Michael Laskey poem commissioned for hospital

On Wednesday 23 September at 4pm a new, specially commissioned poem Treatment by Michael Laskey will be unveiled in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Michael wrote the poem after spending time earlier this year at the hospital. He had been employed to run poetry reading workshops with hospital staff, and to spend time talking with patients on dialysis and finding poems they would enjoy to have read to them.

The new poem and Michael’s work with staff and patients were part of the year-long project The Poetry Treatment – an innovative programme to take contemporary poetry into the hospital.

As The Poetry Treatment draws to close, organisers have been assessing its success. A cornerstone of the project was the popular ‘Poems on loo doors’. It has been calculated that over the year, the changing programme of poems on 160 loo doors will have attracted a remarkable one million reads!

68 poets were invited to contribute poems. All had strong links with The Poetry Trust, having read at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, delivered learning or community projects or been part of the organisation. They included 24 overseas poets and three poems in translation.

Early findings from an evaluation with over 250 hospital staff indicate a very high level of support for the programme and organisers are looking into ways to continue the project through 2010.

Director of The Poetry Trust, Naomi Jaffa said; “It’s amazing to have been able to connect so many people to some of today’s best poems in this way. And we have learnt a lot about what works and what doesn’t in taking contemporary poetry into a large hospital and to such a huge, mixed audience.”

The Poetry Treatment was devised and run by The Poetry Trust, which also raised funds to make it happen. The project was organised in collaboration with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital’s Hospital Arts Project.

Emma Jarvis, Hospital Arts Co-ordinator said:“As far as we know this is one of the most ambitious poetry projects ever to be undertaken in a hospital. It’s been a great success and really brightened people’s days.”

The Poetry Treatment was funded by Arts Council England East, Limbourne Trust and Norfolk County Council. This included a grant of £16,000 from Grants for the Arts lottery funding.

Editor’s Notes

Michael Laskey’s statement about his poem Treatment

“A hospital is a strange kind of place. The population is both permanent and shifting – all the people who work here and feel at home, and the rest of us who on the whole would much rather be somewhere else. Insiders and outsiders, experts and patients. They have all the knowledge and power; we’re in their hands, often apprehensive.

The speaker of this poem is here for treatment. I suspect he’s gritting his teeth, not looking forward to it. But it turns out to be not so bad. Firstly the porter notices him, recognises his vulnerability and offers help. Then another patient, a stranger, speaks to him, takes him out of himself and lifts some of the weight off his shoulders. I think this happens here often.

On my visits I met members of staff who were warm human beings first, sensitive to others’ ordinary needs, and taking the trouble to put them at their ease. And I met open-minded patients making the most of being in hospital, people who, it turned out, had all sorts of vital knowledge and experience of their own.  The poem celebrates that.”

Michael Laskey is a poet, editor, and tutor with many years experience of promoting contemporary poetry. He founded the international Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in 1989 and directed it through its first decade. He is also co-founder and editor of the poetry magazine Smiths Knoll. Michael has published five collections including The Tightrope Wedding, which was shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize, and most recently The Man Alone: New and Selected poems (2008). www.michael-laskey.co.uk

The Poetry Trust is one of the UK’s flagship poetry organisations, delivering a year-round live and digital programme – including the international Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, creative learning opportunities, courses, prizes and publications. The Poetry Trust is an Arts Council England regularly funded organisation and is based in Halesworth, Suffolk. www.thepoetrytrust.org

The Hospital Arts Project (HAP) at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals enhances the Hospital environment for patients, visitors and staff, by involving and engaging them in a wide range of programmes. These include visual arts and crafts, interior design, events, performances and workshops, as well as external arts and design including sculpture, seating and gardens. HAP also cares for the Hospital’s collection of historic artefacts.

Poets who donated poems: John Agard, Gillian Allnutt, Moniza Alvi, Jane Anderson, Mourid Barghouti, Connie Bensley, Gerard Benson, Sujata Bhatt, Alan Brownjohn, Colette Bryce, Gerry Cambridge, Kate Clancy, Polly Clark, Mandy Coe, Billy Collins, Jonathan Davidson, Imtiaz Dharker, Maura Dooley, Finuala Dowling, Stephen Dunn, Roy Fisher, Rhian Gallagher, Lorna Goodison, Vona Groarke, Mark Halliday, Choman Hardi, David Hart, Matt Harvey, Geoff Hattersley, David Healey, Jane Hirshfield, Naomi Jaffa, Louis Jenkins, Mimi Khalvati, Michael Laskey, Liz Lockhead, Herbert Lomas, Thomas Lux, Michael Mackmin, Lorraine Mariner, Roger McGough, Jamie McKendrick, Ian McMillan, Angela McSeveney, Adrian Mitchell, Esther Morgan, Taha Muhammad Ali, Helena Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye, Julia O’Callaghan, Dennis O’Driscoll, Dean Parkin, Alastair Reid, Christopher Reid, Michael Rosen, Ann Sansom, Peter Sansom, Robert Seatter, Aharon Shabtai, Norman Silver, Matt Simpson, Martin Stannard, George Szirtes, CK Williams, Jackie Wills, Anthony Wilson, Frances Wilson and Anna Woodford.

Wednesday 23rd of September 2009 06:00:09 AM