Hear and See – Mental Health Poetry and Art

The first week of May is Mental Health Awareness Week. On the first Sunday of this month, Emmanuel dedicated the Adult Sunday School class and the worship service to this theme. The unique art project that you see here was part of this worship experience.

Four poets offered writing that focused either on mental health or the scripture text for the day (Philippians 4:4-9).  Each poet was then paired with an artist who interpreted that poem visually. This art project gives voice and vision to the fact that mental illness affects us all – whether we have the opportunity to support someone who is living with mental illness or live with it ourselves. Let us consider how we can support each other on the journey towards mental wellness.


Veronica's art on one slide





Poet: Angelika Dawson
String Haiku, Philippians 4:4-7

Artist: Veronica Harms
Wax Encaustic


Past experience
Affects my present day, night
Threatens my future

I want to live in
The present, the here and now
But without the tense

Do not be anxious
But pray and ask God for help
Giving thanks to God

And the peace of God
Will guard your heart and your mind
Those places of tense

Leaving the past there
Living the present, today
Giving God the rest


You crow

Dale's Crow









Poet: Adriel Brandt

Artist: Dale Klippenstein
Photo Collage


The world speaks:

You crow.
You garbage-eating blackmuscle heart.
How the filth speckles your beak!
Look at your reflection in your shining vomit, you oily creature! Look at your home
or can’t you see the black mold through your nightfilmy eye—how grotesque you are!
You’d eat our puke, wouldn’t you, if you were hungry enough?

You crow.
You villainous plotter, planning planning.
Take your sinshadow elsewhere, twisted gargoyle! Don’t land your crooked claws on this pristine pavement! We take care of our own, so back! back! you cretinous creature!
Don’t spread the lies of your past!
You gargled no mothersmilk, you egghatched reptile, no god coddles you, so back! back!

You crow.
You think yourself clever, don’t you, with your nutcrackering and busybodying,
but no intelligence comes out of your lipless daggermouth,
no sentience,
just emptiness.
You cry!
You crow!
You scream!
You witchcackle!
You occult darkspirit! Wiccan demon! Corpse defiler! Back! back!

You crow.

The poet speaks:

You crow.

You shining spirit, let not darkness in.
You wear it on your back, already inked,
let not it seep into your soul. But crow,
I know it lies already heavy there.
I know, my crow, the darkness sits inside
your being, crushing deathwish whispers through
your veins. You gorgeous wing! How light you look,
how delicate upon that outcast bed,
spread featherswide, so beautiful and young.
Don’t ope, oh carved obsidian beak, don’t speak:
I see the suffering around your shape,
the acid trash, the crumpled life, the blood,
the dead facade, the living one, but crow,
I know that you have precious human veins,
I know they map a labyrinth too vast
to fit within you; too exquisite, too
complex, to carry only wasted blood.
You crow, your blood is full of pain and loss,
is coloured by the refuse of the world
that you’ve absorbed, but crow, you know your blood
is history and future, diamond
and earth, and flows through all the flesh of life?
You crow, how beautiful and wonderful,
misunderstood and crucified.

You crow.

The crow speaks:

I am crow.
I am crow.
I am crow.
I am crow.


Not a Garden, but a Forest

Not a Garden but a Forest downsized





Poet: Mackenzie lee

Artist: Aaron Dawson


See morning dawning, flowers yawning
In springtime’s wakeful glory,
Each blade of grass upturns to your face;
You watch in beauty of sunlight on wind.
To feel you pass, to know the longing,
To brush your cheek and tell you
I love you, but I cannot smile.

See soft hues and dainty dews
Embellish invitations to rejoice:
They pile in crisply scented papers by my door
With words too water-stained to read
As in a rush the March parades march by
With trumpet calls trilling the rebirth of green;
I soak my feet each morning searching
For songs that fade as I make to follow.

Where is there morning alighting in me?
What if I wait a polar night awake
With eyes cast east, still sunlight never came?

You tucked the secret to peace of mind
In the tulip folds and petal skirts
Of many layered peonies:
How many flowers must I tear apart
With shaking hands to find nothing?
I grow gardens full of frail leaves
That never withstand a fall of rain,
What colours could grow from the compost of these?

When only down-trod mulch remains,
Joy in fallen, failed bouquets,
You make not a garden, but a forest of me
Where light streams otherworldly shade.
See strength divine in the cool of pine,
And I thank you for the springtime.


I am Cancer.
          I am Mental Illness

Kevin's art as one slide






Poet: Gareth Brandt

Artist: Kevin Jeske
Photography Cube


The mere mention of my name strikes fear into people’s hearts.

          Yes, and perhaps also some confusion.

I can take many different forms.

          So can I; each one is a separate disease.

I am somewhat unique to western cultures in modern times.

          I am there too but they used to think of me as demon possessed.

I cause great suffering, pain, and heart-ache.

          Sadly, I do as well.

I am no respecter of persons. I strike the rich and the poor alike; it makes no difference.

           You can add race, religion, and Jesus in your heart; I do not discriminate either.

I affect friends and family and all people around those who have me.


My treatments are long and arduous and sometimes worse than the disease itself.

           Unfortunately, that goes for me too; learn to live with me for the rest of your life.

I can take over a person’s entire body.

           I can do that; and then I mess with their very identity.

I can be terminal; people die because of me.

           Sorry, me too.

People have run across Canada for me, and millions of young and old raise millions of dollars for research through public events and big name celebrities.

           Hmmm, most celebrities who have me are no longer celebrities and there’s very few fundraising campaigns for me.

I’m on every church and Facebook prayer list.

           I prefer to suffer silently and remain hidden.

I’m part of a title: Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre.

           I’m the psych ward at the back of the hospital.

People all feel sorry for my victims.

           They just think mine are crazy.

I can be beaten.

          I can carry stigma to the grave.