One of the things I find myself bemoaning is how little poetry I read these days. At one point I would take a poetry book with me as the perfect way to pass the time on a long journey: something that I could dip in and out of without losing the sense of what I was reading as a result of the inevitable interruptions. Maybe it’s because I don’t seem to do long journeys by public transport any more that I’ve fallen out of the habit, I don’t know. I was gratified then, yesterday morning, to find that, despite my lack of recent attention to the genre, I was acquainted with all the poems that turned up in a radio interview with the Emergency Poet.
I don’t know if you’ve come across the poet Deborah Alma, aka The Emergency Poet, I have to say that until yesterday I hadn’t, although from the information on her website she appears to be reasonably local to me. The basic idea is that she and her 1970s ambulance, accompanied by Nurse Verse, appear at festivals, libraries, schools and various literary events to offer consultations for the sick and needy followed by the prescription of an appropriate, and hopefully, healing poem. To quote from her website
a mix of the serious, the therapeutic and the theatrical, the Emergency Poet offers consultations inside her ambulance and prescribes poems as cures. In the waiting room under an attached awning Nurse Verse dispenses ‘poemcetomols’ and other poetic pills and treatment from the ‘Cold Comfort Pharmacy’…
Dressed in white coat and stethoscope, Emergency Poet travels in her 1970s ambulance, accompanied by Nurse Verse or the Poemedic…anywhere where poetic help may be urgently required…
The poetic version of the Novel Cure, I suppose.
A full consultation takes about ten minutes but if you haven’t got time for that or if the Emergency Poet is busy then you can get a supply of ‘poemcetomols’ from the nurse or poemedic. These appear to take the form of small capsules with a section of a poem inside. Yesterday the radio presenters found themselves prescribed works by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Keats and one of my favourite e e cummings poems:
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
Unfortunately, I find that I’ve missed a local appearance by just over a week but I shall certainly keep an eye on the website to see when Deborah Alma is next going to be in the area. I suspect a ‘poemcetomol’ would do far more good to a troubled soul than any amount of its pharmaceutical counterpart.