This week’s Featured Poem celebrates one of English Literature’s best-known poets, and one of the most highly regarded members of the Romantic movement, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Tomorrow (October 21st) is the 242nd anniversary of his birth, so what better way to mark the occasion by with a selection from one of his most famous works.
This is to whet your appetite, but if you want to read the whole poem in full, click here.
from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
“Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing,
Beloved from pole to pole!
To Mary Queen the praise be given!
She sent the gentle sleep from heaven,
That slid into my soul.
The silly buckets on the deck,
That had so long remained,
I dreamt that they were filled with dew;
And when I awoke, it rained.
My lips were wet, my throat was cold,
My garments all were dank;
Sure I had drunken in my dreams,
And still my body drank.
I moved, and could not feel my limbs:
I was so light -almost
I thought that I had died in sleep,
And was a blessed ghost.
And soon I heard a roaring wind:
It did not come anear;
But with its sound it shook the sails,
That were so thin and sere.
The upper air burst into life!
And a hundred fire-flags sheen,
To and fro they were hurried about!
And to and fro, and in and out,
The wan stars danced between.
And the coming wind did roar more loud,
And the sails did sigh like sedge;
And the rain poured down from one black cloud;
The moon was at its edge.
The thick black cloud was cleft, and still
The moon was at its side:
Like waters shot from some high crag,
The lightning fell with never a jag,
A river steep and wide.
The loud wind never reached the ship,
Yet now the ship moved on!
Beneath the lightning and the moon
The dead men gave a groan.
They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose,
Nor spake, nor moved their eyes;
It had been strange, even in a dream,
To have seen those dead men rise.
The helmsman steered, the ship moved on;
Yet never a breeze up blew;
The mariners all ‘gan work the ropes,
Where they were wont to do;
They raised their limbs like lifeless tools -
We were a ghastly crew.
The body of my brother’s son
Stood by me, knee to knee:
The body and I pulled at one rope,
But he said nought to me.”
`I fear thee, ancient Mariner!’
“Be calm, thou Wedding-Guest!
‘Twas not those souls that fled in pain,
Which to their corses came again,
But a troop of spirits blest:
For when it dawned -they dropped their arms,
And clustered round the mast;
Sweet sounds rose slowly through their mouths,
And from their bodies passed.
Around, around, flew each sweet sound,
Then darted to the sun;
Slowly the sounds came back again,
Now mixed, now one by one.
Sometimes a-dropping from the sky
I heard the skylark sing;
Sometimes all little birds that are,
How they seemed to fill the sea and air
With their sweet jargoning!
And now ’twas like all instruments,
Now like a lonely flute;
And now it is an angel’s song,
That makes the heavens be mute.
It ceased; yet still the sails made on
A pleasant noise till noon,
A noise like of a hidden brook
In the leafy month of June,
That to the sleeping woods all night
Singeth a quiet tune.
Till noon we quietly sailed on,
Yet never a breeze did breathe;
Slowly and smoothly went the ship,
Moved onward from beneath.
Under the keel nine fathom deep,
From the land of mist and snow,
The spirit slid: and it was he
That made the ship to go.
The sails at noon left off their tune,
And the ship stood still also.
The sun, right up above the mast,
Had fixed her to the ocean:
But in a minute she ‘gan stir,
With a short uneasy motion -
Backwards and forwards half her length
With a short uneasy motion.
Then like a pawing horse let go,
She made a sudden bound:
It flung the blood into my head,
And I fell down in a swound.
How long in that same fit I lay,
I have not to declare;
But ere my living life returned,
I heard and in my soul discerned
Two voices in the air.
`Is it he?’ quoth one, `Is this the man?
By him who died on cross,
With his cruel bow he laid full low
The harmless Albatross.
The spirit who bideth by himself
In the land of mist and snow,
He loved the bird that loved the man
Who shot him with his bow.’
The other was a softer voice,
As soft as honey-dew:
Quoth he, `The man hath penance done,
And penance more will do.’
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Calling all budding poets in Wirral – details of the region’s annual celebration of poetry have been announced, as The Chris Salmon Poetry Extravaganza 2015 is open for entries.
Held in conjunction with Wirral Libraries, the competition is held in memory of poetry-loving Chris Salmon, a student at Calday Grange Grammar School who died from a rare streptococcal infection in February 2009 aged just 15. Last year’s competition was an enormous success, attracting over 850 entries from across the region.
The theme for 2015 is ‘Light’, and the competition is open to Wirral adults and students of all ages. Cash prizes will be awarded to both winners and runners-up in each age category (Age 11 and Under; Ages 11-16; Age 16-18; and Adults), and they will also be invited to attend a workshop hosted by a local renowned poet. The overall winner aged 18 or under will also become Wirral’s Young Poet Laureate for the following 12 months.
Chris’s mother Julie Salmon said:
“We are absolutely delighted how much the popularity of the competition has grown, attracting 850 entries last year with the age of the entrants ranging from 5-90 years. We hope that the amount of entrants for the 2015 competition will surpass even last year’s record amount. We are so grateful for the magnificent support we receive from Wirral Council’s Library service as without their support the poetry extravaganza would not exist.”
Cllr Chris Meaden, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture said:
“Last year’s competition saw hundreds of adults and young people send in their poetry. I know the judges had a really difficult decision to make because of the high standards that were set, and this year will be no different.
It’s always a pleasure to be able to celebrate Chris’s life, and the impact his memory and legacy continues to have on Wirral, thanks to the Salmon family.”
Submitted poems must be no longer than 30 lines. Entry is free, and all entries must be submitted by 15th January 2015.
Winners will be invited to read their poems at a Presentation Night on 27th March 2015 at Bromborough Civic Centre.
Entries must be on or attached to an official entry form (downloadable here) and submitted by 15th January 2015. Entries can be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or in an envelope marked ‘FAO Diane Mitchell’ to Birkenhead Library, Borough Road, Birkenhead, Wirral CH41 2XB
For full competition details, see www.chrissalmon.org.uk
The Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society (CRILS) at the University of Liverpool has published ‘Read to Care‘, an evaluation report of a research project investigating the quality of life benefits and impacts for people living with dementia in shared reading activity across Merseyside.
CRILS is a research unit dedicated to investigating the effect of reading serious literature in the wider world, with a view to benefits in health and wellbeing, and is The Reader Organisation’s research partner. In 2012, CRILS evaluated TRO’s shared reading programme for people living with dementia with support from the Headley Trust - ‘A Literature-Based Intervention for Older People Living with Dementia’ showed that shared reading provided marked improvements in agitation levels, mood levels and concentration levels for participants, as well as improved social interaction.
Developing from this, TRO was commissioned by NHS North West to undertake a follow-up study of the effects of shared reading in Care Homes in Wirral. The aim of the project was to further investigate the impact engaging in a shared reading group activity has upon people living with dementia, adding to and supporting a growing body of anecdotal evidence.
In ‘Read to Care’, particular consideration is given to:
- the uses of powerfully emotional literature to trigger awakenings in people living with dementia;
- the value of literature in offering emotional experiences too often feared to be ‘negative';
- the kind of memory that is stimulated by shared reading – different from working memory or from what is achieved through reminiscence therapy;
- the additional effect on relatives and carers
The conclusions and recommendations of the report show that shared reading groups significantly improve the quality of life of people living with dementia, as well as providing valuable benefit to care workers and relatives in encouragement of remaining human possibilities.
“Reading aloud when others are there to listen, the sense of being in a unified community, has been the privilege of Poets for millenia. And it works. The words – common to all, unite minds and the shared stimulus appears to have an uplifting group effect.” – Melvyn Bragg (preface to Read to Care)
The report will be the focus of a presentation held at the University of Liverpool this November. Professor Phil Davis, Director of CRILS, will present findings from Read to Care, alongside one of The Reader Organisation’s project workers who was involved in the practical delivery of the groups participating in the project. Anyone interested in dementia and the relationship between literature, health and wellbeing is welcome to discover more.
‘Read to Care: Shared Reading Groups & Quality of Life Benefits for People Living With Dementia’ with Professor Phil Davis is on Thursday 20th November, 6.00pm, at Lecture Theatre 1, Sherrington Building, Ashton Street (off Pembroke Place), University of Liverpool.
Cost: £20, including buffet supper.
Our Featured Poem comes this week from American author, educator and clergyman Henry Van Dyke, and was one of the poems enjoyed at our recent staff Think Day at Calderstones Mansion House – a place that is surrounded by ‘gardens of untroubled thought’.
Take a few moments of peace and reflection – and perhaps even conjure up some fond childhood memories – this Monday morning.
A Child in the Garden
When to the garden of untroubled thought
I came of late, and saw the open door,
And wished again to enter, and explore
The sweet, wild ways with stainless bloom inwrought,
And bowers of innocence with beauty fraught,
It seemed some purer voice must speak before
I dared to tread that garden loved of yore,
That Eden lost unknown and found unsought.
Then just within the gate I saw a child, –
A stranger-child, yet to my heart most dear;
He held his hands to me, and softly smiled
With eyes that knew no shade of sin or fear:
“Come in,” he said, “and play awhile with me;”
“I am the little child you used to be.”
Henry Van Dyke
One of The Reader Organisation’s largest strands of work is reading regularly with people living with dementia, and we currently have opportunities for people to get involved in volunteering sharing reading in this area across all three of our projects in Barnet and Brent, North London.
The three projects are:
- Altogether Better (leading reading groups in Community settings for people with dementia and their carers)
- Reading For The Brain (leading groups and reading One to One both in Care and Community Settings)
- Jewish Care (leading groups in Care and Day settings with people from early onset to advanced dementia)
Paul Higgins is our Co-ordinator for the Barnet Volunteering Project, and tells us more about the project and its significance to the lives of people taking part:
“Somehow, her Alzheimer’s made her more open, more truthful. There’s a kind of odd poetry in dementia that picks out jagged, glittering pieces of truth and makes you have to reassemble them”.
– Jackie Kay (talking about her mother in Red Dust Road) (2010)
We currently have 17 weekly shared read aloud reading groups spread across both Barnet and Brent, and these take place in both community and care settings. Our groups range from dementia friendly community groups to groups with members in advanced stage dementia, where people still recognise words and lines from poems both old and new.
Through our groups our volunteers are saying to people with dementia and their carers that we value them. By reading with people who may often feel lonely, isolated or frustrated, we take them out of themselves through the stimulation of the book or poem. Opportunity and space is created for the participants to reflect on their life experience, via memories or emotions evoked by the poem or story. Our successful model does not set boundaries in what is possible for people with memory impairment. Through our groups the participants remain creative, engaged and are enabled to better express themselves.
In our reading sessions we introduce quality literature, and this is often poetry with its compressed language, content, rhythms and rhymes. The conversations that emerge and the smiles that arise out of our reading sessions allow the readers in our dementia group settings to gain freedom, confidence and laughter in place of confusion and confinement.
In dementia linear, controlled time ceases to exist. Connections are made, lost and remade, and found again, continually inside the now of dementia. However, in our groups using our shared read aloud model, the same mind that cannot remember to eat or go the toilet can hold on to the lines of a poem.
This fluidity of time is just one reason that our shared reading projects work for people with dementia. Language is more than words. It is a moment in time that is held in a handful of words and a certain rhythm. All of the emotions connected to the poems that we read together awaken feelings and thoughts in the present, within the session and within the moment.
Our reading model also allows renewed connections to words as expressive language. Whilst the language centres of the brain can be severely affected by the disease processes in many types of dementia, poems and stories can allow someone to connect to words as a means of expression. Feelings and ideas can be shared through the words in the poem. These feelings or ideas might not find any expression in words if the person were left to attempt to put the words together for themselves. Our warm and kind sessions delivered by trained volunteers provide a bridge back to expression in language again.
This is a call to care. A call to bring beauty, humour and meaning to people who are living with Dementia through the power of poetry and prose brought alive in the present moment of the weekly reading session. Come and bring the reading revolution to more Older People in North London by volunteering with The Reader Organisation.
One of our current volunteers is Linda Ward from the Sam Beckman Centre in Hendon. Linda tells her story of what sharing reading with people living with dementia means to her:
I first heard about The Reader Organisation through a request for volunteers sent out by Jewish Care for whom I already volunteer. I met with Paul, the local co-ordinator, and was immediately enthused. I love poetry and the concept was something new. To be reading with people living with dementia was such a wonderful opportunity not just for those I would be reading with but very much on a personal level – to feel I was being of use to the community in a way that would give me immense pleasure.
The training was so interesting; I met some wonderful people who would be working in all different kinds of environments. The trainers were inspiring and incredibly motivating; they provide a wealth of ongoing support and advice. Putting the model into practice was easy; the system is tried and tested and really works extremely well. After my first couple of sessions with a wonderful group of seniors I soon got into the swing of things and I really look forward to each session. No two weeks are the same. There is such a huge source of material from hundreds of years of poetry and prose; it really isn’t difficult to find 2 or 3 pieces each week which will bring members of the group to life in some way – to laugh together, be sad and reflective together – to communicate on whatever level is such a privilege to be the initiator of.
We have opportunities to volunteer by facilitating groups or reading One to One with people with dementia. Full training and ongoing support is given to all volunteers. Full details of requirements for the role can be found on The Reader Organisation’s website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/working-with-us/volunteering/barnet
For more information and to enquire about volunteering with us in Barnet and Brent, contact Paul Higgins by calling 07985 718744 or email email@example.com
This week’s Featured Poem has been chosen in anticipation of the London Penny Readings, which will be taking place at the Southbank Centre this Sunday (12th October) as part of London Literature Festival. Having started last week, the theme for this year’s festival is ‘How the Printed Word Changes the World’, with a particular focus upon the optimism of the human spirit.
At the London Penny Readings, we’ll be hearing some of the greatest literature that has freedom at its core. A significant aspect of all lives, and perhaps taken for granted until the times when struggles are faced, everyone can appreciate the lure and the ‘light’ that freedom provides.
I will not follow you, my bird,
I will not follow you.
I would not breathe a word, my bird,
To bring thee here anew.
I love the free in thee, my bird,
The lure of freedom drew;
The light you fly toward, my bird,
I fly with thee unto.
And there we yet will meet, my bird,
Though far I go from you
Where in the light outpoured, my bird,
Are love and freedom too.
George William Russell
The London Penny Readings, featuring special guest readers Erwin James and Frank Hewteson, are just one penny to attend, but you can register your place before Sunday evening now: http://londonpennyreadings.eventbrite.co.uk/