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Sue's campaign to spread the word on poetry continues …

This week Sue Spencer took advantage of "Carers Week" to meet with some local carers and discuss how poetry can help in their lives. It turned out to be an afternoon that she will never forget …

I didn't have to think twice about what I would write about this week. In my last "My Week" I mentioned that I was going to try out some poetry at the local hospice for "Carers Week". Well it was wonderful and I feel I have found a way of reconciling the old Sue with the new Sue.

At last I could draw on my skills from nursing in relation to communicating and listening to people and talking about how poetry can assist people at difficult times in their life.

In chatting to people during the first afternoon there were a number of people who said they read poetry and one lady said I should read out some of my poems. Well that first afternoon was really hot and we found that sitting out in the sunshine chatting was just as good as sitting in a warm day room listening to poetry (especially mine). 

Listening to people talking about their caring roles really brought it home to me how challenging that burden can be. Even when people have not got a terminal diagnosis, but are living with newly diagnosed cancer or another life-limiting disease, going back and forth to the hospital for treatment can feel like really hard work.

We might talk about the emotional labour of nursing but these carers are really carrying the emotional burden. Relationships become so much more complicated when mortality knocks on the door. The challenges that both sides of the relationship face made me feel very humble.

As a result of that first afternoon I had a rethink about what I might do on the Wednesday. I approached it with more confidence and was less apologetic about the poetry thing. This time I followed a relaxation session with some poetry reading, and I read my own poems, and those present enjoyed this. I then read some other poetry from The Poetry Cure and I distributed some poetry collections that I had with me and invited folk to select one for either me to read or that they could read, if they liked.

There was no pressure but what followed was a joyful and moving experience. Most of the people chose to read a poem for themselves and the satisfaction they got from that was truly remarkable. It was an unexpected outcome but one I shall never forget. The confidence I witnessed enabled people to start talking about themselves and I think just for a while they could think about themselves rather then the person they cared for. None of them could quite believe that the afternoon was for them and absorbed in poetry they could get a little extra from the day.

It was an afternoon that I am not going to forget in a hurry and I am grateful to the staff at Willow Burn Hospice for letting me be part of it.

Following this session we have invited people to come along for a session later this month at the hospice. I have applied to be a volunteer there and think I have found a place where I can share my love of poetry and begin to explore for real the therapeutic potential of reading and writing poetry.

I am looking forward to exploring this more over the next year and spreading the word about how nursing and poetry can live side by side.

Have you had any experience where poetry, or another creative art, helped you in your life? Your comments (Terms and conditions apply):

"I have held a poem on 'A Crabbit Old Women' close to my thoughts for many years as I was moved by the words which reminded me that this elderly lady was once young with a full life. This poem has always helped me to look beyond the person in front of me to the person's body, soul and mind." - C Young, Scotland

"I have written many poems and have been recognised from international poetry for my artistic work." - Maryam Omitogun, SE15

"I write poetry all the time, it's therapeutic especially when life is more down than up!" - Pam, Berkshire