting to find apposite wisdom ,there is also a risk in that. You might find yourself in an quite different mood than apposite for the poem, while the particular resonance of mood in tune with the poem is exactly what makes this anthology stand out from others bundling poems from another perspective or thematically (like the anthologies that previously found their way to my bookcase on love, death, the seasons, or simply ‘the most beautiful poems ever’). On the other hand, it is worth taking a chance, as I largely agree with Sieghart’s point that a poem as ‘a sudden splash of serenity and beauty can provide the impetus needed to turn the mood around’. For someone coming from a different linguistic area, not all but many of the poets called on were a first acquaintance and so fresh, while many naturally are household names to the English speaking audience this anthology is serving in the first place (Siegfried Sassoon, Wendell Berry, Philip Larkin, Maya Angelou, Mary Oliver, Seamus Heany, Derek Walcott, John Donne) – only the poems of Hafez, Rumi, Izumi Shikibu come in a translation. Despite the splendour of the greater part of the poems, the anthology left me slightly underwhelmed, because some of the poems tasted rather bland for me - not because of their content, which was often poignant enough, just their tone, cadence, musicality couldn’t stir me much aesthetically – I assume some more of them might grow on me on a next read. Having finished this collection, it was a great pleasure to listen to the touching testimony of William Sieghart about the project and the power of poetry, in which his love for the Persian poet Hafez shines through. Sieghart closes his anthology with an invitation to share with him the poems that mean the most to the reader (The Poetry Pharmacy Returns: More Prescriptions for Courage, Healing and Hope, a second volume of the poetry pharmacy meanwhile saw the light of the day and I look forward to read that too). Why not take inspiration from that call and bundle for yourself the poems that have been or are meaningful to you in some nice little notebook, a beacon to turn to when sailing stormy water? I will start tomorrow, what are you waiting for? Some of the poems that spoke most to me at the moment of reading – preferences might vary with the mood: Although the wind Although the wind blows terribly here, the moonlight also leaks between the roof planks of this ruined house. (Izumi Shikibu, translated by Jane Hirshfield) (Izumi Shikibu in a 1765 Kusazōshi by Komatsuken) The Trees The trees are coming into leaf Like something almost being said; The recent buds relax and spread, Their greenness is a kind of grief. Is it that they are born again And we grow old? No, they die too, Their yearly trick of looking new Is written down in rings of grain. Yet still the unresting castles thresh In fullgrown thickness every May. Last year is dead, they seem to say, Begin afresh, afresh, afresh. (Philip larkin) (David Hockney, 2020) Love is Not All (Sonnet XXX) Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain; Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink And rise and sink and rise and sink again; Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath, Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone; Yet many a man is making friends with death Even as I speak, for lack of love alone. It well may be that in a difficult hour, Pinned down by pain and moaning for release, Or nagged by want past resolution's power, I might be driven to sell your love for peace, Or trade the memory of this night for food. It well may be. I do not think I would. (Edna St. Vincent Millay) (Gabriel Pachecho) The Present Much has been said about being in the present. It’s the place to be, according to the gurus, like the latest club on the downtown scene, but no one, it seems, is able to give you directions. It doesn’t seem desirable or even possible to wake up every morning and begin leaping from one second into the next until you fall exhausted back into bed. Plus, there’d be no past with so many scenes to savor and regret, and no future, the place you will die but not before flying around with a jet-pack. The trouble with the present is that it’s always in a state of vanishing. Take the second it takes to end this sentence with a period––already gone. What about the moment that exists between banging your thumb with a hammer and realizing you are in a whole lot of pain? What about the one that occurs after you hear the punch line but before you get the joke? Is that where the wise men want us to live in that intervening tick, the tiny slot that occurs after you have spent hours searching downtown for that new club and just before you give up and head back home? (Billy Collins)

  2. 4 out of 5

    ~Bookishly Numb~

    The Poetry Pharmacy is exactly what it states in the title. This short read contains poems from a range of authors, all dealing with different subjects, such as bereavement, obsessive love, self image and self acceptance and various others. Some of these poems I enjoyed and appreciated more than others. Here is one of my favourites; "Although the wind." By Izumi Shikibu. Although the wind blows terribly here, the moonlight also leaks between the roof planks of this ruined house. I like the variety of au The Poetry Pharmacy is exactly what it states in the title. This short read contains poems from a range of authors, all dealing with different subjects, such as bereavement, obsessive love, self image and self acceptance and various others. Some of these poems I enjoyed and appreciated more than others. Here is one of my favourites; "Although the wind." By Izumi Shikibu. Although the wind blows terribly here, the moonlight also leaks between the roof planks of this ruined house. I like the variety of authors that are included in here. You have Rumi, but then you have Maya Angelou. I happen to love Maya Angelou's "Phenomenal woman" and this poem is in the section of "Insecurity" This poem is grand for any woman that is insecure about themselves, especially their appearance, and it tells us that you don't have to live up to or be societies expectation. You are an individual, and you are a phenomenal woman, no matter what size dress you take, or no matter what you choose to wear. While I liked this book, I thought that the author could have included a few poems for each section, as I do think for me, it was certainly lacking something. I think this is a good book to start with if you are fairly new to poetry, or, it could make a rather good present for an individual needing some thoughtful words.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Today is National Poetry Day here in the UK, and there could be no better primer for reluctant poetry readers than William Sieghart’s The Poetry Pharmacy. Consider it the verse equivalent of Berthoud and Elderkin’s The Novel Cure: an accessible and inspirational guide that suggests the right piece at the right time to help heal a particular emotional condition. Sieghart, a former chairman of the Arts Council Lottery Panel, founded the Forward Prizes for Poetry in 1992 and National Poetry Day itse Today is National Poetry Day here in the UK, and there could be no better primer for reluctant poetry readers than William Sieghart’s The Poetry Pharmacy. Consider it the verse equivalent of Berthoud and Elderkin’s The Novel Cure: an accessible and inspirational guide that suggests the right piece at the right time to help heal a particular emotional condition. Sieghart, a former chairman of the Arts Council Lottery Panel, founded the Forward Prizes for Poetry in 1992 and National Poetry Day itself in 1994. He’s active in supporting public libraries and charities, but he’s also dedicated to giving personal poetry prescriptions, and has taken his Poetry Pharmacy idea to literary festivals, newspapers and radio programs. Under five broad headings, this short book covers everything from Anxiety and Convalescence to Heartbreak and Regret. I most appreciated the discussion of slightly more existential states, such as Feelings of Unreality, for which Sieghart prescribes a passage from John Burnside’s “Of Gravity and Light,” about the grounding Buddhist monks find in menial tasks. Pay attention to life’s everyday duties, the poem teaches, and higher insights will come. I also particularly enjoyed Julia Darling’s “Chemotherapy”— I never thought that life could get this small, that I would care so much about a cup, the taste of tea, the texture of a shawl, and whether or not I should get up. and “Although the wind” by Izumi Shikibu: Although the wind blows terribly here, the moonlight also leaks between the roof planks of this ruined house. Sieghart has chosen a great variety of poems in terms of time period and register. Rumi and Hafez share space with Wendy Cope and Maya Angelou. Of the 56 poems, I’d estimate that at least three-quarters are from the twentieth century or later. At times the selections are fairly obvious or clichéd (especially “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” for Bereavement), and the choice of short poems or excerpts seems to pander to short attention spans. So populist is the approach that Sieghart warns Keats is the hardest of all. I also thought there should have been a strict one poem per poet rule; several get two or even three entries. If put in the right hands, though, this book will be an ideal introduction to the breadth of poetry out there. It would be a perfect Christmas present for the person in your life who always says they wish they could appreciate poetry but just don’t know where to start or how to understand it. Readers of a certain age may get the most out of the book, as a frequently recurring message is that it’s never too late to change one’s life and grow in positive ways. “What people need more than comfort is to be given a different perspective on their inner turmoil. They need to reframe their narrative in a way that leaves room for happiness and gratitude,” Sieghart writes. Poetry is a perfect way to look slantwise at truth (to paraphrase Emily Dickinson) and change your perceptions about life. If you’re new to poetry, pick this up at once; if you’re an old hand, maybe buy it for someone else and have a quick glance through to discover a new poet or two. Do you turn to poetry when you’re struggling with life? Does it help? Related reading: Books I’ve read and enjoyed: The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem by Ruth Padel The Poem and the Journey and 60 Poems to Read Along the Way by Ruth Padel Currently reading: Why Poetry by Matthew Zapruder On the TBR: Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir by Jill Bialosky How to Read a Poem by Molly Peacock Originally published, with images, on my blog, Bookish Beck.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    4.5 stars if I could, but I'm happy to round up rather than down. Robert Graves wrote, “A well chosen anthology is a complete dispensary of medicine for the more common mental disorders, and may be used as much for prevention as cure,” and that is the premise of the present anthology. Sieghart explains in his introduction how the idea of his Poetry Pharmacy arose and developed, following with a useful short note on "how to read poetry". He then introduces each poem under a heading for the "conditi 4.5 stars if I could, but I'm happy to round up rather than down. Robert Graves wrote, “A well chosen anthology is a complete dispensary of medicine for the more common mental disorders, and may be used as much for prevention as cure,” and that is the premise of the present anthology. Sieghart explains in his introduction how the idea of his Poetry Pharmacy arose and developed, following with a useful short note on "how to read poetry". He then introduces each poem under a heading for the "conditions" for which he would describe them, and how a particular reading might shed light upon the causes of, or alleviate the feelings of, distress. Naturally, there is a subjective view to such things, and I didn't always feel a particular poem was apposite, or that it would necessarily be helpful or therapeutic, but that's shaped by my own feeling-world and frame of reference. On balance, I think Sieghart hit the mark much more often than he missed. I'm not sure how seriously Sieghart takes his idea of prescribing "pills" of poetry as if they would have a defined, consistent, and predictable effect upon different individuals. I'd assume that's not his position (and I'd disagree with him if it is), however, in a social setting that adheres to the Western medical-model of health and well-being, his pharmacy concept may be a gateway through which people can engage with poetry, and hopefully find a reflective space in which they can better understand themselves and the wellsprings of their distress.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dane Cobain

    This was a cute little collection, although it did also start to feel a little repetitive after a while. In it, Sieghart basically takes a bunch of different circumstances in which someone might need a poem and then he makes a diagnosis and writes out a prescription in the form of a famous poem. Sieghart has made a name for himself as the proprietor of the Poetry Pharmacy, and he goes to events and listens to people’s troubles and then suggests a poem that might help them. It’s a pretty cool idea This was a cute little collection, although it did also start to feel a little repetitive after a while. In it, Sieghart basically takes a bunch of different circumstances in which someone might need a poem and then he makes a diagnosis and writes out a prescription in the form of a famous poem. Sieghart has made a name for himself as the proprietor of the Poetry Pharmacy, and he goes to events and listens to people’s troubles and then suggests a poem that might help them. It’s a pretty cool idea, and the poems in this collection are plenty of fun and come from a wide variety of sources. It’s also presented in a stunning red hardback that quite honestly will make a great addition to your collection even if you don’t read it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ophelia

    I just love the idea of this - sounds like the perfect job, to sit and listen to people tell you how they're feeling, and then read them a poem that makes them feel less alone in that feeling. Whilst I didn't necessarily love all the poems in this collection (question: is two bullet pointed sentences really a poem? idk) they all made sense with the explanation of their inclusion alongside, and the afflictions of the heart, mind and soul that they intend to treat. It also includes some of my favou I just love the idea of this - sounds like the perfect job, to sit and listen to people tell you how they're feeling, and then read them a poem that makes them feel less alone in that feeling. Whilst I didn't necessarily love all the poems in this collection (question: is two bullet pointed sentences really a poem? idk) they all made sense with the explanation of their inclusion alongside, and the afflictions of the heart, mind and soul that they intend to treat. It also includes some of my favourites, plus many I hadn't heard of and now plan to read again. Giving it a 3.5* rounded up for the surprising amount of joy it brought.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    A poetry book for people who say they don’t like poetry.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Liv Chalmers

    I am so grateful for this book, you would not believe. This book got me out of a two year plus reading slump, that was ruled by my depression. Sieghart's short but sweet entries alongside these poems were almost my saviour. The whole collection was so real and relatable which only made you see yourself in these little moments of self help. It was a pat on the back without even knowing it. I would recommend this to any poetry lovers who are struggling; Sieghart has a remedy for you all. These rec I am so grateful for this book, you would not believe. This book got me out of a two year plus reading slump, that was ruled by my depression. Sieghart's short but sweet entries alongside these poems were almost my saviour. The whole collection was so real and relatable which only made you see yourself in these little moments of self help. It was a pat on the back without even knowing it. I would recommend this to any poetry lovers who are struggling; Sieghart has a remedy for you all. These recommendations and moments of clarity are what I needed to get back onto my road of recovery, and being able to read for pleasure again has really made me realise that I am getting there again.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    I don't know a great deal about poetry and often feel that I 'don't get it'. This book is ideal for me! William Seighart has compiled a selection of poems for all sorts of emotional states and occasions. On the left-hand page are his thoughts about the piece and why someone might find it suitable for a particular time in their life. On the right-hand page is the poem itself. I recognised some of the poems but many were new to me. An old favourite was The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry. In I don't know a great deal about poetry and often feel that I 'don't get it'. This book is ideal for me! William Seighart has compiled a selection of poems for all sorts of emotional states and occasions. On the left-hand page are his thoughts about the piece and why someone might find it suitable for a particular time in their life. On the right-hand page is the poem itself. I recognised some of the poems but many were new to me. An old favourite was The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry. In his comments Mr Seighart talks of midnight worries when "the blank space of the darkness provides a theatre for the most intense and unlikely of worries, putting your sense of powerlessness, of your own vulnerability and of the vulnerabilities of your loved ones into even sharper perspective. The night-time is when there is nothing to be done except brood." I'm sure most of us can remember nights like that! When despair grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting for their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. On a lighter note, in Two Cures For Love by Wendy Cope Mr Seighart notes that in the case of unrequited love, perspective can be very helpful. The poem tells us in short and sweet terms: 1. Don't see him. Don't phone or write a letter. 2. The easy way: get to know him better. I enjoyed reading it through but of course the real value of this book is to have it to hand on days when one of these poems, together with the accompanying thoughts and notes, is just the very thing you need to deal with that particular life challenge.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    A selection of poems arranged under the following broad topical headings: - Mental and Emotional Wellbeing - Motivations - Self-Image and Self-Acceptance - The World And Other People - Love And Loss The idea behind this collection is that a poem is offered as a prescription for some particular facet of the human experience. They are, to use the metaphor the author employs, like talking to someone who has 'the right words' to address and comfort you in your current situation. From the introduction: 'The A selection of poems arranged under the following broad topical headings: - Mental and Emotional Wellbeing - Motivations - Self-Image and Self-Acceptance - The World And Other People - Love And Loss The idea behind this collection is that a poem is offered as a prescription for some particular facet of the human experience. They are, to use the metaphor the author employs, like talking to someone who has 'the right words' to address and comfort you in your current situation. From the introduction: 'The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.' Some of these poems spoke to instances in my life more than others, as will be the case with anyone who reads this book. While this is an interesting idea for a collection, I give it an overall rating of three stars.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Middleton

    This was such a gorgeous read. As someone who finds poetry intimidating, I really enjoyed the blend of poems prescribed for different emotional ailments with a bit of context from Sieghart about them, and how they apply to real life. This is mindful goodness; a worthy gift for you or any friend experiencing life’s ups and downs. Maybe not for the serious poetry fans, though. My favourite poems: Ironing by Vicki Feaver and Atlas by U. A. Fanthorpe. On Fear Of The Unknown: “When you really think ab This was such a gorgeous read. As someone who finds poetry intimidating, I really enjoyed the blend of poems prescribed for different emotional ailments with a bit of context from Sieghart about them, and how they apply to real life. This is mindful goodness; a worthy gift for you or any friend experiencing life’s ups and downs. Maybe not for the serious poetry fans, though. My favourite poems: Ironing by Vicki Feaver and Atlas by U. A. Fanthorpe. On Fear Of The Unknown: “When you really think about it, it’s a wonderful thing that our lives are so rich with different possibilities. If you had the chance to know how things were going to turn out, would you really take it? Or would you prefer to reach the ending the long way around, delighting in the suspense and even, if you’re lucky, the coming together of the plot’s different strands before each of the big climaxes still awaiting you? I know which I’d choose. To use a very modern phrase for a very old thought: no spoilers.” On Insecurity: “Our confidence, the sun of our smiles, our vitality and the joy we find in life make us more attractive than any surgery or fad diet ever could. Allowing ourselves to be brought down by our perceived imperfections will create only a new, far more real imperfection by denying us the greatest cosmetic of all: happiness.”

  12. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Allin

    I seriously want to find William Sieghart and give him a hug. This book is beyond any self help book in any genre really. It comprises a poem in conjunction with a piece of writing from Sieghart containing prescriptions for most all of our human malaises. I have found such relief in poetry during my journey through loss, pain, sadness, betrayal and depression. But this collection is truly special and loaded with sage wisdom from someone you just know has been there too and used his experience to I seriously want to find William Sieghart and give him a hug. This book is beyond any self help book in any genre really. It comprises a poem in conjunction with a piece of writing from Sieghart containing prescriptions for most all of our human malaises. I have found such relief in poetry during my journey through loss, pain, sadness, betrayal and depression. But this collection is truly special and loaded with sage wisdom from someone you just know has been there too and used his experience to find truth.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Amira Hk

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I was very skeptical of this book when I read all of it at first. I only gave it three stars because the poems were good. I thought this man shouldn't be outhere making money on other poets' backs. How can he claim that a simple poem can help with someone's mental health? After owning it for four months or less I understand the need for this book. That's what poetry is; a weapon against mental illness. Share what's inside of you through poetry even if it doesn't reach anybody but you. Read, list I was very skeptical of this book when I read all of it at first. I only gave it three stars because the poems were good. I thought this man shouldn't be outhere making money on other poets' backs. How can he claim that a simple poem can help with someone's mental health? After owning it for four months or less I understand the need for this book. That's what poetry is; a weapon against mental illness. Share what's inside of you through poetry even if it doesn't reach anybody but you. Read, listen, write. (Start by reading this book)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Seren

    There’s nothing like reading a book and it being exactly what you needed at that exact moment. I think I’d have felt like that with this book at any time, but life’s been particularly hard lately and wow I really needed this. It’s not often I cry at books (let alone cry multiple times) but this is that sort of collection. And any book that includes my favourite Mary Oliver poem is an automatic winner from.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Maisie

    i find it difficult to definitely mark this as ‘read’ because usually that means it’s over, but this is a book i constantly come back to. something about sieghart’s writing is so soothing: he puts into words the feelings swimming around my head and makes me feel a little less crazy. his poetry selections are perfect and there isn’t one i haven’t enjoyed in its own right. god, i love this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Raphael Lysander

    I believe the author focused too much on being diverse, and on being related to the topics literally, therefore, a good number of the poems were not beautiful or impressive- for a lot of good poetry puts us in a certain mood, inspire an idea, or draw a scene, but not necessarily be useful or solve anything.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ophelinha

    Food for the soul, medicine for the broken heart. Rediscovering poetry one line at the time.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jasmin

    This is such a great anthology of poems, a book I will definitely keep referring back to when I need some reassurance or comfort in other people's words.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lorraine

    Most of the poems in this are great. The premise of this book, however, is both bizarre and disturbing. On the one hand there is a certain reverence for art, which has modernist (well, Romantic) roots. On the other there is this instrumentalisation of poetry as therapy. I'm not even sure it's a proper bibliotherapy thing. It's just bizarre -- dependent on some very queer readings of poems -- and the assumption that poems can be 'prescribed' like pills is even more disturbing (he has curated them Most of the poems in this are great. The premise of this book, however, is both bizarre and disturbing. On the one hand there is a certain reverence for art, which has modernist (well, Romantic) roots. On the other there is this instrumentalisation of poetry as therapy. I'm not even sure it's a proper bibliotherapy thing. It's just bizarre -- dependent on some very queer readings of poems -- and the assumption that poems can be 'prescribed' like pills is even more disturbing (he has curated them and apparently some pills are better pills than others, and these pills work universally for all people, nevermind your individual reaction to a poem?). What irks me the most, perhaps, is what one might consider a minor detail, but something that I think is telling re his view on poetry. This man has categorised the poems not by poem name (so, assuming you liked one, you can't find it by title) but by the ailment said poem is supposed to treat. This person does not love poetry, in my opinion. Then again, he set up a charity for gifted kids. Some are more equal than others, welcome Doctor, and your relation of power. Enough said.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sir Readalot

    Tldr; This book lives up to it's title! • I'm a self help junkie (the worst kind!), and as a "responsible" adult I turn to books instead of getting professional help. Recently, thanks to my close friend, I started reading poetry and oh boy I was so lucky to stumble upon this book! • The author has done a great job of curating poems for every common emotional problem, only to use them as a medicine. • Subjectively speaking, most of the poems did wonders on me. And at times, I felt that some poems Tldr; This book lives up to it's title! • I'm a self help junkie (the worst kind!), and as a "responsible" adult I turn to books instead of getting professional help. Recently, thanks to my close friend, I started reading poetry and oh boy I was so lucky to stumble upon this book! • The author has done a great job of curating poems for every common emotional problem, only to use them as a medicine. • Subjectively speaking, most of the poems did wonders on me. And at times, I felt that some poems were forced and they were just there because the author couldn't find a better one (or... It went over my head) PS: This is now my go to book for whenever I'm feeling low and need something to cheer me up :)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sam Farley

    As someone who had never previously appreciated poetry, this book was the perfect induction. Sieghart even briefly covers how to read poetry to get the most out of the book, before delving into his ‘prescriptions’ to alleviate various mental woes (anxiety, loneliness, heartbreak, bereavement, etc.) I didn’t enjoy (or fully understand) every poem, but there were plenty of wholesome works worthy of re-reading, or passing on to others, at times of sorrow. I will be buying the sequel.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sandeep Barua

    We all have a book that we hold very fondly. This is the one for me. It was an impulsive buy while I was visiting the famed 'Shakespeare and Company' bookstore just a few steps from the Seine, Notre Dame in Paris. I took it to gift somebody. Eventually, the person moved on, but the book stayed with me. Within its pages are short poems by Tolkien, Kipling, Larkin, Keats, Rumi, and others. Even more than the timeless poems, I feel the commentary of the author on each of them is exquisite - each wor We all have a book that we hold very fondly. This is the one for me. It was an impulsive buy while I was visiting the famed 'Shakespeare and Company' bookstore just a few steps from the Seine, Notre Dame in Paris. I took it to gift somebody. Eventually, the person moved on, but the book stayed with me. Within its pages are short poems by Tolkien, Kipling, Larkin, Keats, Rumi, and others. Even more than the timeless poems, I feel the commentary of the author on each of them is exquisite - each word written with such flourish and empathy. There is a useful chapter at the beginning called "How to read a poem." I thought it is particularly helpful for somebody like me who is new to this genre. This isn't a book that can be declared finished. The lines unravel themselves bit by bit as we keep coming back. But each time I open a page, I would find something comforting in it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Hancock

    Braden gave me this for Mother's Day and I love it! The concept is fun, the analyses are brief and thoughtful, and the poems themselves are gems.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Malene

    A comforting addition to any bookshelf.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elle

    [5] Great collection and very articulate with each poem. There is a purpose and a goal in every theme for the reader to easily understand but still have fun in analyzing the pieces. In this book, it was done in a way there’s a certain “symptom”, may it be loneliness or lack of motivation, that fits a certain poem for readers who seek to find consolidation in words.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Laura | What's Hot?

    Find the full review on What's Hot. This post is a little different to most book reviews on here. I’m going to tell you a story about me and this book that I think will explain how I feel much more succinctly than a “proper” review ever could. Confession time. Whilst I was hugely excited about The Poetry Pharmacy‘s arrival, I was also quite disappointed when I finally opened it up. It was exactly what I thought it would be – a poem for every ailment – but it didn’t quite hit the spot. I spent day Find the full review on What's Hot. This post is a little different to most book reviews on here. I’m going to tell you a story about me and this book that I think will explain how I feel much more succinctly than a “proper” review ever could. Confession time. Whilst I was hugely excited about The Poetry Pharmacy‘s arrival, I was also quite disappointed when I finally opened it up. It was exactly what I thought it would be – a poem for every ailment – but it didn’t quite hit the spot. I spent days looking at it on my bedside table wondering how a book that had received so many great reviews, that had sounded so perfect for me, could be such a disappointment. Fast forward another week and I’m sitting on the tube on Christmas Eve, suddenly feeling incredibly lonely. I’ve brought this book along with me because I’m hoping I’ll be able to get an Instagrammable picture of it on my wander through London. I reach into my bag, deciding to give this book another chance, despite the eight other options I’ve brought with me (yes, seriously). I open it up, flick to page 27, and that’s where I find “My Brilliant Image” by Hafez (in translation). It’s a poem for loneliness but is also suitable for general malaise, loss of motivation, lack of self-belief, low self-esteem, lack of support. I read. I wish I could show you, When you are lonely or in darkness, The Astonishing Light Of your own Being! And suddenly, I feel less alone. My heart is warmed. I suddenly see why critics are raving about this book and realise the power of Sieghart’s Poetry Pharmacy. Perhaps poetry really is the greatest medicine after all. I eagerly flick to another, hoping to recreate that feeling, but it doesn’t come. “Burlap Sack” by Jane Hirshfield just isn’t what I need right now. I’m not looking for reprise from “emotional baggage” right now and this poem goes straight over my head. So you see this isn’t a book that you buy for immediate consumption. It’s something you buy, put on the shelf, and most likely forget about for the next few months. There’ll come a time, however, when you’re in need; when feelings of purposelessness, glumness, depression, stagnation, defeatism, regret, infatuation, heartbreak, or bereavement overwhelm you. That’s when you’ll find yourself reaching out for The Poetry Pharmacy. Keep this on your bookshelf as you would keep paracetamol in your bathroom cupboard. You never know when you’re going to need it but when you do it’ll be right there waiting for you. Do yourself a favour and purchase this now – future you will thank me when the time is right. Find the full review on What's Hot.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Shelley

    Description “When we're grieving, when we're broken-hearted, and when we find ourselves struggling to understand the things we're feeling, we long for the connection poetry can provide. To find the right poem at that crucial moment, one capable of expressing our situation with considerably more elegance than we could muster ourselves, is to discover a powerful sense of complicity, and that precious realization: I'm not the only one who feels like this. In the years since he first had the idea of p Description “When we're grieving, when we're broken-hearted, and when we find ourselves struggling to understand the things we're feeling, we long for the connection poetry can provide. To find the right poem at that crucial moment, one capable of expressing our situation with considerably more elegance than we could muster ourselves, is to discover a powerful sense of complicity, and that precious realization: I'm not the only one who feels like this. In the years since he first had the idea of prescribing short, powerful poems for all manner of spiritual ailments, William Sieghart has taken his Poetry Pharmacy around the length and breadth of Britain, into the pages of the Guardian, onto BBC Radio 4 and onto the television, honing his prescriptions all the time. This pocket-sized book presents the most essential poems in his dispensary: those which, again and again, have really shown themselves to work. Whether you are suffering from loneliness, lack of courage, heartbreak, hopelessness, or even from an excess of ego, there is something here to ease your pain.” Favourite Poems All that is Gold Does Not Glitter / J.R.R Tolkien “All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king.” Come to the Edge / Christopher Logue “Come to the edge. We might fall. Come to the edge. It's too high! COME TO THE EDGE! And they came And he pushed And they flew.” The Way It Is / William Stafford There’s a thread you follow. It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change. People wonder about what you are pursuing. You have to explain about the thread. But it is hard for others to see. While you hold it you can’t get lost. Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die; and you suffer and get old. Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding. You don’t ever let go of the thread. Thoughts Out of the blue, I received this beautiful book as a gift from Mr Harris. He said, ‘this seems right up your alley. I thought you’d really like it. And the manager at Waterstones recommended it too.’ So naturally I was excited and my expectations were high. This was serious business. My relationship was on the line. (LOL, OF COURSE NOT!!! It’s not like he was about to show how well he knew my soul, most importantly my reading tastes, or anything...) Thankfully both of them could sigh in relief. Because, this book, really was everything I could have hoped for. It’s a small book full of multiple tiny surprises. The Poetry Pharmacy really is a perfect title. As it does what it states on the cover – it’s like drinking a big cup of herbal tea to soothe the soul and knowing the remedies will make you feel better. It was exactly what I needed to read right now! Recently my anxiety had gotten the best of me. And in times when it cropped up like an umbrella waiting for it to rain, once I’d read a poem, the umbrella slowly started to unfold and was put back on the coat rack, ready for another day. Now, I feel armoured for those days. Throughout the collection, there are five sections; Mental and Emotional Wellbeing, Motivations, Self-Image and Self-Acceptance, The World and Other People, and lastly, Love and Loss. Under each theme were multiple poems and descriptions for different types of emotions such as anxiety, lack of courage, insecurity, social overload and false expectations in love. What I loved about this, was its variety. For every feeling you could conjure, there was a poem for it. In the back of the book, there is a whole index full of all the kinds of emotions you can encounter within your lifetime and it matches the poems you would most likely be suitable to read to help you. Some poems were like a hand reaching out softly for comfort, rubbing your back, and saying ‘everything is going to be alright.’ (Which consequently is a title for one of the poems in the book.) And sometimes, the poems are like prescribed medicine – you take it because you know it will make you feel better. But it tastes bitter on the way down. The purpose of this collection is to, as Alan Benett describes in the Introduction, to ‘come across something – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.’ (THIS HAS TO BE ONE OF MY FAVOURITE QUOTES OF ALL TIME!) And guys, oh guys, does this collection achieve this! After lying in bed, clutching the book to my chest, I said to Mr Harris… ‘It’s like you went out seeking a piece of my soul and came back with a representation of my mission in life. You found a healing potion for all my worries. And brought it to me in a physical form.' Rating = 5/5 * Other worthy poems - The Peace of Wild Things / Wendell Berry - Thinking / Walter D. Wintle - Golden Retrievals / Mark Doty - Best Society / Phillip Larkin - Look at These / Helen Farish

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    I love this book. It's not high-art poetry, just accessible beautiful poems that can bring added meaning to your day and help you when you're needing a boost. I love the format, and the author's added explanation of each poem. It's a beautiful, beautiful book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Foote-Blackman

    Four stars rather than five or three. As other reviewers have noted in different ways, there is something a bit pat about the idea of consuming poems to just feel better, or for a quick fix. There is simply no panacea for all of us--in this tome or anywhere else--even taking into account the different woes that plague the human spirit, from the truly tragic to mere existential ennui. Nevertheless, this is a book that would make a perfect present for all but the very literate. For the poetry gun- Four stars rather than five or three. As other reviewers have noted in different ways, there is something a bit pat about the idea of consuming poems to just feel better, or for a quick fix. There is simply no panacea for all of us--in this tome or anywhere else--even taking into account the different woes that plague the human spirit, from the truly tragic to mere existential ennui. Nevertheless, this is a book that would make a perfect present for all but the very literate. For the poetry gun-shy among us, this small compendium is a friendly introduction to the ability of verse to capture feelings in distinctive and often resonant ways. Some of the poems are simply coy bandaids, the kind that come off the first time you run your hands in water. But other poems truly can remind us all that to be human is to suffer but also to celebrate. Locking arms with this reality can indeed help us "tote the weary load." Sieghart is like the poetry he has selected. Occasionally his advice--which appears in the left-hand page facing the poem--is placating and faintly patronizing; other times Sieghart hits the mark exactly, often in both insightful and stylish prose. (He does have the annoying habit of referring too often to his poetry pharmacies and interviews with unhappy clients, a bit like so many contemporary self-help books that are mostly a string of anecdotes about psychotherapists' patients. But there are pages where what he writes is better than the facing poem. I recommend this little book as a gift to any young person, high school or older, or to the perennial empaths you may know, and to those wallowing--rightly or wrongly--in the troughs of earthly vicissitude. They can take what they like and chuck the rest. And they'll be grateful to you.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maria Tane

    Last year, Intelligence Squared hosted a wonderful discussion on the power of poetry, based on the release of this book, which I urge you to check out on YouTube. William Sieghart is joined by Jeannette Winterson, Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Isaacs, Tom Burke, and Sue Perkins for almost 2 hours of insightful exchanges and touching performances that I wished could have kept going on and on. I instantly became enamoured with the concept of this book and with what William Sieghart does, using poems Last year, Intelligence Squared hosted a wonderful discussion on the power of poetry, based on the release of this book, which I urge you to check out on YouTube. William Sieghart is joined by Jeannette Winterson, Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Isaacs, Tom Burke, and Sue Perkins for almost 2 hours of insightful exchanges and touching performances that I wished could have kept going on and on. I instantly became enamoured with the concept of this book and with what William Sieghart does, using poems as balms for the soul, rendering them accessible to everyone, and harnessing their ability to connect us with other, making us feel understood. For sure, it's a volume that I shall turn to when I need a prescription for my inner ailments. I shall conclude this with a quote by Alan Bennett that is included both in the book and in the conversation that I've mentioned before: The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.

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