I like the word ‘Melancholy’.

And I agree with the writer William Styron, who in Darkness Visible (London: Vintage, 2004), his memoir of a lifelong struggle with ‘a malady in extremis’, describes the word ‘depression’ as no way approximating the experience of what it attempts to convey.

For me also, ‘depression’ has become synonymous with the medicalisation of the condition.

Melancholia, on the other hand, is a much more evocative word. Or was, until it was abused, and thus weakened, losing its power in connotations of blandness, a sense of nothingness, or not enoughness.

Which is a shame, as it is a wondrous word. Saying it aloud, it has a richness and a seductiveness about it, which should reflect so much.

Which brings me to the poet Christopher Reid, who has a way of just doing that, using words, with an ease and a deceptive simplicity, to say so much.

The following excerpt from Reid’s poem Espresso, from his most recent collection Nonsense (London: Faber, 2012), encapsulates this, and melancholy…

‘Little cup of melancholy,

inch-deep well of the blackest

concentrate of brown,

it comes to your table without ceremony

and stands there shuddering…’

CQ

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