Following on from the poet Christopher Reid’s recent triumph at the Costa Book Awards (blogged here last week), I read a good article in the Sunday Times, A good poem is better for you than pills or therapy. Written by Daisy Goodwin as an introduction to a regular weekly poem in the Sunday Times, she writes that many readers have written to Reid saying his book, The Scattering, about the death of his wife, has helped them in their own bereavement:
Although A Scattering had at the time of the award sold only around 1,000 copies (about average for a volume of poetry), Reid had received many letters from readers saying it had helped them or that they had given it to a friend who had suffered a bereavement: “Even though my poems record my own experience, which is utterly singular, I think that they serve as a focus for others. I think poetry is one particular form of meditation.”
People turn to poetry at times of great emotion because it is a way of ordering their thoughts — as Coleridge said, finding poems to be “the best words in the best order”.
She goes on to list some poems which are known to be particularly effective treatments for other difficult life events.
We also learn that Reid’s wife, Lucinda Gane, played Miss Mooney in the BBCs Grange Hill.
The Scattering was not only a triumph for Reid, but also for the small publisher Areté run by fellow poet Craig Raine. It was the publisher’s first book, having published the excellent literary triquarterly, Areté, since 1999.