A poet who specialises in health and wellbeing said poetry could help people feel “less alone” during the pandemic.
Beth Calverley, from Bristol, created The Poetry Machine in 2015 to help people “put their feelings into words”.
During lockdown, she has worked online and with families and the hospital where she is also poet in residence.
Bristol Royal Infirmary said her specially written poems “embodied everything we as staff are feeling for our patients and their loved ones”.
After almost all her pre-existing work until next year had been cancelled or postponed, Ms Calverley said the months ahead looked “very uncertain”.
‘People want poems’
She said: “I’m having to work remotely, which means inventing ways to support people through poetry within the online space.”
Ms Calverley said she was now relying on video-calling system Zoom, email and phone calls and had set up poetry party sessions to allow families, friends and colleagues to “come together for a group poetry experience”.
“At the moment, people want poems to remind them of what is important to them and those around them. A record of the journey they are going through together, while in isolation,” she said.
She said she started each session with “a relaxing, heart-warming conversation to draw out each person’s thoughts and feelings”.
She would then create a poem on her vintage typewriter, read it aloud to the group and “post it to them when it’s safe to do so”.
Kate and Ian Smith, from Penarth near Cardiff, both doctors, were gifted a poetry party by friends.
“It has to be the most special present I have ever received actually,” said Mrs Smith. “My friend told me about it on my way home from work after a harrowing shift – it meant the world to have been thought about like that.
“It really helped us all – my husband is quite a shy northern man of few public words, but it made him in particular, as well as our three children, reflect on each other and us as a unit in words – in a way we never have before.
“As someone who works a lot with patients with dementia, I think Beth’s work in this area is such an incredible idea.
“It’s hard to think of a more perfect way to unlock and celebrate long term and emotional memories which are often retained until the late stages of the condition.”
Ms Calverley set up a poetry party for her family’s first Zoom session, which included her grandparents Brian and Lin Dermott who live in Australia.
Mrs Dermott said it was to celebrate her husband’s 79th birthday and said “what Beth provided was an intense shared family experience”.
She said: “Poetry is an escape, to evoke feelings, emotions, happy and sad and funny. Poetry of itself can be an entertainment during lockdown.
“Beth’s poetry really connected us as a family and we were all so captivated by the speed with which she wrote Making it Happen”.
“Different ends of the day, breakfast in the UK and dinner in Australia created different moods, not quite awake in UK pre-breakfast and relaxed, and sleepy in Aus at night, red wine, with curtains closed.”