Fragmented memories of Cambridge patients inspire new book of poetry
A hospital chaplain who spent hours chatting with dementia patients was so moved he turned their memories into poetry.
Reverend Phil Sharkey, of Addenbrooke and Rosie Hospitals in Cambridge, listened intently to the fragmented memories of 30 patients and turned key words into verses they wished they had written.
And when Covid struck, and Rev Sharkey, 70, found himself isolated at home and working through Zoom and phone, he went back to every poem and wrote one of his own in response.
Now the collection, the result of a poetry and spirituality initiative funded by the Royal Voluntary Service, has been turned into a book called Words to Remember – Lost and Found Poems.
It was launched today (October 7) – National Poetry Day – and is expected to be of interest to care professions and people living with loved ones with dementia. It will also be used for teaching in Addenbrooke.
In an introduction, Reverend Sharkey, who started patient conversations by asking questions about poems they could remember, said: Going back even further, nursery rhymes and limericks.
âSome had the floor, but it was difficult to discern a consistency in the broken and lost words they used to describe themselves and their experience. Some had no speech but listened and observed what was said and happening around them.
The book contains a preface by Girton College chaplain and poet, singer-songwriter, priest and scholar Reverend Malcolm Guite, and a commendation from Cambridge adviser and supervisor Jim Holloway. It contains stitched images of elderly people by Georgie Meadows, which were on display in Addenbrooke in July.
Words to Remember – Lost and Found Poems is published in-house by Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and is available in a paperback ring-bound book for Â£ 10. All proceeds will go to the Addenbrooke Charitable Trust.
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