How Writing Poetry Saved Me

Posted by Bijal Shah on

After my transition to San Francisco from London, there were naturally many challenges as well as exciting moments awaiting.

I was 3 months pregnant when the move happened with a 14-month old toddler to look after whilst my husband and I house-hunted and attempted to 'settle' into temporary accommodation.

During this time, there were lots of highs as well as lows - the highs being beautiful weather, scenic places to explore, sumptuous Californian cuisine to enjoy, new friends to make and lots and lots of quality time with my 14 month old daughter (which I never got in London whilst working full time).

The lows were discovering how expensive everything was in Silicon Valley, no ability to fit in breaks whilst looking after my active, adorable daughter, everything was far and required a car (which after living in 'very-walkable-London' is painful) and of course, I missed my family and friends back home.

There were a real mix of emotions playing through my head. I felt that I needed something to give me an element of control, soothe my soul and help me feel calm. I had this surprising yearning to write and not to write just anything but to write poetry. Perhaps it was because I was reading lots of poetry at then; some classic (William Wordsworth) and some more contemporary (Ben Okri, Rupi Kaur). I had found the poetry to be unbelievably insightful and powerful. I had the urge to express my feelings and my experience through poetry, releasing anxious energy that had pent up. 

I took to paper and penned my first poem. The process set my creative juices flowing and the language, emotion and structure flowed. After I felt energised and in a strange way I had more clarity about how I was feeling/had felt.

Feeling refreshed, I could share this happier state of mind with my daughter, giving her the best of me. I wish I had discovered this process earlier.  (Now I continue to write poetry and plan to publish some later this year.)

I would really recommend giving it a go if you are going through a transitional period in your life or simply wish to get some clarity over a difficult/challenging situation.

To inspire you, here are two poems - one on motherhood and another one that is a letter to my daughter. Also below is a list of great books on writing poetry. Happy reading! 


the paradox of motherhood by Bijal Shah 


as you lie there sleeping 

I hold onto these precious moments 

a break 

a moment to just breathe, reflect, smile 

I hold my breath for you might awake 

not much time left 

to wash, to cook, to tidy 

hoping to have some 'me' time left. 


motherhood has changed me. 

all control lost. 

my life unpredictable 

yet when you smile at me 

when you look into my eyes 

there is nowhere I would rather be. 

I know the days crawl. 

the years will fly. 


dear daughter by Bijal Shah 


dear daughter 

younger than two 

you melt my heart 

with your sweet smile 


when you lie next to me 

sleeping away  

blowing tiny breaths 

I am at peace, my heart smiling 


let's freeze this moment 

so special, blessed am I 

dreading the day you become your own 

hope you will still come lie with me. 


miss you already 

knowing this window is limited 

we cherish each moment 

this time may pass in a blink 


dear daughter 

sleep well 

dream sweetly 

stay blessed 


Hope you enjoyed reading the poems as much as I enjoyed writing them. Here is list of some great books to get you started with writing your own poetry.


25 Great Books on Writing Poetry


1. The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio

2. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

3. A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver

4. The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises From Poets Who Teach by Robin Behn

5. The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms by Mark Strand

6. The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets by Ted Kooser

7. The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within by Stephen Fry

8. Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within by Kim Addonizio

9. Madness, Rack and Honey: Collected Lectures by Mary Ruefle

10. Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry by Jane Hirschfield


11. Writing Poetry to Save Your Life: How to Find the Courage to Tell Your Stories by Maria Mazziotti Gillian

12. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

13. Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse by Mary Oliver

14. Poem, Revised: 54 Poems, Revisions, Discussions by Robert Hartwell Fiske

15. Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-On Guide by Jane Reichhold

16. The Making of a Sonnet: A Norton Anthology by Edward Hirsch

17. Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World by Jane Hirshfield

18. Poetry: Tools & Techniques by John C. Goodman

19. Glitter in the Blood: A Poet's Manifesto for Better, Braver Writing by Mindy Nettifee

20. Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge

21. The Teachers and Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms by Ron Padgett


22. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamont

23. Real Softistikashun: Essays on Poetry and Craft by Tong Hoagland

24. A Poet's Craft: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Sharing Your Poetry by Annie Ridley and Crane Finch

25. Haiku Mind: 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness and Open Your Heart by Patricia Donegan



Do share your writing and poems in the comment section below!


A big hello and thank you for reading! Passionate about literature, psychology, and life I launched Book Therapy as an alternative form of therapy using the power of literature. I create reading lists/personalised book prescriptions based on your individual needs, this is my signature personalised reading service. My book recommendations have featured in The Guardian, NBC News and Marie Claire. You can also check out Book Therapy’s free reading lists and A- Z of book prescriptions (covering both fiction and non-fiction). These suggest books based on your existing life situation (e.g. anxiety, job change, relationship heartache) as well as interests (e.g memoir, historical fiction, non-fiction, crime etc). There’s also a Children’s A — Z of Book Prescriptions. Feel free to check out the blog for more literary gems. There’s also a post on my personal story of how I entered the world of bibliotherapy and book curation. And if you’d like to connect, email me at or

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