#PoemsForCarers: Guest Blog Post

Friday 24 April 2020

We are pleased today to host a guest blog post by Colin Waters, Communications Manager at the Scottish Poetry Library, introducing their new initiative, #PoetryforCarers, which they will launch on 30 April, and which we at StAnza are very happy to support. Please read what Colin says and we hope many people will respond to this after the launch next week.

"Many of us, I suppose, have a story something like this –

"On Christmas Day 2014, I began to feel ill. An ache in my abdomen. At first I assumed it was due to some seasonal over-eating. Over the next few days, however, the pain grew. By 30 December I was in Edinburgh’s Western Infirmary’s High Dependency unit, recovering from an operation. I’ve never felt so ill in my life. Although wretched, the experience underlined for me something I’d known without experiencing the truth of – the astonishing work the men and women of the NHS do daily. Hourly. I was so grateful to them for saving my life, not to mention the kindness they showed me as I recovered, but had no idea how to convey my gratitude. In the end, I gave them a box of chocolates, which felt inadequate.

"Flash forward to the present. I watch the news nightly. I can just about hold it together while watching the grim charts, the press conferences, the footage of empty streets. But when they show interviews with doctors in hospitals, when reporters gown up and spend a day on the wards – I well up. I no more have the words now to express how I feel about frontline NHS staff than I did half a decade ago.

"You know who does have the words though? Poets. It’s become a tradition in this country to reach for a themed anthology for occasions like weddings and funerals because poets know how to express grief and joy better than anyone. And I would argue today that when searching for some way to express our solidarity with doctors and nurses it is again to poetry we should turn.

"That’s the idea behind the Scottish Poetry Library’s #PoemsForCarers project. Starting on April 30, we’re suggesting that the public can show support for carers by filming themselves on their phone reading a poem or taking a photo of a poem that in some way, directly or subtly, thanks healthcare workers or reflects on what their work has meant to them. It can be a classic or contemporary poem or it can be something written by themselves. After filming yourself or taking a photo, they can use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to upload the film or image, which they then tweet or post using the hashtag #PoemsForCarers, so carers can find them. And that’s it.

"We’re calling the project #PoemsForCarers. We originally looked at #PoemsForNHS, but after talking to our contacts in healthcare, they suggested #PoemsForCarers would take in a wider variety of key workers whose job is protecting the vulnerable.

"If you’re looking for poems to read, the Scottish Poetry Library website has many that could be useful, under a variety of headings including being human, bereavement, care and carers, duty, hospitals, hope, and medicine. Visit here (https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poetry/) for ideas. Although #PoemsForCarers kicks off on 30 April, we intend to keep it going for as long as people want to use the hashtag to say thank you. The SPL will share on its social media platforms the best of the contributions that we watch or read.

"We hope you’ll be able to join us on Thursday 30 April and after that date using poetry to thank NHS healthworkers and carers."

Colin Waters, Scottish Poetry Library