At 8am this morning I was on the phone to BBC Hereford & Worcester, talking about making poems with people living with dementia, and later on, I was in Highwell House Nursing Home in Bromyard, really making poems.
I shared printouts of a painting by Joan Eardley around the room of ten people. Not everyone has dementia, though several have it quite badly. I’ve been working with this group for over a year. Today, Joan Eardley’s painting of 1950s children on the streets of the Gorbals proved very popular with everyone. I write down (a desperate scribble) exactly what they say:
“Oh they’re joyous! They’re real children”.
“You can see your own children in there”.
“Look at the mum’s tired face”.
“I love the little boy in the braces. His trousers are too big. His face is too thin”.
After a while I read back to them my scrambled notes, ‘so far’. Everyone listens, and then I go back round the room, speaking to individuals and persuading further contributions.
Later, at home, I put together a group of poems. I don’t add any of my own words, but I restructure the ones I took down in my notes. I think this is today’s favourite.
Red hair, red cardigan buttoned at the top. What’s that dark
in her hair? Oh, is it the shadows?
I was always knitting cardigans
for my own children.
Mother’s tried to brighten the windowsill
by painting it pink.
Words from Jean, Jim, Peter, Iris, Cecil, John, Isobel, Margaret, Jean, Stella
Next week I’ll take the poems back to the group and we’ll read them and enjoy them slowly – and probably twice.
And then we’ll make some more.