Morrissey Doomed?


Mr. Shankly

Clues to Future Suicide Contained in Poets' Words

Updated: Wed, Jul 25 8:17 AM EDT

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The writings of poets of various nationalities who committed suicide contain words and language patterns that give clues about their eventual fate, researchers said on Tuesday.

Using a computer program that examines word usage in written texts, the researchers analyzed 156 poems written by nine poets who committed suicide and 135 poems written by nine poets who did not. They found that the suicidal poets gravitated toward words indicating their detachment from other people and preoccupation with themselves.

"The key finding is that we were able to distinguish features of people's mental health by the language they use," said James Pennebaker, a University of Texas psychology professor who conducted the research along with University of Pennsylvania graduate student Shannon Wiltsey Stirman.

"The words we use, especially what often appear to be the unimportant words, say a lot about who we are, what we're thinking and how we're approaching the world," he added.

The study appears in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

The researchers looked at the works of John Berryman (1914-1972), Hart Crane (1899-1932), Sergei Esenin (1895-1925), Adam L. Gordon (1833-1870), Randall Jarrell (1914-1965), Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930), Sylvia Plath (1932-1963), Sarah Teasdale (1884-1933) and Anne Sexton (1928-1974), all of whom took their own lives.

It compared their works to poets matched as closely as possible by nationality, era, education and gender. All the poets were American, British or Russian.

The comparison group included Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-present), Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918), Denise Levertov (1923-1997), Robert Lowell (1917-1977), Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938), Boris Pasternak (1890-1960), Adrienne Rich (1929-present) and Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950).

The poets who committed suicide used many more first-person singular self-references such as "I," "me" and "my" and fewer first-person plural words than did the non-suicidal poets.

"Issues of identity, isolation and connection to others is revealed in pronoun usage," Pennebaker said in an interview. "One of the most telling words of all is the word 'I.' People who are suicidal or depressed use 'I' at much, much higher rates, and there's also a corresponding drop in references to other people."

The suicidal poets also generally reduced their use of communication words such as "talk," "share" and "listen" over time heading toward their self-inflicted deaths, while the non-suicidal poets tended to increase their use of such words.

The suicidal ones also used more words associated with death, but surprisingly the amount of words with negative emotion (for example, "hate") or positive emotion ("love") did not vary significantly between the groups.

Pennebaker said previous research has found that suicide rates are much higher among poets than among other literary writers and the general public, and that poets are more prone to depression and bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness.

"As a group, no one would call poets a particularly bubbly, chipper group," Pennebaker added.

He said the patterns of language used by the poets who eventually took their lives could serve as "linguistic predictors of suicide" in current poets. "This is not some kind of causal relationship. We're not saying that if you use 'I' a lot, then you'll commit suicide. It's just simply a marker of greater risk," Pennebaker said.


"I" don't care about it... is it just "me"?? well, that's "my" opinion anyway... (BANG BANG!!...)


Oh, the well respected 'Journal of Psychosomatic medicine'. Did you know that my height, 6'4'' makes me less at risk of heart disease ? ah, but damn, my waist of >38" makes me more at risk. Then again, I have low cholesterol ! Then again, I don't exercise enough. Then again and again and again.............
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