Blue Poetry for Blue Monday

Added about 5 months ago by David Grieve

GUEST BLOG: In this bluest month of the year, #BookOfTheMonth author David Grieve explains that there is still plenty of Hope in Dark Places.

Blue Monday

It’s a real and actual pleasure to prepare a Sacristy Press blog to go out in January 2020:

  • that month, and covering Blue Monday;
  • that day, a Monday in January, typically the third Monday of the month, that is characterized as the most depressing day of the year.

You might think that it’s hard luck to have drawn the straw to blog in January—not a bit of it!

I identify as, among other things, a lifelong depressive (I’m 68) and so I’m an authority on the subject of being depressed and anxious. Nearly every year I have a bout of depression and anxiety. In 2019 it was for five long months over the summer.

You may be an authority too. Which of course does not mean you don’t need to bother about medical help. One in four or five of us, we’re told, will have at least one episode of mental ill health in our lifetime, which may range from a passing experience of low mood to severe lifelong symptoms. Navigating a way to understand what depression (itself very much an umbrella word) is and does is complex. It’s a really personal—and isolating—condition. But you can quite easily search for and find good concise definitions, such as this one from Mental Health UK.

Blue Poetry

Three years ago, I worked with Sacristy Press, who are now my publishers, as a speaker at their launch of Jon Grogan’s From Over the Edge: A Christian’s Guide to Surviving Breakdown & Depression. I was there as a Christian, priest of the Church of England, a poet and a depressive. The next year, Sacristy published a collection of my poems, Hope in Dark Places, which explores the experience of having faith—and being a poet—while at the same time deeply depressed. Here’s part of one of these poems, “When I Write I Live”:

Poetry makes me live. […] Poets live as they write.
When I am dead in the dark I am dark and dead,
but the first new word spells the end of that night.

The long silence is the pause between breaths,
the wait in the grave, then the call to rise.
And, like resurrection, newly taken air is me made new,
seeing again with fresh-made eyes.

It was depression that started me exploring poetry, back in 1988. I read, and heard read on radio, some of the familiar and then unfamiliar poetry in the English language which continue to resonate with me for all sorts of reasons. Mine was the way they spoke to my broken and hurt mind. One night I couldn’t sleep for a phrase burrowing into my mind: “Nothing but noise and loneliness…”. I got up to write it down, covered two sides of A4, and have been writing ever since (though with breaks!).

When I began writing this blog, Durham City, near to where I live, was in the middle of the fabulous Lumiere, a weekend festival of light which showcases the immense skills and creativity of those who know about stand-alone lighting displays and projections on beautiful and historic landmark buildings, and, to be accurate, on concrete and box-like buildings as well.

My elder son and I went on the Saturday night. First time for me, though of course I’d seen the photos and seen it on the news. Lumiere is simply staggering and stupendous as a spectacle, capable of keeping the attention of thousands of visitors for three hours or more, nearly all outdoors, hazarding what the weather throws at you on a North-Eastern November night.

Hope in Dark Places

After my summer of the blues, I was by now well recovered, happy and bursting with creativity. Lumiere displayed, literally, the beauty and power of light as a basic component of healthy, normal everyday life. And for me Lumiere was a kind of overture for Christmas, the season celebrating the Light of Christ who came into the darkness of the world, experienced it fully, and overcame it. For me, the gift of Hope in Dark Places.

By the time you read this, the Christmas holiday will have come and gone; the decorations will have been taken down and put away again; the seasonal lights will all have been switched off.

If it finds you, for any reason, adrift in darkness, blueness, the grip of depression and anxiety, you have my sympathies, and I include you in my prayers. You are not alone, however much you may feel that you are. Blue Monday will pass. Light is stronger than darkness, hope than depression.

If you like poetry, you might like over the winter to read, write and remember. And why not get a copy of Hope in Dark Places?

 


Hope in Dark Places explores the depths of depression through the poetry of David Grieve. You will be moved to tears and laugh unexpectedly. You will feel the raw reality of suffering and feel Christ’s presence in its midst. Get your copy of our #BookOfTheMonth today.


Please note: Sacristy Press does not necessarily share or endorse the views of the guest contributors to this blog.

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