Patients, staff and volunteers at John Taylor Hospice have compiled a poetry anthology in which they reveal their emotions and capture special memories.
From seaside adventures to tales of courage and defiance – Moments is a collection of moving poems written to reflect the experiences of people both receiving and working in hospice care.
The collaborative effort was the creation of John Taylor’s former training manager Shirley O’Mara. A bespoke speech writer and award-winning poet, Shirley used her talents to host poetry workshops in John Taylor’s day hospice.
Shirley, 53, explains: “Twice a week patients, staff and volunteers would gather for the poetry group and we’d talk about a particular subject. From people’s thoughts and recollections we’d then create poems – some together and some individually. Every poem is inspired by a tale, a memory or an idea.
“Initially for me the greatest pleasure was spending time with patients and recording their memories. It then became clear that the poetry was revealing parts of themselves that they or their families did not know and each poem became a lasting legacy to treasure.”
With their poetry collection expanding, the group decided to create an anthology, not only as a permanent record of their memories but also to raise money for their hospice. Thanks to generous sponsors who paid for binding and Vesey Gallery in Sutton Coldfield who printed the books free of charge, all profits from sales of the anthology will go towards helping people living with a terminal illness and their families.
Robert Homer who has contributed seven of his own compositions to the anthology – has been receiving care and support from the hospice since June 2016. “I’ve always been interested in poetry so when Shirley suggested the workshops I said to count me on board,” said Robert, 56. “Poetry tends to play from real-life experiences and I’m sure many people can relate to the feelings and experiences captured in the poems.”
Robert, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015, has penned a poignant poem about living with the illness, which he has called Challenge Accepted. He explains: “Getting down onto paper some of the painful things is very cathartic.
I believe passionately in the project and it’s had the added bonus of raising money for the hospice. Coming to John Taylor has introduced me to a new family. We’re all good friends and look out for each other and I hope the money raised from the anthology helps fellow patients.
Shirley added: ““Poetry can often leave people cold as they imagine it to be inaccessible and irrelevant. In this setting – taking and recording something unique and personal – you are not only marking that one person’s experience for them and for those they leave behind, but often still creating something that others can relate to and which reaches them despite them not being part of the fabric of the actual story.”
Moments is proving to be popular as readers have already snapped up over 150 copies of the initial 200-copy print run. The anthologies are priced at £5 each and are available to buy from the hospice in Grange Road, Erdington.