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Stages of Women’s Mental Health

LDBTH942 Mother and Child at Breaking Point 1970 Hi Res 1

In the final poetry workshop run by Young People’s Laureate for London Theresa Lola, the group discussed perinatal mental health, and looked at the painting Mother and Child at Breaking Point by Maureen Scott that features in The Four Ages of Woman exhibition. The group looked closely at the imagery, specifically the background, considering how it represents and emphasises the stress felt by the mother and child (read our blog post about perinatal mental health here).

The group then studied two poems, Daughters by Phoebe Stuckes and The Republic of Motherhood by Liz Berry and spent some time writing poems in response to them.


Aisling Towl

to be loved is to be watched

how do you know you’re still here

if nobody tells you?

by night, you writhe and curl

into perfect boxes

hand your body over

in pieces through the screen

the evening slips away

like a cement bucket off scaffolding

maybe you’ll kill someone who

isn’t looking up (who isn’t looking for answers from above)

you count the man down

and he sputters it out

you become perfect, formless

disappear slowly,

and then all at once

the fall

Aisling Towl

when you regained consciousness

the woman offered you a bar of chocolate

your friend made a joke about how you always

stole her limelight.

the two of you sat giggling

nervously in the waiting room

where they had asked you to wait

in case it happened again

no more heart break diet.

when you explain you’ve lost your appetite

and they say silver linings

you do not laugh and agree

no more contortion,

no more negation

enough apology.

it did happen again


and as you fell to the floor

the ropes that had wrapped around

your waist this time

to keep your body in place

were thicker

more convincing.

let us crash from our attics

to the lowest floor of ourselves

so determinedly

our every atom splits

as we touch the ground

let us show them what new means

who our limbs belong to

let us forget them carefully

or screaming

whatever works

let us let them know

who knows how to destroy

and what comes after.

The Castle of Adolescence to Womanhood

Shaniqua Benjamin

My castle stood strong, so long

towering over green pastures









off more than I could count or contain

damage gradually settled in,

leaks dripped from my eyes, unseenwitheffect.


I wish I’d made time to restore my inner walls and build a fort

thick and firm with a watchtower to combat future attacks

and defend against enemy insecurity that had sieged, then

Stormed in, firing cannons loaded with lack of confidence

flaming arrows lit with lack of self-belief

alongside an ally army that revelled in stealing hopes and dreams.





It took many years of rebuildingLet us rage against our inner enemies.

but my castle, newly restoredLet us vanquish our voice of negativity.

is more resilient and beautifulLet us hold our turrets high in radiance.

than it could have been before.Let us never forget that we are enough.


Elspeth Wilson

One day, I entered the millennial republic without noticing it, slipping in a second at a time. Feet first and then every inch of me, until I was stuffing avocado into my face each day of the week. In the park, I sit in the sun surrounded by Yoga with Adrienne and French bulldogs. I sit in the sun - protected by factor 50 to guard against fine lines - but its light does not show me the path to an affordable home