Poems reflecting life with Parkinson’s disease


Author: Sarah McGrathPublished: 23 March 2023

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A cozy mental health break with an open journal, pen and coffee cup.

How can poetry help to raise awareness of Parkinson’s? In light of World Poetry Day on 21 March, we look back at five interviews with writers who have picked up their pens to share their perspectives on the condition

Stella Pierides on capturing the “essence” of Parkinson’s

British writer Stella Pierides says she feels like she been writing all her life. The poetry form of haiku has particularly drawn her interest – and supported her personal wellbeing since her Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2017.

“The aim of the haiku poet is to capture the essence of a moment or experience and share it with others,” explains Stella, who encourages others to read and write the form as a way to exercise the mind. “I make the case that it may serve as a creative tool to support the psychological wellbeing and help improve the quality of life of people with Parkinson’s.”

Stella says writing haiku poetry has enabled her to put into words “the fears and pain of Parkinson’s” – and capture her experiences with the condition.

A close-up of Stella Pierides

Learn more about Stella Pierides and her experience writing haiku poetry.

Dean Cook on using limericks to help stimulate his mind

After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s around 2008, Dean Cook tackled his feelings about the condition with his love of writing poetry – especially limericks. “We Parkinson’s folks [can] have trouble sleeping, so sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and – just to keep the mind active – I’ll put together some rhymes and limericks,” he says.

He discusses one of his “tongue in cheek” works, ‘Parkinson’s Blues’: “One night I got to thinking about how we read so much and hear so much about the progress made in Parkinson’s, but we [often] don’t actually see anything being done – that inspired me to write the poem.”

Dean encourages other people with the condition taking up the art form. “We need to squeeze out as many good days as we can,” he says.

Learn more about Dean Cook and his limericks.

Meet Parkinson’s Life poetry competition winner Catherine Strisik

US-based writer and editor Catherine Strisik won first place in our 2019 poetry competition with her moving piece, ‘Circular Green Metal Hairbrush with Missing Bristles and Worn Rubber Handle’.

An emotional depiction of Parkinson’s, marriage and grief, the poem was written two months after the death of Catherine’s husband, Larry, who had lived with the condition for seven years. “This poem came to me,” she recalls. “I had been cleaning when I found his hairbrush in a drawer. It represents my grief in writing.”

Reflecting on her win, she adds: “When I found out, I felt this very familiar grief rise up from deep, deep within me. This poem means more to me now as I have some distance from the situation.”

Catherine Strisik with her husband Larry.

Learn more about the story behind Catherine’s award-winning poem.

Marc Woodward on his poem ‘San Francisco’

Back in 2019, Marc Woodward captured our attention as runner-up in the Parkinson’s Life poetry competition. In his poem ‘San Francisco’, the US city provides a backdrop for the writer’s feelings of nostalgia and subtle reflections about the condition.

According to Marc, the poem was not even supposed to be about Parkinson’s. “It was meant to be about San Francisco, but Parkinson’s came sneaking in!” he explains. “I am trying to avoid writing about Parkinson’s too much really, because I don’t want it to define me… I just want to be who I am.”

Marc Woodward sitting on a chair writing in a book

Learn more about the inspiration behind Marc’s poem, ‘San Francisco’.

Mike Bell’s touching poem about carers

Mike Bell, a designer-turned poet, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2015 – after which he challenged himself to write a poem every day for a year. The undertaking, which he says he hopes will help him to maintain his mental skills, has continued to this day.

For World Parkinson’s Day in 2016, we asked Mike to write a poem specifically for the often-overlooked carers of people with the condition. ‘Close to Parkinson’s: Hurting’ aims to raise awareness of the work that caregivers do to help their loved ones maintain their quality of life.

Read Mike Bell’s inspiring poem.

For more information on living well with Parkinson’s, visit the Parkinson’s Europe website.

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“The aim of the haiku poet is to capture the essence of a moment”

Putting Parkinson’s disease on the page

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