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Found Poetry

Having explored some service user poetry, now let’s explore some poems written by health and social care students as a way to explore their thoughts and feelings about practice. Caring Words is an online community where you can read poems written by health and social care students. ‘The Poems’ will direct you to poems about different topics relating to health and social care practice. The following is a poem written by a first-year nursing student, from the perspective of an older woman, who is in hospital following a fall. 

I’m Alone

The tick of the clock,
The drip of the tap.
The click of a heel; clack, clack, down the hall.
The beep of the machines,
The buzz of the lights.
This hospital never stops, so I can’t sleep at night.


There’s a man crying out in pain upstairs,
In the waiting room, there is a woman sobbing for the loss of her brother.
The lady on my right has had her hip replaced,
On the left her breasts are gone, ‘it’s inherited from my mother’.


The creak of the door,
The ring of the phone.
The whimper of a patient; a howl and groan.
The streams of doctors,
The rustle of paper.
This hospital is full, so I’m just a number.


The doctors are pleasant enough,
The nurses are always busy, rushed of their feet, but they aren’t to blame.
There’s patients galore in here,
One in, one out. It’s never the same.


I lie in my bed,
I’m watered, I’m fed.
I’m sheltered and clothed; how can I moan?
But I’m scared.
But I’m frightened.
But I’m alone, Nurse. I’m alone.


I never know what’s happening until its begun,
They smile politely, and talk so nicely, but I don’t understand.
Can’t they see this is all new to me,
Can’t they see I’m afraid, I just need a friend, I just need a hand.


I lie in my bed,
I’m watered, I’m fed.
I’m medicated and cleaned; how can I moan?
But no-one here knows me.
But no-one knows my life.
But I’m alone, Nurse. I’m alone.


The nurses are good at their jobs,
They get the work done; they make people healthy.
But I can’t help to think,
They don’t often see the human, the person, in here,
They don’t see me.


I lie in my bed,
I’m watered, I’m fed.
But I feel like I’m dying; I feel like I’m dead.

Author: Hester Astell

I’m Alone was written from the perspective of an older woman and explores her thoughts and feelings about being admitted into a healthcare setting. 

How did you feel when you read this poem?

From your perspective, what are the main themes arising from this poem?

Empathy is an important aspect of interpersonal communication in health and social care settings. It involves us being able to understand another person’s perspective. In what ways does this poem enable you to empathise with the older woman? What are her main messages?

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In Andrew’s video in Part One, his final piece of advice was to have a go at writing poetry yourself. Some of you might have started already, inspired by what you’ve read. Others will have been writing for some time. The following three exercises will hopefully offer something new to those already writing, as well as being a starting point for those who have never written a poem before. We also make some suggestions as to how writing poetry might link to your reflective practice. 

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A found poem is a poem made of words taken from somewhere else: billboards, snippets of conversations, shopping receipts, diaries, adverts and more. A wonderful example for instance is the poem ‘a woman goes’ by Brazilian poet Angélica Freitas. Here she creates a poem by typing partial phrases such as ‘a woman goes’ into Google. Google then completes the phrase automatically, which Freitas then lists: ‘a woman goes to the movies | a woman goes to get ready’. To read the full poem use the link (below). During the pandemic, a different found poem went viral. Jessica Salfia’s poem ‘First Lines of Emails I’ve Received While Quarantining’ is as the title suggests made up entirely of first lines of emails she received while self isolating. This poem does one of the things that poetry does best—it draws attention to the impact of a crisis on language and how language both comes to ignore and accomm

A found poem is a poem made of words taken from somewhere else: billboards, snippets of conversations, shopping receipts, diaries, adverts and more. A wonderful example for instance is the poem ‘a woman goes’ by Brazilian poet Angélica Freitas. Here she creates a poem by typing partial phrases such as ‘a woman goes’ into Google. Google then completes the phrase automatically, which Freitas then lists: ‘a woman goes to the movies | a woman goes to get ready’. To read the full poem use the link (below). During the pandemic, a different found poem went viral. Jessica Salfia’s poem ‘First Lines of Emails I’ve Received While Quarantining’ is as the title suggests made up entirely of first lines of emails she received while self isolating. This poem does one of the things that poetry does best—it draws attention to the impact of a crisis on language and how language both comes to ignore and accommodate as well as address this emergency. 

Read either or both of the poems below: 

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/apr/12/poem-constructed-from-emails-during-quarantine-goes-viral

Try writing your own found poem. You could try to rewriting Jessica Salfia’s poem using first lines from emails to you.

Has anything changed since this poem was written in the first stages of lockdown? 

Where else can you ‘find a poem’? Think about different places language is evident: overheard conversations, advertising, music etc. In particular think about found poetry in terms of health and social care settings and the official and unofficial language that is used in these situations.

Jessica Salfia’s poem has the refrain ‘As you know, many people are struggling’. Is there a particular line you’ve found that you can use as a refrain?

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