Tag Archives: Poetry & Wellbeing

Songs of the Trees: Telford

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It ain’t got silence, the crow and the geese go over

Since October, I’ve been working on a wonderful creative writing project in Telford. ‘Songs of the Trees’ was funded as a pilot project for health and wellbeing in older people, and managed by the excellent Creative and Cultural Development Team at Telford & Wrekin Council. The project attracted a core group who have stayed with the project throughout – requesting it to be extended.

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Nothing swims on the lake/ but a drowned tree rises

Every week we meet in Southwater Library, and then take a walk into Telford Town Park.  We see the same trees, the same lakes, the same paths again and again.  And they’re different every time.  We’ve written Telford Town Park from autumn into winter, and now we’re writing winter into spring.  We’ve been out in warm sunshine, frosty sunshine, thick mist, east winds and a couple of different kinds of rain.

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Coming back in the garden a second time/ that stallion could be a unicorn here

I encourage the group to write notes as we walk, and there’s a lot of conversation.  Back in the library, we listen to everyone’s notes, and I borrow a line or two from each person, which I take home and edit into that week’s collaborative poem.  Members of the group have taken to working and editing their notes into finished writing at home.  Most rewardingly, this group of people who didn’t know each other have become friends, laughing together and developing in-jokes.

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The giant pebbles look/ like sleeping swans

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Poetry, Punch & Judy in a Care Home

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The children sat in front, legs crossed, looking up.
You want to be a bit scared, then brought back
into the real world again.
He had a trail of children following him, 
just like the Pied Piper,
all bewitched.

This week I was working in a Herefordshire care home with a large group of elderly people, many of whom are living with dementia.  I work regularly with this group, and this time I took them my grandpa’s Punch and Judy puppets to look at.

The puppets were passed round, their fragile condition much remarked on, and soon the conversation was flowing.  I keep the ball rolling, and do my best to write down as much verbatim, of what people say.  No punctuation!  Doing this work has made me inventive with a personalised shorthand…

Later, at home, I work on these notes to make poems, using only the words actually spoken, so adding none of my own.  Here are some photographs and extracts from the poems.DSCF0044

Mr Punch looks sly.  You wouldn’t trust him.
He’s on the make.  The Policeman did
a lot of shouting.  He wags his finger
at Mr Punch.DSCF0047

 

This ghost is a bit menacing.  Feel that rough carving.
It’s been handled such a lot.
That skull’s all shiny
with people smoothing its head.
He’s bad before you look at him.

Next week I’ll be back in the care home to read the group the poems we made together.  And make some more.

Poetry and Dementia – on film

For three years I worked as a freelance poet for In The Pink, a poetry and dementia project managed by Courtyard Arts in Hereford.  As the project reached the end of its funding cycle they made this little film, which focuses particularly on the work I was doing in one of Herefordshire’s care homes.  I like the film because it demonstrates the joy and engagement of these very elderly people with words, and with each other.

Five Sites, Five Senses : disability, poetry & landscape

I’m working on a great project with partners Shropshire Hills AONB, the Vision Homes charity in Ludlow, Loudwater Studio and all-round dynamo and now good friend, Julia Walling from Woods for Wellbeing.  We’re taking people with severe disabilities, with their carers, out into the nearby countryside in the Shropshire Hills. It’s called Five Sites, Five Senses to reflect the nature of the places we’ve been out to visit, and bearing in mind the various and differing capacities of the service users.

In this way, for example, at Carding Mill Valley, I went with a blind man and his carer up a steep short path and over a plank bridge to reach a bird hide.  His carer walked backwards over the plank bridge, holding his hands to guide him safely across.  Once we got into the bird hide, it struck me that of course we were not going to look.  We listened.

5 Sites 5 Senses Loudwater poem bird hide CROPWe’ve made visits now to three of the Five Sites: Carding Mill Valley, Gleanings Rural Study Centre and Brynmawr Care Farm.  Our big scrapbook record is taking shape.  It includes photographs of participants, artwork by both service users and carers, my poetry drawn from conversation and observation, and artwork by Julia Walling.Book Carding Mill 5 CROP

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In The Pink – a poetry project with people living with dementia

Lillian cups a tiny bird’s nest in today’s session in a Hereford Care Home.  She isn’t able to speak much, bLillian & nest Charles Court March2015 JAut she was utterly delighted.  It was marvellous to be able to bring such pleasure.

What bird lived here? 
So sweet. Soft.  
Keeps warm, I expect.

I don’t think we could do that.
They’re so clever. They just do it
with their beaks.

true     true    true
off they’ll fly

look there, look there

rspb_blackbird_big_grandeI also brought in a little RSPB blackbird, complete with song.  He sang to everyone in the room, and prompted some marvellous language, which I transcribed on the spot and later worked into poems, adding no words of my own.  Here is Paula’s poem.

Blackbird’s Eye

 Oh I’ve got him, I’ve got him.
He says, you’re nosy, just mind
your own business.
He has a pearly eye.

He sees everything.
He misses nothing.

I look in his eye.
I look in his eye.
Tweet, tweet, tweet.

He lifts in the air.
He rises to a height.
He flies away.

He didn’t tell you
what he said.
He’s coming back
another day.