"This poem cannot help you."

Salena Godden.png
This Poem
by Salena Godden

This Poem

This poem is not designed.
And this poem is not the map.
It is not written to give you something to relate to.
This poem will not be the words you recite to your lover in the night.
This poem will not be the words you scratch 
into your prison cell walls with bleeding nails.
This poem is not designed to arouse you or even confuse you.
This poem will not make you laugh or cry or feel.
It will not be the lines that make you remember how to live.
It will not remind you of the time you cut your finger sledging,
as vivid as blood in the snow
and everlasting as the scar made that day.
This poem does not taste like old five-pence pieces,
and it will not sound like an ice cream van in summertime.
This poem will not enlighten you like a Buddhist prayer.
It will not fill you with wonder at the human condition.
This poem will not feed you like potatoes and gravy
and it will not answer your questions of being alone in this.
This poem cannot be your friend 
or explain that reoccurring chewing-gum dream.
It will not stop you calling out in the night in cold and acrid sweat.
This poem cannot help you.
It will not inspire you to take up writing or even to continue. 
This poem is not the way in or the way out.
It will not feel like winning and it will not feel like losing.
This poem will not make your bus come sooner. 
It will not make your cake rise or guess the lottery numbers.
This poem is not written to be anything other than 
what you want to read into it,
and if you expect a poem to ever do anything more 
then you should read this full stop.

by Salena Godden

'Fishing In The Aftermath - Poems 1994-2014' (Burning Eye Books 2014).


Poem as Friend to Dan

This Poemby Salena Godden

In this episode you will hear Dan talking about the poem that has been a friend to him - 'This Poem' by Salena Godden.

Dan visited us in Lambeth, London and is in conversation with The Poetry Exchange team members Fiona Bennett and Al Snell.

'This Poem' is read by Al Snell.


We talk to people about the poem that has been a friend to them.

In exchange we create a gift for them, a bespoke reading of their chosen poem inspired by the conversation. Our award-winning podcast shares these unique and powerful stories of connection with people across the world. 


We set up an intimate environment for these conversations at festivals, in arts, cultural and public spaces across the country. We also hold exchanges ‘long distance’. Our visitors come from all walks of life and we also feature well-known personalities such as Andrew Scott, Maxine Peake, Roy McFarlane and Paterson Joseph.