In this episode Jenny Pagdin talks about her experiences of post-natal psychosis which she explores in her pamphlet Caldbeck. She discusses how poetry can convey the inexpressible and reads a few poems. She also sets an exercise for writing a gratitude poem.
Jenny’s writing exercise
“Gratitude can come in many forms, some purer than others, including appreciation, relief, obligation, awe and intimacy. You may want to add to this list. The exercise I have set out below is designed to be taken slowly.”
1) For three days, keep a gratitude diary. Each day, list at least three things you feel grateful for. It doesn’t matter who you’re grateful to, this isn’t a religious practice and doesn’t require any beliefs. Research shows that noting down what we’re grateful for makes us happier and is not a bad habit to follow every now and then.
2) Read some odes (praise poems) like Keats’s Ode on a Grecian Urn or Pablo Neruda’s Ode to a Large Tuna in the Market.
3) Think of the last time something made you happy – can you feel grateful to anyone (or to the universe at large) for this? If possible, talk with a friend about what made you happy.
4) When you feel ready, start mapping out a gratitude map using pen and paper (think spider diagram). Drawing is fine too.
5) Wait until the moment takes you for this stage – I don’t think you can write a gratitude poem without being genuinely grateful. When you’re ready, use your map to develop a poem, letting the thing(s) you are grateful for lead the form you use. Some tricks that have helped me in the past are to think about odes, hymns and list poems – but you may have different ideas. Good luck!
When you have written a poem please share for the chance to be published on the website or featured on the podcast. You can send poems by email here, share them in the comments section of this post or share them on social media using #poetrynonstop.
Born in High Wycombe to a British-Lebanese family, Jenny Pagdin studied BA English at Oxford University and MA Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. Her pamphlet Caldbeck, which tells the story of her postnatal psychosis, was published by Eyewear in 2017, shortlisted for the Mslexia pamphlet competition and listed by the Poetry Book Society. John Redmond said that “After reading these inward, psychologically acute poems, the reader is likely to be haunted for some time.” Pagdin won the Café Writers Norfolk prize 2017 (“lovely dark stuff!” – Liz Berry) and was longlisted for the Rebecca Swift Foundation Women’s Poetry Prize 2018.
In addition to mental health, Pagdin is drawn to metaphysical, parenting and relationship themes. Her work is often concerned with extreme or indescribable states, Hopkins’ “no-man-fathomed” mountains in the mind. She is working on a new collection to include supernatural themes and has an interest in the meeting points between shared and other ‘realities’.
She is an active member of the Norwich Stanza and regularly gives readings locally and in London. As well as writing poetry, Pagdin is a fundraiser, mother, wife, Reiki student and occasional crafter.
Discover more, including poems and extracts: