A Poetry for Wellbeing project for St John’s Winchester, led by Hampshire Poet Kathryn Bevis, has inspired residents and staff to write poems which will be published in a new book and publicly displayed around the residential development on Colebrook Street which is scheduled for completion during 2022.
The Poetry for Wellbeing sessions were designed by Kathryn and launched as a way for residents and staff to express themselves, celebrating their lives by writing about the places, people, and memories that matter most to them. As well as giving participants the opportunity to develop poetry-writing skills, the workshops and mentoring programme have encouraged a new community of emerging and experienced writers to come together, enabling connection and belonging at a time of increased social isolation.
The workshops ran once a week for six weeks, with Kathryn teaching participants how to translate their thoughts and feelings into poetry on the page. Since then, she’s been mentoring the poets, old and young alike, to hone and edit their work, making sure their poems are as good as they can be for publication and display. Many of these poems will be published in a new anthology. Enough copies will be printed for each resident and staff members, as well as for immediate neighbours, local libraries, schools, and prisons.
Kathryn is now herself in the process of writing a commissioned poem that will take its inspiration, ideas, and images from the work she’s done within the St John’s family and reflecting its values, as well as her discussions with residents, staff, volunteers. This poem will be permanently displayed on the new site.
Clive Cook, Chief Executive at St John’s, commented: ‘We have been delighted by the response to this project. The workshops have really helped participants to come together as part of a community, learn how to write about the experiences they care about, and have the opportunity to have their poems publicly displayed.”
Kathryn Bevis added: ‘I’ve been touched and inspired by my experiences leading this Poetry for Wellbeing project within St John’s. I hadn’t realised what a close and loving community exists inside its walls and it’s been an absolute privilege to work with such talented, dedicated people, both residents and staff. The poems that have resulted from their imaginative engagement are beautifully varied. Each of these poems is as individual and alive as a face and each one demands something fresh from us. Some of these poems want to tell us their stories, others to reveal secrets, still others want to bless us, conspire with us, hold out a hand to us. I can’t wait until these poems find their permanent home inside the covers of our book and on the walls of St John’s new buildings.”
Kathryn is pictured here (right) with resident Anne Manley who wrote a beautiful poem.
I Come From…
I come from bread and butter
at tea time, with jam decanted
to a china dish, and later
put back again into its pot.
I come from the Home Service on the wireless,
Children’s Hour at 5 o’clock with Uncle Mac
and Larry the Lamb, the 6 o’clock news
reported in sombre tones.
I come from nightmares,
German soldiers in the orchard behind our house…
I come from
the kitchen in the old scullery.
A tin bath hangs on the wall.
On Saturday nights it is taken down,
filled with hot water from the gas copper,
then my mum, then my dad
in front of the dining room fire.
I come from Mondays.
The copper is used again for the laundry,
sheets and shirts hung out on the line
then taken down, stiff as corpses
in the freezing east coast air.
I come from
meat in the pantry in a wired box,
and in summer butter in a bucket
hung above the water in our garden well.
I come from my mother’s songs around the house.
She bangs on the kitchen wall, then shouts
“Are you there, Mrs Faulkner?”
before walking down the garden for a chat.
I come from concentrated orange juice,
got from the Welfare, with coupons,
Virol from a teaspoon, Cod Liver Oil.
I’ve never seen an orange, nor a banana.
I am four years old.
I come from wartime.
I come from Lincolnshire.