For the last 18 months I’ve been working with Creative Conversations, an innovative, cross- artform project for older people across Shropshire in a variety of spaces and settings. Recently, I’ve been listening to and working with an 87 year old man from Bishop’s Castle, and making his poems.
Peter’s life has been eventful, as he pointed out. His poems reflect his experiences, told simply, but with the reflective distance of age we reasonably call wisdom. I sat with him, and the wonderful facilitator at his sheltered housing scheme, and made notes, page after page of unpunctuated scribbling, with my own peculiar short-forms. We drank tea and ate cake, and at intervals I read back to Peter what he had told me, and we amended where necessary. I find the shape and form of the poem emerging during this process, where my main aim is to capture a voice as truthfully as possible. Later, I work on the poems and finish editing them before returning them to the person whose stories they tell.
Peter talks with his hands, and has never learned to read and write. An email from the facilitator said:
‘Can I just say you have made Peter’s world with the few pages you did? He’s so happy, [he says] it’s ear pleasing and “good for the grandchildren”. He has been sharing the poems with his family and friends and has put them in a folder and is just so impressed, his words “Isn’t it gorgeous?”’
It was a pleasure and an honour to work with Peter, and hear these moving, extraordinary and historic human experiences.
Here are the poems.