Teen finds solace in poetry

18:14, Oct 08 2012
Taylor Baistow
Mary Campbell and Taylor Baistow.

Putting pen to paper and expressing how he's feeling takes Taylor Baistow's mind off some of his problems.

Poetry, the 16-year-old says, is relaxing. "It was a good way to release all of your emotions and stuff like that."

But Taylor wasn't sitting in a classroom writing down his thoughts and taking instructions from a teacher. He was in the art room at the Regional Rangatahi Adolescent Inpatient Service - the 13-bed acute mental health unit at Kenepuru Hospital in Porirua.

Every Tuesday, Taylor and other patients aged between 12 and 17 meet Mary Campbell and write poems.

"It was pretty good, yeah . . . it was relaxing," Taylor said. "It took your mind off some of the problems we were having."

A collection of their work, spanning two years, has been published in a book entitled Smells Like Sugar, launched yesterday to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week.


Taylor said he was proud that one of his poems had been published.

"It's cool. I'm going to send it to my nana, it's her birthday."

A few of the poems are about death, some are about dreaming, some are about rappers, some are sophisticated and others are tear-jerkers.

Each one gave a snapshot of how the young person was feeling at the time of writing, Ms Campbell said.

"This is one way of young people having a voice. I say to them when they're writing don't edit, just write, write, write . . . I would rather they just get down what's in their head."

Ms Campbell, daughter of late Pukerua Bay poet Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, has been running poetry workshops with mental health patients for several years in her role as a consumer consultant.

This is the second book of poems created from her workshops - What it takes to fly was published in 2010.

Poems from at least 40 teenagers feature in the latest collection.

Team leader Lucy Laphen said poetry was part of the therapeutic day programme, which included singing and art.

The creative activities gave them a way to express tucked-away thoughts and feel good about themselves by taking part and completing a painting, poem or song.

"It's just wonderful for them at the end of an art session to say, ‘I did that and it's beautiful'."

The service opened 11 years ago for teenagers from the lower North Island with acute mental health problems. The book costs $20 and is available at the service.

Contact Bronwyn Torrie
Health reporter
Email: bronwyn.torrie@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @brontorrie

The Dominion Post