Sunday, September 8, 2013

Poetry, compassion and nursing; some thoughts

This blog is a follow up to a tweet chat I was involved in a couple of weeks ago with  Wenurses
The subject under discussion was whether compassion could be taught. I thought I would just lurk but ended up having say and I included links to some poetry that I find helps “remind” us of our human connections. This then led to some questions about why poetry and compassion. I had an answer in 140 characters but I wanted to explore it a bit more here on the blog. It has taken me a couple of weeks to get round to it because I have been pondering on why it is so important to me.
Poetry came into my life in an unexpected and wonderful way back in 2004. Meeting a local writer (Julia Darling) at a workshop changed how I expressed myself and this was when I began to write poetry and found a whole new way of looking at the world. The best bits of advice on writing poetry is to be reading poetry so that you can find out what others are writing but also it is the best way through mimicry and discovering what you like to find your own voice when writing poetry. If you offer your poetry up to scrutiny of others, either in a workshop, or a course then the feedback might often be about how your poem might remind someone of someone else’s work. This particular adventure has been the most rewarding and surprising as I have discovered a rich seam of poetry from all around the world and from ancient times to the present.

So the question asked is why is poetry so special? What is it about poetry that makes you brave enough to get a classroom of students/practitioners to read a poem in the expectation that they might get to discuss hopes, fears and aspirations in their practice?

To me it became a gesture that I could not ignore. Reading great poems about health care experiences like those written by Julia Darling, UA Fanthorpe and Jo Shapcott provide a crystallisation of an experience, an authentic snapshot that can evoke an emotional response. This response is often spontaneous and unedited, the words used or the sense created in the work can bypass the practitioners usually carefully orchestrated responses to the emotional aspects of delivering care. Poetry can take you by surprise, make you cry, make you angry, just stops you in your tracks. I believe this is a fine way to encourage reflective and thoughtful practice. My belief is that good poetry always comes from a truth, an authentic and genuine event, thought or emotion. Those beginnings often end up in a finely crafted piece of poetry that does something special.
The poetry offered doesn’t have to be about concrete experiences. The poems I shared during the tweet chat were about “being human”. One of my favourite poems is by Rumi, a Persian poet from the 13th Century. Here is a link to The Guest House, a poem that I come to every week and get something new from it, each time. Another poem I shared was by William Stafford that I discovered via the wonderful Roselle Angwin. … here is a link

The other poem I shared is by Elizabeth Bishop, a poet I had on the bookshelf but hadn’t really read until 2006. Bishop is one of the finest poets ever and I wish I had known about her before, but it is never too late to discover wonderful things and here is a link to the poem I shared on the tweet chat Sonnet 1928
I really believe poetry can make a difference in this world and I am becoming more passionate about that project. If you have poems you want to share then please comment or if you want me to come along and run a poetry workshop then I will!! Lets spread the word..