After so many deaths I live and write;
I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing...
- George Herbert, ‘The Flower’ (1633)
Poetry has always been bound up with ideas of endurance, redemption, consolation, and survival, and it is one of the best antidotes to depression. We Have Come Through brings together 100 poems celebrating individual courage in resisting the ravages of psychological trauma, induced by both external events and mental breakdown.
The book moves through sections covering intimations of alienation, the causes of madness, the individual’s experience at the nadir, through to healing and redemption. The final section has poems that can function as a charm against adversity and as part of our emotional repair kit.
Especially powerful are those poems charting the emergence of hope after despair. Poems like George Herbert’s ‘The Flower’ convince the reader that both the despair and the alleviation were real for the writer and they hold out the promise that relief does come. Peter Forbes has chosen poems that range in time and scope from Shakespeare, Clare and Blake, through Hardy, Auden, MacNeice and Stevie Smith, to John Berryman, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, and many contemporary poets.
This book is co-published with Survivors’ Poetry, a national literature and performance charity with 28 groups and more than 2500 members nationwide. Its purpose is to challenge and change the social and cultural definitions of poets and poetry, making connections between creativity and mental health. Survivors’ Poetry aims to reach all survivors, including the one in four of us who will suffer from mental health problems this year. We Have Come Through celebrated the tenth anniversary of Survivors’ Poetry, which exists to help combat the effects of mental distress in the most creative and personally empowering ways possible.