12 May 2021

Guest blogger: Beth Calverley

I’m the Arts & Culture Programme’s Poet in Residence at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, made possible by Above & Beyond and Weston Area Health NHS Trusts Charitable Fund. 

I’m taking a moment to reflect on what I’ve learned from being an NHS Poet in-and-out-of Residence during a global pandemic. I’ve separated this blog post into four sections: Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring. Each posts includes a writing idea at the end of each ‘season’, so you can have a go yourself.

This is the final installment in the blog series. Click here to read the "Summer 2020" (1/4), the "Autumn 2020" (2/4), or the "Winter 2020/21" (3/4) blogs.

Spring 2021: nurturing

In March, the team that works in the in-patient wards at South Bristol Community Hospital, where I spent the first year of my residency, was disbanding. Staff members at South Bristol Community Hospital reached out to me to co-create a poem as a celebration of everything that the team has done together.

Writing this poem was very moving for me, as I will never forget the welcome I received from the team at South Bristol Community Hospital. Happily, I also had the chance to co-host a final group session with patients, co-creating a group poem about our collective memories of cinema. (Shared with permission).

SBCH poem

Feel Good

written with participants at South Bristol Community Hospital

I came out of the cinema
and there he was - waiting for me
home from leave.

Just an ordinary cinema,
just a single balcony.
Art deco. So luxurious.

An old mini parked outside.
My parents courted in his car -
amazing how many times it broke down.

They used to drop us off outside
the skating rink and we’d sneak
off to go bowling.

On Saturday mornings, they’d play
children’s shows. We cut out
the stamps from the teabag boxes.

I met my husband at jive class.
He’d forgotten his money for the
pictures, so I paid the 1/9d - each -

to get us in. We’ve been married for 
61 years. My brother still remembers
me taking him to Keynsham cinema.

You used to pay 6 pence back then.
efore the film, they played the
lion’s roar, the news, trailers

of what was coming soon.
The ads for PG Tips - the monkeys
with their teapots. So cute.

The taste of butterscotch,
strawberry and vanilla.
I don’t mind salt but I prefer sweet.

And singing along to the musical
together with my friends.
Such a good night. Feel good.

For the past months, my focus has been giving members of staff and patients a safe space to pause and express their thoughts, ideas and feelings through poetry, individually or alongside their colleagues. During this time, I aimed to make poetry a place of escape, comfort and bonding for staff. To return to the image we started with, I have tried to build a nest to nurture new words.

In recent weeks, colleagues requesting poetry sessions have spoken about a more specific wish to reflect on the challenges of this past year through poetry. As we move gradually forward into recovery, perhaps those who got us through the pandemic will feel compelled to transform these experiences into creative writing - or perhaps they will choose not to. Either way, we must ensure their efforts, sacrifices, courage, grief, and love are never forgotten.

Writing prompt: Let’s finish with a playful one! This year, it’s the 50th anniversary of the Lorax by Dr Seuss (look it up if you haven’t read it before!) Inspired by his playfulness with words, make up your own word by combining two words that mean something to you (e.g. drizzle + smile = smizzle). Now write about your word...

Make a donation and help support the arts and culture programme at our hospitals