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University of East London

School of Arts and Digital Industries










A Mess of Unfinished Thoughts
How can a collection of poems about a life of a young woman explore depression?












Student number: 1102411
Module code: CC3000
Personal tutor: Tim Atkins



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STATEMENT OF ORIGINALITY









I certify that this thesis, and the research to which it refers, are the product of my own work,
and that any ideas or quotations from the work of other people, published or otherwise, are
fully acknowledged in accordance with the standard referencing practices of the discipline.

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PREFACE

The purpose of this dissertation is to explore depression and its symptoms through a variety of
poetic styles. The pieces are placed in a chronological order and follow thoughts and
experiences of Ana Chapman, suffering from depression.
Poetic styles used are concrete poetry, free verse, blackout poetry and a haiku, chosen to
support Anas emotions. Appropriate research was applied in order to understand the
connection between depression and poetry and expressed with my creative piece and my
critical analysis.
The audience this dissertation is addressing are poetry students and anyone looking for an
understanding of their illness.

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Table of Contents
STATEMENT OF ORIGINALITY ......................................................................................................... 2
PREFACE ......................................................................................................................................... 3
A MESS OF UNFINISHED THOUGHTS............................................................................................... 6
WHO KILLED MY BIRDS? .................................................................................................... 7
HUNGER GAMES ................................................................................................................. 8
WALLFLOWER ..................................................................................................................... 9
FRAGILE ............................................................................................................................ 10
TEN ................................................................................................................................... 11
FREAK ............................................................................................................................... 12
MINDCLOUDED ................................................................................................................. 13
INSOMNIA .......................................................................................................................... 14
3.29 AM ............................................................................................................................. 15
THE DAY I LEARN TO FLY ................................................................................................. 16
CATCHING FIRE ................................................................................................................. 17
CUT ................................................................................................................................... 18
149 .................................................................................................................................... 19
SEMICOLON ....................................................................................................................... 20
A MAZE ............................................................................................................................ 21
ED .................................................................................................................................... 22
AN OPEN LETTER TO MY ANOREXIA ................................................................................ 23
ENCAPTURED WILDFIRE .................................................................................................... 25
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BLURRED LINES ................................................................................................................ 26
INFINITE CONTROL ............................................................................................................ 28
THINGS I WISH MY MOTHER WOULD TELL ME ............................................................... 29
THERAPY ........................................................................................................................... 30
NARC ................................................................................................................................ 31
THE DARKNESS SMILED AS I GRINNED BACK................................................................... 33
CRITICAL COMMENTARY .............................................................................................................. 34
BIBLIOGRAPHY ............................................................................................................................. 44
APPENDIX DRAFT ONE .............................................................................................................. 50


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A MESS OF UNFINISHED THOUGHTS




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WHO KILLED MY BIRDS?


Who killed my birds
no longer in the sky
did it distress you so much
they could spread their wings and fly?
Freedoms just another word
for envy and contempt
in this gloomy, bitter world
you cannot be exempted.
As I straggle through this life,
asking of its worth
I point my finger,
judgement call
and scream into the earth
YOU killed my birds!

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HUNGER GAMES

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WALLFLOWER



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FRAGILE


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TEN





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FREAK


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MINDCLOUDED


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INSOMNIA



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3.29 am


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THE DAY I LEARN TO FLY

The day I learn to fly I'm never coming down,
as this world is revealing its true colours,
dark, black and grey.
And up there, out there
the man tells,
that all is white, bright and light.
How must it be
radiating waterproof positivity
in such promising place?
I can't keep up with these storms and hurricanes -
my light, bright and white wings are ready to embrace
the space above.
The day I learn to fly,
I will never come back down

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CATCHING FIRE


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CUT


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149
Cooking gas wont do it
that Plath has been taken.
dont die a copy they say
whats your poison?
emotionally unavailable women
or carbon monoxide?
got a pocket full of stones
and a desperate sorrow -
use them wisely.
Ambitious aimless shooting and strangled red
Le secret du vide et du plein
Sodium thiopental cant always recover
repressed truth.
That drink is on despondency
take 2 grams per day
and an overdose on sleep.
Killed by a world too strong
the window is wide open
make sure you dont make too much noise
when you hit the cold hard ground.

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SEMICOLON


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A MAZE


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ED




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AN OPEN LETTER TO MY ANOREXIA
Dear Ana,
I wasnt going to write this,
but after seeing you looking at yourself in the mirror with disgust this morning, I just had to.
for so many years we were friends, but I always knew what you are capable of.
you are trapped more than you know, suffocating in your own thoughts,
drowning in self-hate.
Why are you beating yourself senseless every single day,
blocking throats of innocent girls, stealing their thoughts,
replacing them with fear, tears, hate and the illusion of control.
Youre not them Ana, youre just a poor little girl,
that needs to snap her fingers and get over it.
Buried with you, you steal peoples lives
live through their fragile bodies until their bones turn to dust with one simple touch.
What kind of a fuckin disease do you have,
that makes you unleash your anger on these poor darlings who just want to live?
She thought you were not her kind, but years later
she is shivering on a warm sunny Sunday afternoon,
wearing three layers to cover up her bones,
as she is forced to step on a scale.
You made her so nervous, she almost lost conscious
the fake increased number with a stomach full of water
and pockets of weight cant fool anyone.
You are clever though, I must admit,
hiding in sleeves, under the tongue,
taking hours to digest and when it comes too close
you give in to your partner in crime.
There are no calories in water, stop it.
School doesnt teach about you because you are weak
and weakness is not tolerated.
45 Ana, 42 Ana, 35 Ana, 30 - youre almost there.
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But what is your goal, my dear? Dont push your luck.
I will not stand by you anymore,
and dont you dare tell me what I can and cannot have for dinner,
making me choose coffee over something you consider fattening.
You deceive people, making them your friends,
when in reality you stab everyone in the gut
as they watch you move on to another innocent soul from their death bed.
Get over yourself, for everyones sake,

Yours truly,
Ana




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ENCAPTURED WILDFIRE




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BLURRED LINES
Hey hey hey.
Theres no easy way to say this, no easy way to put this on you,
because it was just as hard when it was put on me, quite literally.
If you cant hear what Im trying to say,
I am a rape victim you see.
And as much as I hate that term, its the truth
because by a definition a victim is someone who is harmed or killed by another.
Its funny how simple words such as Dont worry about your friends, Ill take you home
I know you want it
Can turn into kicking and screaming and fighting or at least wishing you did that,
As you try to justify the next day why you didnt,
That man is not your maker
but he was, he made the last 4 years of my life unbearable
And I dont even know his name
And all I remember was his blurred face beaming
With every painful thrust
The way you grab me, must wanna get nasty.
I always wanted a good girl. I know you
Wake up every morning feeling like a victim?
I hate these blurred lines,
Was I giving him signs? Was I really asking for it?
How could I when my mind wasnt even in the same dimension as my body,
But his comprehension mustve said I know you want it.
You DONT smack that ass and pull my hair like that.
Maybe Im going deaf
Maybe Im going blind
Maybe Im out of my mind
Im not an animal and its not in my nature no matter how many pills Ive taken that night
And the next day as I waken alone not knowing where youve taken my clothes
that made you go from probably a nice guy to a ravisher
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In just two minutes, yes, because thats how long it took
but those two minutes felt like years
And I weaken my body to the point where I stay in bed for days,
I mean, its almost unbearable
And lay and say how I wish I could die
And I do, I try, but I fail,
And I just wish myself well
And I hope that one day Ill stop feeling guilty,
For taking drugs and going clubbing for the first time in my life
Cant let it get past me.
But 4 years have passed and the numbness still here
In a form of a song by Robin Thicke,
a dick,
who turned a rape song in a career.
Go ahead, get at me.
Oh and what rhymes with hug me?
STOP trying to drug me!



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INFINITE CONTROL


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THINGS I WISH MY MOTHER WOULD TELL ME

Things I Wish My Mother Would Tell Me
My mom never mentioned,
that words can hurt,
maybe because it was something she practiced herself too often.
That words are like paper,
cutting deep and can rip you apart,
torn into million pieces,
permanently seeded in your brain.
That you can love the same gender,
because her family was convinced
it was a sin, a disease,
not right and not humanly.
I wish she would tell me that
you are who you are and that is okay.
Youll meet people that will shape your world
but some will live to crush it.
Your passion will make them afraid,
your strength will make them weak,
your love will make them vigorous.
Theres more to sex than alcohol and one night stands
and losing your virginity in a hotel to a guy
with a mind of a sleazy roach
and a 5 year old condom in his pocket
isnt the best idea youve ever had.
Respond to every call that excites your spirit
and I hope there will be a day when you fell in love with being alive.
Its time to make peace with yourself my dear.
I love you.

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THERAPY



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NARC

But Im a good mother. I would hear
every time I tried to argue with her wrath.
Her wrath,
Shown through her shallow actions and
Distasteful words that
Would hurt me like
A razor I used to just stay a little bit
in control.
Programmed to It must be me
I am not good enough.
I am wrong.
I wish Id die.
While she smiled in her
glow watching my despair.
To keep me caged,
Shed use checkpoints like
I only want whats good for you.
And Sometimes you have to adjust.
While snapping her fingers and her tongue
when wanting misery and pain
followed by Trust me, I know.
not to cause suspicion -
pushing me away while
pulling me tighter.
When my mouth rejected food,
I put pressure on my family,
not myself.
When my wounds were revealed,
I disappointed her,
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not myself.
I used to think
She had the answers to everything
now I know
Life cant always go her way
And when it doesnt go her way
she made sure she let everybody know
and as I absorbed her pain all these years,
drove myself insane
thinking how selfish I am to think that
my own mother will never love me
because I made her ill, but
she had to work to provide for me
even though I pay my own bills
and how she cant possibly be that horrible
because she is a good mother
and that its all in my head
and all my fault
and I should be ashamed
and selfish for making this about me, not her



it wasnt until my therapist pointed out
the ugly truth
Its not you, its your mother.




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THE DARKNESS SMILED AS I GRINNED BACK







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CRITICAL COMMENTARY

Thats the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything,
as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it
compounds daily, that its impossible to ever see the end (Wurtzel, 1995).
As argued by David Yezzi (1998) in the article on confessional poetry, all poets use
their lives for poetry, but not all lives are used similarly. My research question is: How can a
collection of poems about a life of a young woman explore depression? Throughout my
creative and professional writing degree I was told to show, dont tell. I wanted to present
confessional poetry using a variety of poetic styles to furthermore develop the dark tone of the
pieces. The piece includes concrete and blackout poetry, free verse, rhyme and haiku in which
gives the reader a chance to explore a variety of poetic elements and styles. The story follows
Ana Chapmans struggles of understanding and dealing with depression. It explores her poems,
which deal with a variety of depression symptoms, ranging from anorexia to self-injury. As the
story finishes, Ana starts to realise the trigger for her depression might be her narcissistic
mother, which introduces her to therapy and help.
What attracted me to connect depression with poetry were confessional poets such
as Sylvia Plath (1968), Robert Lowell (2005) and Anne Sexton (1984), whose language
sets them apart from others with their sense of worn-on-the-sleeve self-revelation and
their artful simulation of sincerity (Yezzi, 1998).
To focus on my audience poetry students and people battling with depression I was
inspired by poets such as John Grandits (2004) and Meggie Royer (2013), who use poetry to
express and address life struggles. My piece has a highlight on concrete poetry as it moves
words and letters about on the page (Michael Bath and Tom Furniss, 1996, p.68). Concrete
poetry creates a new rhythmic, spatial-temporal reality and is a result of a verbal and audial
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interaction (Jon Tolman & Decio Pignatari, 1982, p.189). Words and lines of my poems show a
certain image, dark tone and emotion and therefore combine confessional poetry with visual
elements.
This dissertation is titled A Mess Of Unfinished Thoughts, a quote by a musician John
Mayer (2012). I would like for this type of poetry collection to be considered poetry therapy. As
stated by LifeSpeaks (2014):
Poetry therapy is the intentional use of the written and spoken word for healing
and personal growth. Poetry, literature, journals and song lyrics help individuals
see themselves fully, and in time they come to experience the hidden facets of
themselves.
The pieces are placed in a chronological order, starting with symptoms such as anxiety,
feeling trapped and not present, issues in childhood such as bullying, insomnia and later on
develop into more dangerous symptoms such as anorexia, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and
abuse. The collection ends with a haiku shaped concrete poem The darkness smiled as I
grinned back. which leaves the reader with a power of interpreting the ending.
This dissertation was inspired by a piece titled The Truth Without Photoshop (P4CM
2010) where a woman shares her life struggles through spoken poetry. A part of her poem
inspired me to write Ten, a poem talking about my characters feelings ranging from five to
ten years old. The piece is shaped as the word ten and every sentence includes a noun or a
verb with the same word to create a powerful emphasis on Anas age. The shape of the poem
was inspired by a freelance graphic designer Mia Moore (2011), who created a similar poem,
the number 10 introducing the percentage of the dyslexic population in Britain.
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I wanted to find a way to show the text in a way that a dyslexic will see it. This
is why the text appears without spacing, capital letters, dots and commas to
make it more difficult to read (Moore, 2011).
Ten enables the reader to see some personality and background story of the main
character, but also discovers Anas dyslexia. Extending my arms on the playground and
demanding attention because I was so scared of being forgotten. shows fear of abandonment,
which coincides with depression and low self-esteem, as argued by Melanie Fennell (1999,
p.65-73), the author of Overcoming Low Self-Esteem.
The first poem, titled A Mess of Unfinished Thoughts, shows symptoms of anxiety. It
is inspired by Derek Beaulieu (2010), a visual poet, who concentrates on smallest particles of
language and their interaction. This gives the reader a freedom of interpretation. A Mess of
Unfinished Thoughts follows this explanation; however, as this is the first poem in the
collection, I turned it into a visual content page. Each poem is summarised with a small particle
and therefore explains Anas reasoning of what the mess of unfinished thoughts means to her.
The second poem, Who Killed My Birds, introduces Anas feeling of being trapped.
The piece was inspired by a book from a Slovenian writer Marinka Fritz Kunc (2001) titled
Kam Grejo Ptice Umret (Where do the birds go die?). The book discusses the dangers of drug
abuse; however I used birds as a metonymy and symbol for freedom. Bath and Furniss (1996,
p.106) describe metonymy as change of name: it is a figure of speech in which the name of
one thing is used to name something which is associated with it. One of the symptoms of
depression is the feeling of being trapped, according to Health Central (2010). Merely Me
(2010) writes that Whenever I have felt trapped it is like sitting at the bottom of a well. There
is nowhere to go. I feel stuck as I settle to the bottom.
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Throughout Who Killed My Birds the character gives the impression of that same
settling: As I straggle through this life, asking of its worth. and ends with a powerful image
I point my finger, judgement call and scream into the earth you killed my birds!
The selection of blackout poems was inspired by Austin Kleon (2010), who describes
this type of poetry as combining pictures with words. My piece titled Hunger Games, taken
from Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2009), talks about the beginnings of the character
losing herself in depression and a very personal piece suggests this is a diary, written by the
character herself. Fragile and Freak are addressing the issues of school bullying. The first
is making Ana unable to speak up Humiliation suddenly shattered my words, while the
second shows stronger depression symptoms considerable pain, holding scissors. As stated
by Bullying Statistics (2010), there is a strong connection between bullying and depression as
constant teasing may result in low self-esteem, anxiety and physical illnesses.
Mindclouded was influenced by feelings a person experiences during anxiety. Dr.
Melanie Fennell (1999, p.96) notes that Anxiety normally goes along with a whole range of
body sensations. These include muscle tension, heart rate changes, breathing changes, mental
changes hard to focus, feeling confused and other physical symptoms such as shaking,
feeling weak, dizzy or numb. I presented these words in a mind cloud as these feelings may
appear all at once and therefore cannot be coherent. Some of the words include nervous,
shaking, empty and tenfold and together create a non-coherent, but understandable piece.
Insomnia was inspired by a train of thoughts one experiences during the inability to
sleep. The shape of the poem was inspired by Daniel Wetmores (2009) When Dostoevsky
while my own train of thoughts during the inability to sleep inspired the actual poem.
Furthermore, 3.29am poem focuses on deeper issues people might experience during
the night. Pagan belief states that 3am is considered a Witching Hour. Based on the idea that
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Jesus died at 3:00 P.M., this theory proposes that the opposite point on the clock belongs to the
dark side, i.e., demonic forces whose power is strongest at this time. 315club (2009). This fact
inspired me to write 3.29am but instead of making it about religion, my poem presents abuse
in the shape of those demonic forces. Emily Durbin (2013) argues that neglect, sexual and
substance abuses are commonly linked to a risk for depression. As men and women who
experienced abuse did not differ from one another on their rates of depressive disorders
(Durbin, 2013, p.75), 3.29am addresses both genders and steps away from the first person
perspective. The letter z represents the outside world population, who can manage to get some
sleep at said hour, while the poem is shaped in a clock, split into four sections. First section
covers neglect -whose loneliness is their middle name., second touches on sexual abuse -
whose skin burns purple after being touched by passion., third discusses substance abuse -
3am is for those who fill up their liver with toxins and fourth is a revelation that all will be
well in the end.
Finally, one very important outcome often associated with depressive disorders is
suicidality, ranging from passive suicidal ideation to nonlethal self-injury to actual suicide
attempts and completed suicides. Durbin (2013, p.113).This dissertation piece contains five
suicide themed poems. The Day I Learned To Fly reveals Anas feelings about flying, which is
a metonymy for suicide. I cant keep up with these storms and hurricanes my light, bright
and white wings are ready to embrace the space above. Catching Fire, a blackout poem with
a page taken from same titled book by Suzanne Collins (2009) also touches upon the idea of
suicide with the words my breakdown chased me skyward.
Another depression symptom covered in this dissertation is self-injury, in this case,
cutting.
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Cutting may begin as an effort to communicate psychological distress and a plea
for relationship but becomes a developmental pathway to cutting as a form of
regulating unbearable affect, indicating the need for early intervention
(Machoian, 2001).
Cut is a concrete poem; presented in a word search puzzle where cut seems the only
option. I was just trying to get out of a situation I didnt see a way out of. (Patricia and Peter
Adler 2011, p.65) The red line presents blood and the position of the word is in a discreet left
side, masked by other words and therefore not seen straight away. Self-injury victims have a
tendency to hide their scars and go through extreme situations to make the injuries unseen,
which can lead to even bigger depression symptoms.
Sometimes I would just I would not go with my friends to a hot tub at a hotel
or something. We were all having a good time, but when they went down, I
would stay up in the room by myself. And then Id end up in tears up there
because I was so frustrated with myself and with the fact that I have to live with
that (Adler, 2011, p.98).
149 is a tribute poem to 149 poets who died by committing suicide. Every line is a
tribute to a poet, either mentioning their death or work. Make sure you dont make too much
noise when you hit the cold hard ground makes a statement of how little these poets got
recognized either dead or alive, the word noise presenting recognition and fame.
Semicolon was influenced by a similar shaped poem by Nachiketa Adhikari (2012)
and it represents Anas suicide note. Oxford Dictionaries (2014) define semicolon as not as
final as a full stop which shows Ana survived the suicide attempt. The poem was also inspired
by This Is Just To Say by William Carlos Williams (1976) as the character refers to the piece
with words Plums, plums, plums, who took them? John Abela and Benjamin Hankin (2007,
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p.441) state that Every 2 hours and 4 minutes, a person under the age of 25 dies by suicide.
which is also included in the poem. Semicolon also touches on Amanda Todd (Mirror 2012),
whose suicide and bullying story became viral on the social media. This is Just to Say, that I
am no Miss Todd so this will go unnoticed. Shannon Stirman and James Pennebaker (2001,
p.521) presented a study on word use in poetry between suicidal and non-suicidal poets and
stated that "People who are suicidal or depressed use `I' at much, much higher rates and there is
also a corresponding drop in references to other people."
Anorexia is often a symptom of depression according to Peter Jareds article on
WebMD.com (2014). ED and An Open Letter To My Anorexia both share views and
experiences Ana has to deal with through her eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa is
characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss, or failure to make expected weight
gains in children or younger adolescents. (June Alexander & Kate Sangster, 2013, p.238)
.Some of the anorexia symptoms include limiting food portions, which is a main theme of the
concrete poem ED. With the word cal the poem focuses on a meal from an anorexic point of
view. A person suffering from anorexia nervosa can see calories everywhere, even in water.
Some sufferers become so fearful of any food or drink that they will purge whatever they
consume, including water. (Alexander & Sangster, 2013, p.261)
An Open Letter To My Anorexia was inspired by a same titled poem by Meggie C.
Royer. Ana is a common nickname used for anorexia nervosa and as my character is presented
with the same name, this letter gives a sense of the illness fully taking over.
Ed gives a sense of control. Its not the type of control that goes with feeling
powerful and being independent, but more a feeling (initially) of stability and
security. As an eating disorder grows, it progressively consumes thoughts and
numbs emotions. Unconsciously, an eating disorder becomes a coping tool for
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survival for example, in response to intense anxiety (Alexander & Sangster,
2013, p.26).
Lines Blocking throats of innocent girls, stealing their thoughts, replacing them with fears,
tears, hate and the illusion of control. show exactly what anorexia nervosa can do to a person.
My Heart is Like an Encaptured Wildfire was inspired by Apollinaires Coeur,
Couronne et Miroir(1980). The repeating words my heart is like an encaptured wildfire
present confusion in Anas heart. The word encaptured isnt actually defined in a dictionary
and therefore makes the sentence meaningless, just like Ana sees her life.
The Blurred Lines poem was influenced by the same titled song by Robin Thicke
(2013), whose music video and lyrics created a controversy by objectifying women and
supporting the rape culture. Sezin Koehler (2013) researched the songs lyrics and its
connection to sexual assault and argued:
The womans desires play no part in this scenario except insofar as he
projects whatever he pleases onto her another parallel to the act of rape:
sexual assault is generally not about sex, but rather about a physical and
emotional demonstration of power.
The poem is a confession and a response to Anas experience of being sexually
assaulted. The bold lines present Robin Thickes lyrics while the rest is the response of a
sexually assaulted victim. Ana deals with a common victim Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
where the elements that define rape terror, fear, humiliation and an imminent risk of death
and injury are recognised as features commonly associated with other traumatic stressors.
(Irina Anderson & Kathy Doherty, 2008, p.11) The symptoms of such disorder include sleep
disturbance and depression.
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According to Danu Morrigan (2012, Chapter 3) the author of Youre Not Crazy, Its Your
Mother, depression is a common symptom of children with narcissistic parents.
According to an admittedly unscientific survey on my forum, 90 per cent of
DONMs suffer from chronic depression. This is not surprising. We are not
allowed to express our feelings, especially our anger, and so they turn inwards,
and that can lead to depression (Morrigan, 2012, Chapter 3).
This depression is often a result of suicide or self-harm. Ana Chapman discovers
the reason behind her depression through Things I Wish My Mother Would Tell Me and
NARC". While the first poem confesses the characters wishes of her mothers actions, the
second explains the reasoning behind those actions. The lines My mom never mentioned, that
words can hurt, maybe because it was something she practiced herself too often. (Things I
Wish My Mother Would Tell Me) give an insight into the relationship Ana had with her
mother, but the full diagnosis isnt revealed until the second poem. Narcissists common trait is
actively telling the victim everything is their fault and Things I Wish My Mother Would Tell
Me addresses just that:
Programmed to it must be me
I am not good enough.
I am wrong.
I wish Id die.
While she smiled in her glow,
Watching my despair.
The Darkness Smiled as I Grinned Back is the final poem in this piece. It gives the
reader a sense of closure without revealing what the character will do next. Morrigan (2012)
gives several suggestions on healing after life with a narcissistic mother. She states to claim
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your truth in order to get in touch with your subconscious by writing out your story, which is
what Ana did through these pieces. She defines forgiveness as To give up the wish that things
could have been different. and release attachments. Therapy is another common way of
healing a depressive disorder as argued by Stephen Holland and Robert Leahy (2012, p.16).
Ana used poetry as her therapy, with a goal to achieve psychological well-being and healing
through the uses of poetry or other spoken or written media. (GoodTherapy, 2014) I encourage
readers struggling to express their emotions and thoughts when dealing with depression to try
do the same in order to reclaim peace.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Abbs, P. & Richardson, J. (1990) The Forms Of Poetry: A Practical Study Guide for
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