The Poetry Pharmacy

Prose made way for poetry in this month’s book club, as we considered William Sieghart’s The Poetry Pharmacy, a brief anthology of ‘tried-and-true prescriptions for the heart, mind and soul.’ This is the formulary of a poetry apothecary who has been, for several years, dispensing verse in makeshift clinics at literary festivals to the bewildered and downcast. Indications ranging from hopelessness and heartbreak to infatuation and oppression are the targets of his tailored remedies. Sieghart counts nearly a thousand patients in receipt of his prescriptions. His belief in the therapeutic power of poetry has inspired him to compile a few dozen of his most trusty antidotes into this handsome hardback.

Members of the book club were well disposed to the premise that poetry can exert great force on the soul, especially given the right conditions. Several mentioned poems in this volume and elsewhere that had impressed them at critical junctures (one’s…

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