Poetry helps me in my darkest times

In Guest Blog by Elena Langtry

Josa Keyes Young is a published novelist and poet who lives in West London. Her two novels are ‘One Apple Tasted’, and ‘Sail Upon the Land’ – both deal with the profound effects of our families and upbringing on the decisions we make in life.

‘Sail Upon the Land’ pivots on the theme of depression and the taboos surrounding mental health.

You can buy both books on Amazon, where you can also read some very perceptive reviews.

I write poetry only when I can’t not, if you see what I mean. When the feeling is so strong it just comes out of me as words. Sometimes I formalise it into a classic style – I particularly love the villanelle and sonnet forms. I would recommend, if you want to try writing some of your own, the corsetry of formal rhyme and rhythm can give you a structure to work within. You can find all the rhyme schemes on the internet. Start with a triolet.

I was invited to begin reading my poetry in public last year, and did so a few times – the next being on 31 January 2018 at the Book Club in Shoreditch. Some of it is funny, some sad. I love performing again, made easier because I have to take off my glasses to read, so cannot see the audience.

Last year was pretty ghastly. I had a health crisis that involved many procedures of various kinds, and then sitting around waiting for medical results. This dumped me into the closest I’ve experienced to depression. I could not get out of bed, or perform simple tasks – it took me months to apply for a new passport for instance.

The only thing I could do was write the occasional poem. As I spend a lot of time alone, I found the poetic conversation in my head soothing. I realise how lucky I am in that any depression I suffer is reactive – a change in the provocation leads to instant alleviation. For example my medical results were as good as they could be, and even surgery lifted my spirits.

I know full well that others are not so lucky, and that depression for them is a black dog that incomprehensibly snaps at their heels. I cannot imagine what that terrible illness feels like.

I offer a small handful of poems. One for fun to make you laugh with any luck, some just express things. I would love to know what you think.

Not Neutrinos After All
(Neutrinos are sub atomic particles with a mass close to zero, the most tiny quantity of reality ever imagined by a human being.)

I have to let the feels
Flow through my body
Like solar neutrinos.
The likelihood of a feel
Hitting a sore spot
Is infinitely higher
Than a neutrino colliding
With proton or neutron
In our bodies.
Which is 1.77 x 10 -20 (to the negative power of 20).

Calculate length of life,
Factor in
Early separation from mother
Sundry bullying
Numberless rejections
Not being loved x infinity
Soft body stuffed
With sore spots.

Whereas, at a sub-atomic level, our bodies are
Airy nothings
A fragile universe of sub-nuclear particles
Floating in almost infinite space,
We are echoing chambers of simply nothing at all

Compared to the jostling density
Of pain that harbours in all of us.
Careless blows on tender places.
Unkind words, dismissal,
Silence in the place of love.
Each is invisible inflammation.

So the calculation
Of feels hitting sore spots is
Much less slight.
Average number of neutrino collisions in your body per lifetime?

Infinite is the number of collisions
Between the feels 
And the sore spots.
So, allowing feels to pass
Through our selves
Is not like tiny neutrinos at all.

More like being blasted with a 12-bore
Shotgun colandering flesh as the lead tears
Ragged, bloody passages.
And I should stop using this
Useless neutrino simile
That betrays my ignorance of particle physics
Right now.

The Internet Dating Profile Song 

Bibble bobble
Stomachs wobble
Ciggies burn
Turkey necks gobble
Men with blondes
And men with bikes
Pints of beer…
Is that a pike?
Downturned mouths
And grey complexions
Urgent words
To make connections
Sofa snuggles
Grammar struggles
Nostrils gape
And stream and bubble
Desperation leaks from screens
‘I just want love!’
They seem to scream.
And yet among that sickly crew
There is the odd exception…


Villianelle for a might have been 

I clocked your stubbled head online one day
Your lips were full and soft, your scalp quite bare
I liked your half-turned look and what you had to say

We took to chat and there we found a way
To get on well and flirt and talk and share
I clocked your stubbled head online one day

I held my virtual nose and jumped that day
In the online dating world you were quite rare
I liked your half-turned look and what you had to say

We met in real, but then you couldn’t stay
Did other punters see an ill-matched pair?
I clocked your stubbled head online one day

You took me in your arms but then you went away
My quiet, neglected senses had begun to stir
I liked your half-turned look and what you had to say

I sort of said I’d wait while you went on your way
Something tells me you’ve been eaten by a bear
I clocked your stubbled head online one day
I liked your half-turned look and what you had to say

Connect with Josa via her website and on Twitter  

“My grace is sufficient for thee; my strength is made perfect in weakness”

“My grace is sufficient for thee; my strength is made perfect in weakness”