Poet Feature - May 2021
I grew up with not only the most beautiful coastline in the UK on my doorstep, but with narrow streets seeped in literature as I bear the name of Daphne DuMaurier's best selling book, Rebecca. Foweys beaches and history were footsteps away and after more than a decade as a long haul flight attendant based at Heathrow living near Gatwick airport I now work for a charity supporting those with sensory loss in a fundraising role.
Searching for #poetry on instagram I came across Open Door poetry and was drawn to your core statement "Your words matter." At a moment of fear the right words, at the right time, can comfort more than anything; something I have really thought more and more about in recent years for a whole variety of reasons.
I am 'new' to poetry in many ways; in other ways I've had a lifetime of introductions and have taken the opportunity of lockdowns to delve further into discovering and utilising some moments of creativity as they arise and attempting to write some poetry of my own. I think the last time I really did this was many years ago at school when I read one of my poems at our poetry evening.
In 2016 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and to deal with, manage, face, approach, and cope with cancer at any age, and any stage in life is tough. Cancer Is life changing, massively impacting and alters your direction and focus, and quite frankly is a massive bloody inconvenience and upheaval. All the medical words enforce change, direction and focus with scans, operations and drugs with 5 pages of side effects. Coping with cancer during a worldwide pandemic without the simplest of support such as a face-to-face chat over a cup of tea makes it nearly impossible and takes many of us to new breaking points.
Yet Impossible becomes possible in a pandemic, when there is no other choice.
After the Manchester attack in 2017 Tony Walsh aka 'longfella' read the emotive poem 'This is the place'. Something in his delivery made me search for more poetry. At that moment it seemed so much that words really mattered and translated to hundreds witnessing and many thousands watching on television what that familiar city overflowing with culture was really feeling in a way no news journalist could.
Search to enjoy 'This is the place' : https://forevermanchester.com/this-is-the-place-fm/
Shine cancer support is a charity which provides peer support (on zoom at the moment) to any young adults in the UK in their 20's, 30's, 40's with any cancer and I volunteer with Shine Sussex. Through Shine I was invited to take part in the BBC Radio 4 poetry pharmacy, an opportunity to be prescribed a poem by William Sieghart CBE and founder of National Poetry Day to soothe the soul. Trust me, it was so much more comforting than any medication! William listened and prescribed the last verse of the simply beautiful poem 'New every morning' by Susan Coolidge, and encouraged me to read this out loud when moments of anxiety hit - something I'd recommend for anyone to try and let me know how you get on at @cancerpoet on instagram!
Wouldn't it be wonderful if in this troubled world we all had someone to prescribe us a poem which would so perfectly fit and soothe each difficult moment?
After the Poetry Pharmacy was broadcast in January 2020 and Covid 19 led to lockdown I turned to the wonderful book 'The Poetry Pharmacy' and decided to start my page @cancerpoet. So I am a poetry newbie, but excited to know there is a new place where words so clearly matter. I have witnessed time and time again how language can positively impact approaching the cancer rollercoaster. For most people with any life altering heath matter saying something, however awkward you feel, is better than saying nothing. Sending a supportive message in a poem could be just the words which will really matter.
If life is an everlasting circle, what happens when cancer gets chucked in?
There’s an interruption in the flow, even just hearing the word makes you stop.
The ripples of cancer, in my experience: stop, start, flow, adjust and change that circle of supposed life.
It pushes against everything you thought you knew, had planned, hoped and expected.
Life with cancer is still life, even if it’s damaged, changed, shrunken, and been
forced in a totally different direction. If life with cancer is still life then maybe the
circle of life will be like water and always find a way past and back to continue and flow once more.
WHEN A FRIEND DIES
My friend died last week, and someone on Facebook wrote that she lost her battle,
and I almost hit delete.
There is no battle, no armor, no war,
Just a knowledge that we have really been here before.
Watching a friend fade away, knowing that will be me one day, makes things more
real, more surreal, more believable than any other day.
Death is closer, and we grieve in our own way.
After you have sat across from a friend and shared chats, coffee and cakes and
watched them slip to someone with a beating heart asking should I buy the shoes
or will I be dead before I can wear them?
It’s surreal and wrong and no cancer fighting language changes that and life for
those taking part goes on.