I’m currently embarking on a very exciting project, called In a Dark Wood. In a Dark Wood is an anthology of poems about depression. Every day, I’m going to share a poem from the anthology here, and in the course of the anthology you’ll find poets old and new, the popular and the obscure, English speakers and poetry in translation, and most of all, poets of great wonder and surprise. But why am I creating an anthology of poems about depression? Allow me to explain. When I was sectioned, I kept thinking about, and looking for, a book of poetry about depression, a book that would write about depression from inside the forest fire. I found no such book in hospital (the shelves were bare), and ever since I have been looking for such a book, and I’ve found nothing…so I had resolved to create the book that I kept envisioning in hospital.
I also believe that poetry is uniquely suited to those suffering from mental health issues, for many reasons – principally because they’re usually short! When I was in hospital, like most depressives, I had next to no concentration or memory. I read nothing. I did nothing. My memory was often so bad that I couldn’t remember what I had done that day, or the day previously. Often I couldn’t remember where I even was. So it was particularly striking that the last stanza of this poem stuck in my mind at the worst of times. Frost’s poem took on the quality of incantation for me, I would often mutter it to myself at night, or when I was in crisis. From reading the poem, I had suspected that Robert Frost suffered from depression, and an even cursory read of all the major Frost biographies confirmed this. Despite his depression, Frost won a staggering four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry in his lifetime, and he lived to the grand old age of 88. I can’t remember who said it, but someone once said that Frost was the most terrifying poet of his age, far from the pastoral imagery that people usually associate with Frost, and I think this is very true from even a glance at his work. This poem is one of my favourites from the anthology, and I am immensely excited to share with you the inaugural poem from In A Dark Wood: An Anthology of Depression.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
BY ROBERT FROST
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.