Poetic medicine

So, it has been a while.

I return to write here today, because yesterday a woman in a white coat told me I must make the space to write. She told me this with the conviction of a true medic; and the zeal of a true poet.

She is The Emergency Poet, and she operates out of an ambulance.

I was on duty yesterday: working at my Cathedral in Guildford, manning the kiddies crafts and taking photos for publicity.

My boss and I strolled out of the great marquee – they call it a canvas cathedral- onto the lawn to watch the early visitors to the Cathedral Summer Fair.  The air was soft, moist English air which caresses the skin, and though there was the odd spot of rain it was a benign sort of day, really.

Our eyes surveyed the scene, panning round to the large ambulance parked to the right of the marquee, doors open ready for consultations.

This was no first aid ambulance. Next to it stood a chalkboard which I urge you to read for yourself:


Reader, I was hooked.

Excuse me, I asked the nice doctor inside, can you help me? My partner is poorly and I need some poetry prescribed for him.

Come in, she said, peering happily through large spectacles with bookish optimism. Put your feet up, she indicated, pointing to a well-upholstered scarlet consulting couch.

And then, the Emergency Poet began to ask me questions. Questions about what you love to read, and where you love to be. And my favourite: when you are old and grey and full of sleep, what would your perfect room look like?

I answered in delight. Not for a moment had I thought my day might entail discussing Yeats and the seaside room I have planned for my old age. Yes, I said in answer to a well-asked question, I write: I would love to write a book, but my life is so busy….

She smiled like sunshine, and told me that time does not just make itself: one has to make a writing life for oneself. And I thought: yes, she’s right.

Poet and writer, Deborah Alma, has done just that. She moved to the wilds of Wales where the wind whips where it will and property prices mean a retreat is still attainable. She was looking for a vehicle with which to roam far and wide to promote her writing and happened upon an old ambulance whilst searching online: and The Emergency Poet was born.

Now, Deborah ventures out of Wales to attend all manner of events from weddings to Summer fetes just like ours, and everything in between.

She is one of the generous writers: who share their creativity that the rest of us might write and live and breathe too. I received my poetry prescription. I must take my Seamus Heaney and my Under Milkwood  and other carefully chosen poetry into the garden with a glass of apple juice and spring water, and before I began reading,  I must listen carefully until I heard one unfamiliar sound….

I confess I found her a rather magical emergency service, and not a day too soon. I spent the rest of the day sending my friends to her, and shall seek her out again one day to thank her. Perhaps, when I have that life and that room….

If one wants to claim the prize of an early morning every day with which to write, one must make it happen. It does not do to complain: our life is a living demonstration of our priorities. If we choose to put the kids or the job or a hobby first, it is writ large on our timetables.

I came away with a resolution. I have children I love and a partner I adore, and one day, I told myself as I walked away from Deborah’s ambulance,  I shall experience a life lived within earshot of the sea, deep in thrall to the ones  I love, funded by a writer’s pen.

You can find more details of The Emergency Poet – and how to summon her – at her website here

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36 thoughts on “Poetic medicine

    1. Hi Brian – I did not realise how long, to be honest! It was rather a shock to read the date of my last post! However, regular writing must be a feature of this life from now on. We shall speak soon, I have no doubt. thank you for coming along to read today.

  1. Reblogged this on 1WriteWay and commented:
    This post from Kate Shrewsday is welcome not only because her posts are always a delightful read, but the concept, the person she writes about is a bit of balm, I’d argue, for what many of us are feeling right now. The focus here is writing, but the healing properties of poetry in particular and writing in general are real and necessary.

  2. A wonderful post, Kate! It’s so good to “read” you again and this particular post comes at a particularly sad time in the US. I find the whole concept of “Emergency Poet” to be just what the doctor ordered. Thank you for sharing this and I’ll definitely check out the Emergency Poet’s website.

  3. Your EP did a tremendous job, and this little take-away was well worth the price of admission: “. . . our life is a living demonstration of our priorities.” I suspect you knew that anyway and simply needed a reminder not to let everything else always get top billing!

    Good to see you in this forum again! 😉

  4. Oh, Kate, Kate, Kate, you must know how this has warmed my soul and tickled the pads of my fingers. This is wondrous and wonderful and whole lot of other “w’s” – as are you, and now I feel safer in an unsafe world, with the knowledge that an emergency poet way out there, across the pond. 🙂

    “soothes and soporifies” Love all that is prescribed, but, especially this one. When I sometimes say I feel “soporific” it get all sorts of odd stares.

    1. I am so glad the prescription, given as it was across an ocean, did some good, Penny! Thank you as always for taking the trouble to read, and comment, and join in from across the pond. I hope all is well with you both and the extended family out there on the Cutoff..

  5. Good to see you back in the blog-o-sphere. I have been in a bit of a lull with my own blog. I do find that writing helps the soul. Does the Poet Doc make house calls to California? 🙂

  6. Oh, my dear Kate, how I have missed you! What a transformative idea! The Emergency Poet! Yes, she was right. You must write now, and with regularity, and be published, or publish yourself. You have all the right equipment, and it is in perfect working order. I am here to say, I shall be the first to purchase any volume with your by-line! Love you tons!

    1. Paula, you are one of my earliest friends in the blogosphere and your words are so incredibly encouraging. Thank you. I hope you continue to find great pools of happiness in life. You surely deserve it 🙂

  7. I’m glad to hear you’ve been absent for happy reasons. I’m glad the universe sent you a messenger to restart your writing engine. I don’t have a seaside cottage or a hillside in the Wild of Wales, but I do have a green armchair. It’s the color of lichen, beside a window. The light shines on my words, and the breezes blow the cobwebs away. Still I don’t get as much done as I could want. I make too many choices to put others first. I need to take my Mary Oliver into the garden. 🙂

  8. If I had known it needed
    To have something poetic
    To end the lengthy silence,
    Which has been quite pathetic,
    Then maybe Really Awful Rhyme
    I would have brought in play –
    Although most probably that would
    Have frightened you away!

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