Bipolar Poetry

Janet Coburn
2 min readFeb 25, 2024

I used to write poetry, since I was in second grade. I continued through high school and college. I stopped because they kept turning into prose. So I wrote prose. I knew I could never make a living writing poetry anyway.

Recently, though, I decided to try poetry again. I thought that instead of the free verse that wanted to turn into prose, I would try my hand at more structured poetry — villanelles and sonnets. And my subject: bipolar disorder, of course. Here’s what I came up with.

Villanelle

We understand there is both loss and gain
and much besides we cannot think to know
In trying to control the cycling brain

as we daily live with depths of pain
and wait to grasp the high amidst the low
We understand there is both loss and gain

and minds that bend and crack beneath the strain
or falter, limping, halting, slow.
In trying to control the cycling brain

we snatch the fleeting highs and yet retain
the memory of how we’ve suffered so.
We understand there is both loss and gain

in swing from scorching sun to drowning rain
and have our deepest feelings put on show
in trying to control the cycling brain.

A search for level ground remains the main
unfinished task that asks for yes or no.
We understand there is both loss and gain
In trying to control the cycling brain.

Sonnets

1.

Where is the light that once so brilliant blazed?
Turned now to dim and gray before the night,
it creeps in shadows hungry for the sight
yet dreads the time when shades are sudden raised.

And I am past the daylight, stunned and dazed
by darkened air that smothers, clinging tight
till breath itself turns faint and pulse is slight,
but when the dawn returns I am amazed.

The rings the sun runs round the endless dark
bring distant hints of what there yet may be
whenever night fades as it must or will,

when color blooms in contrast hot and stark;
my eyes ajar that I may briefly see
the world whirl past my prison’s windowsill.

2.

The air is still and blankets all my sense.
I’m muffled, muzzled in the sheltering dark
but dare not pray for fire, with bright, intense,
loud flames that rend the silence with a spark.

I breathe, or not? It’s sometimes hard to tell
when swathed in clinging, stifling, musty scent
that fills my nostrils and my brain as well;
which cannot will the veil be shredded, rent

to save from suffocation. How shall I
withstand this cycle till the day appears
and breezes blow the dust away from my
stopped ears and eyes and lungs, plugged full with fears?

Pull off the cover and let free the soul.
Take broken breath and heal it into whole.

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Janet Coburn

Author of Bipolar Me and Bipolar Us, Janet Coburn is a writer, editor, and blogger at butidigress.blog and bipolarme.blog.