BMJ Case Reports 2012; doi:10.1136/bcr-2012-007499

‘The verses of madness’: schizophrenia and poetry

  1. Rashid Zaman3
  1. 1Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, The Royal Oldham Hospital, Oldham, UK
  2. 2University of Bedfordshire, Luton, UK
  3. 3Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ahmed Khaldoon Hankir, ahmedzakaria{at}


In the early 19th century, Lombroso introduced the concept of hereditary taint to describe the coexistence of ‘madness’ and creativity. In a recent investigation, Rust et al reported a study designed to test the traditionally assumed relationship between creativity and schizophrenia. They uncovered an association between creative originality and the positive cognitive aspects of schizotypal thinking. Poetry is not only the ‘product’ of psychopathology but it can also be utilised as a form of therapy: “My name is David Holloway, I am a 33 year old poet/blogger with paranoid schizophrenia. A poet called Charles Bukowski has described poetry as the ‘ultimate psychiatrist’, and I am a firm believer in this. The strongest part of my personality is my belief in the power of love. My recovery has relied heavily on medication, diet and exercise. However it is the power of poetry that has been my true inspiration.”

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