The Top 12 Poems About Depression

Are you interested in the best poems about depression? Learn more about depression poems and how they can provide insight into your mental health.

During the past few years, research has shown that feelings of depression and anxiety are far more common than previously thought. Numerous possible causes of mental illness include depression, financial stress, heartbreak, and even genetic causes. Addressing depression requires a well-rounded approach, and reading a few short poems about depression can make a significant difference. Whether you are a budding writer looking for inspiration or studying for your next exam, these examples will help. 

If you are interested in the top poems about depression, look at a few examples below. Do not forget to contact a mental health professional who can assist you. You do not have to face depression on your own. 

1. Sylvia Plath, “Tulips”

Sylvia Plath is arguably the best-known poet who writes about feelings of sadness, death, depression, and despair. One of her most famous poems was published in 1961, titled “Tulips.” She”wrote that after being admitted to a hospital for an appendectomy. In the poem, Sylvia Plath describes the view of the world she sees. It discusses emptiness, blank feelings, and aimlessness.

Here is a stanza from the poem:

My body is a pebble to them, they tend it as water
Tends to the pebbles it must run over, smoothing them gently.
They bring me numbness in their bright needles, they bring me sleep.
Now I have lost myself I am sick of baggage——
My patent leather overnight case like a black pillbox,
My husband and child smiling out of the family photo;
Their smiles catch onto my skin, little smiling hooks.

In the poem, she has already given her clothes to the nurses, her history to the physician, and her body to the surgeons. Does she have anything left to give? Sylvia Plath herself struggled with depression. Poetry was an excellent way for her to communicate her feelings. She put a lot of her feelings into this poem, and it offers a remarkably detailed picture of a depressive state. The world appears devoid of meaning and feeling, and it is a poem that has spoken powerfully to countless people throughout the decades.

2. Edgar Allan Poe, “Alone”

Poems About Depression: Edgar Allan Poe, "Alone"
W.S. Hartshorn, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Even though Edgar Allan Poe is probably best known for his works focusing on horror, he is also well known for publishing poems on depression. In 1829, he published a poem titled “Alone,” which many believe is an offshoot of his childhood as an orphan. The poem describes what it is like to feel alone truly. He doesn’t feel physically alone but also emotionally and psychologically alone.

Of note, one month before publishing this poem, his foster mother passed away. The poem was not immediately published, as it was not released until 1875. Edgar Allan Poe had been dead for more than 25 years.

Here is a stanza from the poem:

From childhood’s I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—

Edgar Allan Poe struggled with a tremendous amount of tragedy in his life, and this is an important poem because it provides some insight into what he might have been feeling. It can also be an excellent way for other people to describe their feelings if they are having trouble articulating them. 

3. Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese”

Mary Oliver was one of the most popular contemporary poets and published a wide variety of poems on mental health and nature. In particular, she loved to publish poems about birds, with one of her most famous examples being titled “Wild Geese.”

Here is a stanza from the popular poem:

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

This is an excellent poem for people struggling with depression because it reminds them to try to connect with the world around them. This includes not only looking inward but outward as well. Try to connect with nature, friends, and family members. The poem creates a vivid image of geese in flight. The reader should imagine themselves as one of the birds in the poem, finding a way to rise above feelings of sadness, loneliness, and despair. This poem can help people reframe their mindset and overcome feelings of depression. 

4. John Keats, “Ode on Melancholy”

John Keats is one of the most famous poets of all time, and one of his most celebrated works was published in 1819, titled “Ode on Melancholy.” The poem reads like a list of advice when a bout of depression develops. Depression tends to come in waves, fluctuating in severity from time to time. Therefore, you should plan what to do when feelings of depression begin to surface.

Here is a stanza from the famous poem:

She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil’deil’dncholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy’sJoy’se against his palate fine;
His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.

Even though it can be tempting to despair when depression develops, you need to remain strong, focus on what used to bring you joy, and take the positives from life. Finally, do not forget to reach out and ask for help when you need it. 

5. Christina Rossetti, “Shut Out”

Christina Rossetti is another famous poet who published various poems on mental health. In this poem, titled “Shut Out,” the poet discusses treasures that appear to have been lost or that have lost their value.

Here is a selection from the poem:

From bough to bough the song-birds crossed,
From flower to flower the moths and bees;
With all its nests and stately trees
It had been mine, and it was lost.

At some point, everyone has lost something they feel is valuable to them. Regardless of how bad it might feel, the poem encourages us to be persistent and fight through those feelings. We can adjust and adapt, and we need to find new paradises, people to hang out with, and activities that bring us joy. Even though we do not necessarily need to forget those we have left behind, we must find ways to move forward, no matter how difficult it might seem. 

6. Anne Sexton, “Wanting To Die”

Anyone who has ever felt depression can probably relate to this poem. This poem, titled “Wanting to Die,” is about someone struggling with suicidal ideation. It talks about how people who struggle with thoughts of suicide have a difficult time being understood by other people. Finally, the poem describes death, almost waiting for the narrator.

Here is a selection from the poem:

Even then I have nothing against life.
I know well the grass blades you mention,
the furniture you have placed under the sun.
But suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
They never ask why build.
Twice I have so simply declared myself,
have possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy,
have taken on his craft, his magic.

It is important for people to understand if they have thoughts of suicidal ideation, they do not need to face them by themselves. Even though the poem describes a narrator who has a difficult time struggling with loneliness, the poem also talks about things that the narrator would leave behind by committing suicide. People who struggle with mental health issues must remember that there are people who love them and that all they need to do is reach out and ask someone for help. 

7. Emily Dickinson, “It Was Not Death, for I Stood Up”

Poems About Depression: Emily Dickinson, "It Was Not Death, for I Stood Up"
Author Martha Dickinson Bianchi, Emily DickinsonFrom a photograph retouched by Laura Coombs Hills, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Emily Dickinson is one of the most celebrated female authors of all time, and her poems are easy for people to relate to. She was particularly well known for writing about depression, and “It Was Not Death, for I Stood Up” is one of her most popular. 

One stanza from the poem is as follows:

When everything that ticked – has stopped –
And space stares – all around –
Or Grisly frosts – first Autumn morns,
Repeal the Beating Ground –
But most, like Chaos – Stopless – cool –
Without a Chance, or spar –
Or even a Report of Land –
To justify – Despair.

The poem exquisitely describes what it feels like to be in the grips of despair. Depression has taken hold in the poem, but she also provides feelings of hope. She says that even though depression and despair can be challenging to shake, they do not represent death. Instead, it is important to stand up and fight, even when all color has left the world. This poem simply encourages people to find hope and continue to persevere even when they feel like they do not have a reason to do so.

8. William Shakespeare, Sonnet 29

William Shakespeare is one of the most famous playwrights of all time, and many of his plays have been described as poetry. Therefore, it should be no surprise that he published plenty of beautiful poems. Sonnet 29 might not be as famous as others, but it is an excellent poem for people struggling with depression. 

Here is a selection from the sonnet:

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s and that man’s,
With what I most enjoy contented least;

All of us go through difficult times, and the narrator is going through a difficult time right now. Even though it can be tempting to ask why something has happened or feel like it could not get any worse, it is important to focus on how things can get better. Then, when we believe the situation will improve, we will find ways to make it happen. In the poem, the narrator immediately begins to feel better when thinking about his beloved, and this is an excellent place for everyone to start. 

9. A.E. Housman, “Tarry Delight, So Seldom Met”

Housman was known for writing about melancholy and heartbreak. Therefore, they have been read by countless people who struggle with mental health issues, including this one, titled “Tarry Delight, So Seldom Met.” Thi” is a poem that focuses on how happiness, like all other feelings, will eventually pass. Ultimately, we may feel like we are left to struggle, but there are ways to find happiness.

Here is a selection from the poem:

Tarry, delight, so seldom met,
So sure to perish, tarry still;
Forbear to cease or languish yet,
Though soon you must and will.

Even though it may be difficult to do so, there are ways for us to keep going. The letdown after happiness has gone away can be difficult, but we do not need to go through it alone. 

10. Henry Howard, “The Soote Season”

This poem, written by Henry Howard, is titled “The Soote Season.” It isn’t precisely when this column was written, but it is perfect for people who suffer from seasonal depression. This means that many people develop depression when the sun is not out as often.

”Here is a selection from the poem:

Winter is worn that was the flowers’
And thus I see among these pleasant things
Each care decays, and yet my sorrow springs.

Even though Seasonal Affective Disorder can be complex for people to deal with, the best way to do so is to focus on positives to take from every season. That way, people can always find something that brings them joy, no matter what time of year. 

11. Philip Larkin, “Aubade”

People who struggle with depression often have a difficult time sleeping at night. Therefore, this poem, “Aubade,” is the perfect way to dive into this issue. Some people struggle with depression and wake up at four in the morning, struggling with feelings of despair.

Here is a selection from the poem:

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s that’s always there:

It is important to realize that the poem can also be reassuring. Even though it can be challenging to lie awake at four in the morning, art can also be created using those terrifying feelings. That is what makes this poem so great for people who are dealing with depression. 

12. Mary Oliver, “Don’t Hesitate”

Here is another beautiful Mary Oliver poem called “Don’t Hesitate” tha” is perfect for people who have a history of struggling with depression or anxiety. Sadly, many people cannot enjoy a happy moment because they are convinced that it cannot last. In addition, many people have a history of trauma that may make it difficult to believe the happiness they feel is real. This poem encourages people to embrace those feelings of happiness, not overlook them.

Here is a stanza from the famous poem:

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t don’t taste. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world.

Sometimes, it can be very hard for people to bask in unbridled joy, particularly when they are convinced that something is going to happen that will take it away from them. Even though the poem acknowledges this is a possibility, it also wants people to take advantage of every moment of joy they have in front of them. No matter how small it is, it is worth enjoying. 

To learn more, read our round-up of the best free verse poems!

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