Brought to you by Stacey Davidson, Creative Medical Writer
It is a known fact amongst those who know me well that I am a geek! Apparently, I can’t call myself a nerd (that has connotations of being cool, which I am not) and so geek is a badge that I wear with pride.
My favourite past time is losing an hour (or several) absorbed in a good book. I don’t mind if it is fiction or non-fiction, rhyme or essay, poetry or report. The written word means everything to me. My second favourite past timeis listening to TED talks. Brene Brown, you and your amazing vulnerability and shame TED talk have a lot to answer for.
Which is why I found myself at the recent TEDx event in Oxford. My partner (in crime, life and wine!) Paul was dragged along with me. When I asked him whether he would like to join me over dinner one night a few weeks before, his excited reply of ”It sounds a little bit interesting” meant that the ticket was booked within mere minutes. I couldn’t disappoint a man who was ‘a little bit’ excited could I?
The lineup was diverse to say the least. ’A world unbound’ was a suitably vague title that immediately had me hooked. Paul, the science nerd (yep, he is cool enough to use the term nerd) was ‘a little bit’ excited at the science bits. And it definitely delivered on that score with the show being opened by a robot! And a pretty scarily looking human one at that which kind of blew our minds a little bit.
And from there, the next 6 hours passed by in a blur of politics, psychology, travel, medicine and… poetry!
Will Sieghart came on the stage with a talk simply titled ‘Poetry’. Suddenly, I found myself holding my breath, mind whirring and head nodding all at the same time. This man, apart from being an amazing storyteller with the most rhythmical voice I have ever heard, is pure genius with a heart overflowing with compassion. Having always supported his friends and family with ‘just the right’ poems when they needed inspiration or courage, he explained how his Poetry Pharmacy came to being.
He was giving a talk at a literary festival on an anthology and the idea was touted to spend an hour afterwards ‘prescribing’ poems from the same anthology. He talked about how he believes that there is a poem out there for every emotional ailment – I was hooked. Totally hooked and turning blue from holding my breath.
He continued his story. The Poetry Pharmacy seemed to have legs and he it took it on the road. He shared with us specific encounters over the years with various people experiencing an assortment of emotional crises. Be that not feeling that they can be honest and authentic about their sexuality or grieving for a lost soul mate. And for every story he told, he recited the poem that he prescribed.
Once I remembered how to breathe again, and this amazing man exited the stage to rambunctious applause, I couldn’t stop thinking about how the gift of poetry really can slow the mind, give hope, provide another way of thinking.
As we left the theatre feeling very thoughtful, my eye happened upon the most wonderful site. A mecca. A shining halo. A Waterstones that extended over 4 floors! We had only 15 minutes before the Park & Ride bus arrived and, without even having to ask, Paul just nodded his head and followed me in.
Now, I promise you when I say that this was not my intention, but the second I walked through the door I found myself looking for the poetry section. William had mentioned that he had published a Poetry Pharmacy book. I didn’t know what I was looking for until I saw a crowd of people around a bookcase. I guess I wasn’t the only one who had been inspired.
That afternoon, I believe that Waterstones Oxford sold out of their copies of ‘The Poetry Pharmacy Returns’. But I didn’t care as I had my grubby mitts on a copy already. Hoorah!
And already it is becoming a bit dog-eared.
A poem to overcome ‘agonizing over weight’ (happens almost daily), a poem to help with ‘general overload’ (we all have those days don’t we?!), a poem to help me cope with ‘fear of change’ (I like what I know!) – they are all there in this beautiful book with the bright blue cover.
I have always known that words are my therapy. But little did I know that one Winter’s afternoon in Oxford would I realise that words are others therapy too.