defenestration is the act of throwing a body through
a window, but how can i throw this voice outside myself

~ Scott-Patrick Mitchell from 'my body is a window' 

draw your sword of justice
and pray they come to understand
the mutual life of pluralism for inner multitudes
~ An Ross from 'Borderline'

We are full of worlds that can't be contained by a pill

MAD Poetry is an initiative that originated in the Illawarra. The key focus of the project is on creating a safe writing space for emerging voices with a lived/living experience of mental health issues to express how they see the world, where these poets can define themselves through their creativity not their diagnosis, and explore by pen and page their experience of illness, institutions, recovery, self-care, and beyond.

MAD Poetry 2021 will see face-to-face workshops* in the Illawarra and the NSW South Coast alongside five new commissions from those regions, a national free online workshop, a callout to emerging lived experience voices to submit their work as part of a new anthology, our first in-patient workshop, and a new partnered poetic film initiative all across Mental Health Month October 2021.


Online Workshop

This special 4-part workshop series will be led by four facilitators – Tim Heffernan, Ruby Hillsmith, Mohammad Awad and Anne-Marie Te Whiu – all of whom are practicing poets with their own lived mental health experience. Participants are strongly encouraged to attend all four workshops across October.

  • Dates: Tuesday 5, 12, 19, 26 October
  • Time: 7–830pm AEST weekly (duration 90 minutes)
  • Bookings: Essential (limited to 50 places), bookings via Eventbrite

In-Patient Workshop

We will be hosting our first pilot in-patient closed workshop to be held at the Wollongong Acute Adult Mental Health Ward across October hosted by poet and peer worker Alise Blayney.

Live Workshops*

Due to Covid restrictions we have had to postpone planned face-to-face workshops in Wollongong, Port Kembla and Bega supported by Coordinare until March 2022. More details soon.

Survivors of Suicide & Friends

We're thrilled to announce a new partnered poetic film initiative as part of MAD Poetry. Co-presented with our good friends at Survivors of Suicide & Friends we have commissioned five original video poems from poets with a lived experience of mental health issues and suicidality alongside two special readings by Evelyn Araluen, all of which will be released daily across Mental Health Week (10-16 October).


Every Friday across October we will be publishing new MAD Poetry commissions and reflections.

Anthology Call Out

We're proud to partner with our MAD Poetry Coordinator, David Stavanger in support of a forthcoming lived-experience mental health poetry anthology, which is supported by Australian Council for the Arts. Emerging lived-experience poets are invited to submit a poem during Mental Health Month October 2021 for consideration to the anthology, which will be edited by David Stavanger, Anne-Marie Te Whiu and Mohammad Awad. Thirty poems will be selected for paid inclusion.

Submissions open at 9am AEST on Friday 1 October 2021. Read the Guidelines

The aim of the MAD Poetry project is to share lived experiences of mental health via poetry. Therefore, some of the content may potentially trigger some readers. If you require mental health support or assistance, a list of free confidential 24/7 support lines can be found here. You are not alone in your journey.

MAD Poetry artwork by Rachel Wenona Guy. Logo design by Ogma Creative.

Partners and Supporters