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  • Writer's pictureSheree Hoddinett

Unleashing the Poet from Within

Local artist Karen Saunders published her first book in November 2022 touching on the many facets of mental health and its impact.

Karen Saunders is a local artist and now a published author. Her first book, A Poet Unleashed:- The dark and the Light Side of Poetry - which was published in November 2022, features her own illustrations and touches on the many facets of mental health and its impact.

“My mental health background and my own mental health journey has helped me to understand how misinformation and a lack of education can cause great stigma around serious mental illness.

Creative flair runs deep for Karen Saunders. Not only is she an artist and a poet, she likes to play a few instruments as well. To top it all off, Karen has combined her art and poetry skills to produce a book: A Poet Unleashed:- The Dark and the Light Side of Poetry, which feature her own illustrations, along with contributions from three other artists. Originally working in the nursing field - first in palliative community care and later in mental health - Karen always viewed her creative side as more of a hobby. Now in retirement, she has the opportunity to fully explore this path and see where it all goes.

It’s not often you find someone who is a triple achiever in the creative fields of art, writing and music. But Karen is all of those, and there’s even more to this Narangba local than meets the eye. Originally from England, Karen and her family moved to Australia about 15 years ago, settling into the region they now happily call home. Putting her book together has certainly been a labour of love for Karen, but it’s an achievement she is extremely proud of and hopes it can make a difference in the lives of others. Featuring 50 poems with accompanying illustrations, A Poet Unleashed was published in November 2022 and has already sold multiple copies.

“It’s a childhood dream come true, really,” Karen says. “It touches on negative human behaviours, which unfortunately are impacted by untreated mental illness, (which) contribute to the dark poems. Although my work is in no way a professional mental health reference book, the poetry is straightforward in getting to the heart of the matter, in a way that many people who have already read my book can resonate with. Especially with some of the maladaptive behaviours linked with mental illness, which appear to be even more prevalent these days.”

“My mental health background and my own mental health journey has helped me to understand how misinformation and a lack of education can cause great stigma around serious mental illness, for example narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and borderline personality disorder (BPD). I've been able to put pen to paper and write and illustrate how these issues can appear to non-sufferers. But then there's also the light side of poetry that touches on things like the animal and plant kingdoms, as well as the universe and other aspects in life which truly touch my heart. So there's a little bit of everything and these subjects are written in rhyming poetry."

Karen is passionate about the mental health community, and would love to see it as less of a taboo subject. As a society, she feels we should be able to talk about mental illness in the same manner we discuss cancer or heart disease, and be comfortable in those discussions. She would also love to see places become available for people in the community to come together and share their creativity together.

"There is still a stigma of mental health, the wall's not as high as it used to be but it's still there," she says. "I feel that in some small way, I'm contributing to breaking that stigma down through art and poetry. I'm also connected with SANE Australia, as I have my own mental health issue as well. I do actually suffer from bipolar disorder. But because I'm high functioning, I have a lot of insights both personally and professionally into that condition. I feel I'm in a position to convey through poetry and illustrations how that particular illness affects people. I've found that when people are suffering and they express themselves creatively through art, poetry or whatever artistic form that connects with them, it actually helps them on their journey to recovery."

Karen admits putting a book together is no easy feat, but it’s a dream she has now achieved and encourages others to do the same.

"When I look back and reflect on my life, despite my past relationships and experiences, where I was conditioned to believe I would never amount to anything, I've pushed through it and I'm grateful I've achieved a lot of things,” she says. “I'm well travelled. I’ve had a fantastic education. I've written a book. I went to university. I've done a lot of things that most people would never, ever have even dreamt about. At this point in my life I'm quite happy in my own skin. I've gotten to the stage where the only things that truly matter are my family, my faith and true friends."

Karen’s book is available through Barnes and Noble, Amazon and her Publisher, Balboa Press, in paperback and eBook. The original artwork Karen has created for her illustrations are also for sale and until mid-April are being showcased at the Alliance Hotel in Brisbane along with prints of her work. Karen is hoping to contribute $5 to SANE Australia and raise mental-health awareness from each piece sold, as well as from sales of her book. To find out more you can email or follow her on Instagram @karenlsaunders_art and @apoet_unleashed.


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