Book Review | The Poetry Pharmacy by William Sieghart

Book Review | The Poetry Pharmacy by William Sieghart

This post is a little different to most book reviews on here. I’m going to tell you a story about me and this book that I think will explain how I feel much more succinctly than a “proper” review ever could. 

Confession time. Whilst I was hugely excited about The Poetry Pharmacy‘s arrival, I was also quite disappointed when I finally opened it up. It was exactly what I thought it would be – a poem for every ailment – but it didn’t quite hit the spot. I spent days looking at it on my bedside table wondering how a book that had received so many great reviews, that had sounded so perfect for me, could be such a disappointment.

Fast forward another week and I’m sitting on the tube on Christmas Eve, suddenly feeling incredibly lonely. I’ve brought this book along with me because I’m hoping I’ll be able to get an Instagrammable picture of it on my wander through London. I reach into my bag, deciding to give this book another chance, despite the eight other options I’ve brought with me (yes, seriously). I open it up, flick to page 27, and that’s where I find “My Brilliant Image” by Hafez (in translation). It’s a poem for loneliness but is also suitable for general malaise, loss of motivation, lack of self-belief, low self-esteem, lack of support.

I read.

I wish I could show you,
When you are lonely or in darkness,
The Astonishing Light
Of your own Being!

And suddenly, I feel less alone. My heart is warmed. I suddenly see why critics are raving about this book and realise the power of Sieghart’s Poetry Pharmacy. Perhaps poetry really is the greatest medicine after all. I eagerly flick to another, hoping to recreate that feeling, but it doesn’t come. “Burlap Sack” by Jane Hirshfield just isn’t what I need right now. I’m not looking for reprise from “emotional baggage” right now and this poem goes straight over my head.

So you see this isn’t a book that you buy for immediate consumption. It’s something you buy, put on the shelf, and most likely forget about for the next few months. There’ll come a time, however, when you’re in need; when feelings of purposelessness, glumness, depression, stagnation, defeatism, regret, infatuation, heartbreak, or bereavement overwhelm you. That’s when you’ll find yourself reaching out for The Poetry Pharmacy.

Keep this on your bookshelf as you would keep paracetamol in your bathroom cupboard. You never know when you’re going to need it but when you do it’ll be right there waiting for you.

Do yourself a favour and purchase this now – future you will thank me when the time is right.

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