My first poetry session with care home residents was inspired by the first session in Kenneth Koch’s book I Never Told Anybody: Teaching Poetry to Old People, which involves writing a group poem about childhood memories.
I was a little bit apprehensive about this session, as I wondered whether the residents would want to participate, or how much they would be able to do so, but I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go – and I think it went well.
The residents – most of whom have dementia – really enjoyed sharing some of their favourite childhood memories, which I wrote down word for word and then shuffled around slightly. When I read back the poem it got such a lovely response, with many of the residents laughing at their own lines and giving a round of applause at the end.
This is their poem …
I used to do all the dangerous things.
I swam in the Caribbean Sea in Barbados
and the weather was always tropical
because we didn’t have any winters –
we didn’t need all these jackets and scarves.
My favourite thing was playing with the children,
lots of silly games.
We got sent to Sunday School by my dad
and we would always sing songs.
I had a pet tiger called Lucy
who I took from Chester Zoo.
We had a dog and cat and lived in a nice house,
it was big and had a front sitting room with pink walls.
We had a parlour –
it could have been white, yellow or green, I wouldn’t know.
My mum and dad played the piano
and my dad would play all the Irish songs.
He was a big man – 6 foot 2;
I don’t know how I got so small –
I was the bit that got away.
When I was about five my father died
and he was buried in Anfield –
and I’m an Evertonian.
We moved house because the council were knocking ours down.
We moved to opposite the fish and chip shop –
it was supposed to be the best fish and chip shop in the world
and I think it was.
We stood on seven steps
and we never had to wait.