Poetry Corner

NAMI NJ Dara Axelrod Expressive Arts Poetry Program

Open Mic

Poetry is an expression of the soul as unique as every individual who puts the pen to paper. We at NAMI NJ Dara Axelrod Expressive Arts Network maintain that any creative expression of an individual is a poem whether it rhymes or not; whether it is one word or pages long.

Program Contact:  Jacquese Armstrong, Coordinator of NAMI NJ Dara Axelrod Expressive Arts Network, at [email protected].




NAMI NJ Dara Axelrod Expressive Arts Mental Health Poetry Contest

April is the National Poetry Month and May is Mental Health Awareness Month. NAMI NJ inaugurated the Annual NAMI NJ Dara Axelrod Expressive Arts Mental Health Poetry Contest in 2014, which has grown to be a well-loved public event with enthusiastic responses from NJ’s diverse communities each year.

The 2024 Mental Health Poetry Contest has come to a close. NAMI NJ members and friends voted and helped us pick the Top Three Poems. Click here to view the Top Poems.



Poetry Showcase

After each spring, poems submitted for the annual NAMI NJ Dara Axelrod Expressive Arts Mental Health Poetry Contest will be showcased here in the Poetry Corner. We hope these poems touch you, too.

March 2023

The drab Beauty – Sharon Ivanasuskas
Free – Lisa Marie Bettencourt
The Mirror – James Holmes
SEE Me, HEAR ME, and Don’t judge me………… – Nicole Jordan
Stigma of Mental Illness: The Lack of Understanding of the Concepts of its Conditions – Daniel William Dolson

 Poetry Showcase Archive





Virtual Poetry Workshops 

In some seasons, our Expressive Arts Network Coordinator, Jacquese Armstrong, holds virtual poetry workshops where a theme is given for that season and community poets share their work.  Jacquese is a poet/writer/inspirational speaker and has been a NAMI NJ volunteer for over a decade. Her work has been published in Black Magnolias Literary Journal, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Blackberry: a magazine, SZ Magazine, Anchor Magazine and BlackMentalHealthNet.com. She earned her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Toledo, Ohio.

During this time of extreme uncertainty in our world, in which we are just arising from our respective quarantines, as poets let us take some time to reflect upon this in any way we should see fit. We would like to post your response pieces on this page. However, the window for these submissions is only open until August 15, 2020. As always, your host has provided a sample poem from one of her responses to the pandemic, home-grown conspiracies, that you can view here. Also, we have a submission by Caitlin C. Regan, Hiding, that you can view here. So, send us your reaction to your COVID quarantine times or your reflections on those times in general and don’t forget to get them in before August 15.


Previous Virtual Workshop Poems:

Winter 2019 theme – “e-merge

e-merge – by Jacquese Armstrong

Winter Blue – by Nicole Jordan

Fall 2018 theme – “Nature

Autumn Leaves – by Jeff Varanyak

Rise – by Kathy Lash

Sunflowers – by Ayesha Karim

Spring 2017 theme – “Remembrance

 “dear grandmommy.” – by Jacquese Armstrong

Barbara” – by Jeff Varanyak

For the Lost” – by Melissa Kiritsis

The Way I Will Be Remembered To Be a poem” – by Ayesha Karim

Winter 2016 theme – “Holiday

pictures of Christmas” – by Jacquese Armstrong

Christmas” – by Ron Cassmassine

Untitled” – by Kelly Brennan

Summer 2016 theme – “in our own voice

in my own voice (walkin in my shoes)  – by Jacquese Armstrong

Fall 2015 theme – “stigma

i carry the ‘m’ card ( i didn’t deal the deck)  – by Jacquese Armstrong
– by Ben Hu

Summer 2015 theme – “gratitude attitude

A NEW DAY DAWNS – by Sandy G.
Gratitude Poem – by Taylor Bak
Lead by Spirit – by Michael Loberfeld