Poetry Places Publications


Michael Donaghy recently completed his residency as the Poetry Society's Creative Reader in Residence. The fruits of some of his thinking in relation to this have just been published. Wallflowers - 'a lecture on poetry with misplaced notes and additional heckling' - is available from the Poetry Society.

Any act of communication begins with imagining oneself in the place of potential readers or listeners in order to anticipate one's effect. Agreed? It could be said, then, that the poet equals the reader, because poets are themselves readers in the tradition of poetry, because poetry is in itself a way of reading in that tradition, and because poets are the first (and sometimes, sadly, the only) readers and critics of what they've written. Conversely, reading is a form of ventriloquism: sensitive readers give themselves up to the poet for the duration of the poem.

The Message

With 1999's National Poetry Day celebrating poetry and song, the Poetry Society appointed Roddy Lumsden to explore the links and differences between the two art forms. The Message is the result of his research: a gallimaufry of essays, poems, cover version and top tens from musicians, poets, critics and academics. A celebration of the vitality of the lyric, in every sense. Edited by Roddy Lumsden and Stephen Troussé. Available at bookstores, or at the Poetry Society.

[excerpt, by editor Roddy Lumsden]
Hymns ancient and modern, for example, have always employed the language and structure of poetic doggerel. One imagines that (unlike the majority of pop songs) the words of hymns are written before the music has been composed or adapted. Rap (discussed at length elsewhere in The Message) also contains distinct poetic effects, indeed there is a strong case for saying rap is poetry rather than a musical genre, but it doesn't want or need such a snooty back-slap. For all its bluster and periodic paeans to violence and sexism, what rap draws on are essentially traditional aspects of poetry, hence the use of inversion, couplets, sprung rhythms, the high number of full rhymes and though it has spawned cringeworthy multi-media and "spoken word with music" offshoots and launched a score of bad rappers for every cracker, it remains both a true link to the oral tradition and an area of genuine innovation in both words and music.

The Healing Word

Fiona Sampson's practical guide to poetry and personal development activities. Full of information, step by step approaches, and guidelines to setting up poetry projects in a therapeutic setting. Available from the Poetry Society.

'A blossom fills the lawns of scented gardens,

Fluttering whispers fill the patient's throat.

Love is more than the simple acts of kindness:

It comes from deep within us like a note.'

The Professional Poet By Selima Hill
(From The Accumulation of Small Acts of Kindness)

What do we mean by 'poetry and healing'? Do poets write because it makes them feel better? Are there differences between the experiences or needs of writers and readers? What's the point of writing in health care?

Fiona Sampson pioneered the development of writing in health care in the UK. Her recent publication The Healing Word, commissioned by the Poetry Society, researches the nature and effects of poetry and healing activities. Based on actual accounts by workers and users in the health care system it is a thought-provoking look at poetry's restorative qualities.

The link between poetry and healing is not new. In ancient Greece patients in the hospital at Epidaurus would visit the theatre there as part of their cure. In the Bible David sings to calm Saul and in many cultures chanting is an intrinsic part of the healing ritual.

In more recent times there has been a healthy growth in a diverse range of therapeutic writing projects, a number of which Fiona discribes and discusses.

Helen Finch, for example, a carer looking after her mother, who suffers from dementia, read about poet John Killick's work with Alzheimer's Disease and invited him to work with her mother in her nursing home. She explained:

"It seemed to offer some hope...I was tremendously impressed by how much Eve was able to express to him.... She was able, despite the severity of her speech impairment, to talk both widely and deeply and to vouchsafe to him things which she might not have done to me"

To quote from the poem John Killick made from the meetings:

'The past...I think a lot about it...

I'm thinking when...I'm not saying anything...

It's silverly, perfectly silverly'

To read an excerpt from Mike Sharpe's book review of The Healing Word (published in the Spring 2000 issue of Poetry Review) press here.

The Healing Word was published as part of a Poetry Place working in Salisbury Health Care NHS Trust and was supported by Southern Arts, Salisbury Health Care NHS Trust and Salisbury Arts Centre.

A Green Thought in a Green Shade
poetry in the garden

"In the beginning was a garden. And a poet to write about the garden" Sarah Maguire

For centuries the garden has been a hotbed of inspiration for poets, providing a rich source of ideas. A Green Thought in a Green Shade: poetry in the garden is a collection of essays by poets Sarah Maguire, Gerry Loose, Alice Oswald and Eleanor Cooke, who have all recently worked in a garden environment as part of the Poetry Society's inspired Poetry Places project. Each of the poets leads us down a different path to explore the relationship between poetry and gardens.

Sarah Maguire, who was based at Chelsea Physic Garden, explores the ways in which even the language of gardens and poetry - 'posy and poesy' - share the same roots. Working with the often overlooked Order Beds, she 'planted' poems amongst the flowers. This cross-fertilisation of words and plants saw the coupling of poems such as John Clare's 'Hedgehog' with the spiny Echinops and Wilfred Owen's 'Asleep' next to the Valerian plant. At the end of the residency Sarah was "...thrilled with the results..." and delighted "...that Keats and Owen and Blake and Clare, as well as countless other poets old and new, have found a new home, a new poetic paradise to inhabit and to name".

Sound was the focus of Alice Oswald's venture into the gardens at Heale. As she explains, "I don't know anything lovelier than those free shocks of sound against the backsound of your heartbeat. Machinery, spade scrapes, birdsong, gravel, rain on polythene, macks moving, aeroplanes, seeds kept in paper, potatoes coming out of boxes, high small leaves or large head-height leaves being shaken, frost on grass, strimmers, hoses..." Alice's residency was part of Salisbury festival and involved writing poems that would provide the basis for a number of installations by different artists. Alice's desire to put text back into the landscape bore fruit and she wrote a poem based on a Japanese Noh play, which was recorded and placed at the bottom of a well. The poem is whispered to the listener who can look back across the gardens that inspired it. A line from another poem, 'The River' has been carved in stone by a local sculptor and placed in a stream.

The effect of gardens on children and the magic they find within them is looked at by Eleanor Cooke. "If you can take children to a Botanical Garden, the magic is almost guaranteed. The Botanical Gardens in Birmingham is one such place, an out-of-time experience, the horticultural equivalent of walking on the moon."

A botanical garden was also the location for Gerry Loose's residency, this time in Glasgow. The diversity of languages spoken and written in Glasgow - there are more Urdu speakers than Gaelic - was something Gerry wanted to reflect, and poems in English, Chinese and Urdu are scattered all around the gardens. Gerry also held poetry readings, book launches, workshops with visiting writers, produced a poetry flag in collaboration with a local textile artist and hung ribbons with declarations on love to a valentine tree.

A Green Thought in a Green Shade is a rich crop of gardening experiences, evoking memories and images of the garden.


A collection of poems, games, interviews, lesson-ideas and debate to enhance poetry teaching throughout the primary years. Brought out to coincide with the Year of Reading poetry initiative, its down-to-earth expertise and humour will outlive curriculum changes for years to come.

Sian Hughes and Anthony Wilson




A phenomenally successful teacher of poetry, Cliff Yates has seen his pupils win every prize available to young writers - how does he do it? This combination of personal vision and transferable ideas gives an insight into how poetry reading and writing can be integrated into the everyday life of secondary schools.



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