How to display the poems

The longer the project continues, the harder it becomes to offer simple guidance on how to display the poems. People keep finding new ways and sharing new ideas. Further, as digital forms of communication become more and more the norm, the screen becomes at least as valid for the display of these poems as the page, and maybe more so.

Here are some findings :

It helps to have an allocated person at each site willing and positively and creatively interested to take charge of the poem collection and push for its creative use and sensible display.

There is now a large number of poems in the collection and this number might well grow larger. The extensive range allows for choice and also for rotation. Rotation is recommended, for it keeps the poems fresh for frequent visitors and also for staff (who do, after all, spend more hours in the same public building than its visitors do, and will work better if their working environment feeds the spirit). But who will remember to change the poems over from time to time ? Another reason for allocating an enthusiast.

In a healthcare or similar setting, this person will tend to be a Receptionist or Administrator. But not always. The important criteria are that the person should have a real interest in the idea, and a work schedule that is not so frantic that the poem rotation gets forgotten.

Workers often have exciting ideas of their own for how to use the poems and where to display them – in staff sitting rooms (even the staff toilets !), in children’s clinics, in and by lifts, on the sitting room walls of old people’s homes, even the sitting room walls of clients’ own homes.

All the poems we have produced are available on this site in pdf. You can of course download them from here. The better the quality of the paper or card you use, the better they will look.

But there is a great deal of flexibility possible here, depending on what time and resources you have. We have saved the poems in pdf to a print resolution of high quality. This means that interested sites can commission local printers to enlarge selected poems from the pdf originals to A3, A2, A3 and A0 size, without loss of quality.

Here are some ways of displaying the poems that have been tried out successfully in various sites:

– Large digital display screens have become an obvious means by which to display the poems in easily readable fashion. We have already put together slideshows of the bilingual poems, the slideshows offering a continuous slow rotation of a selected range of different languages. Those slideshows are available on request (see Contact us). In the Summer of 2018, a Bristol school teacher took the mental health collection and selected excerpts from it and made a slideshow of them. Her selecting was apt and the rotation powerful. It was transmitted from all the school’s display screens and rotated there throughout Mental Health Awareness week.

– Nafsiyat is a London-based counselling/therapy service, offering patients from an ethnic-minority background counselling from someone sharing that position and experience in British society. In 2017, the organisation began displaying a rotation of the bilingual poems supplied by Poems for…the wall on a large TV screen in its waiting room. One of the staff kept using using the word “wonderful” in describing this development and its effect on patients and staff alike. Nafsiyat have said that they will pass on the work they have done on their slideshow to anyone else interested.

– The poems can be enlarged to A3 size and displayed in picture frames bought for the purpose. They are changed over every month or so.

– Selected poems can be enlarged to A3, or A2 or A1 and re-printed onto a “paperboard” or “foamex” backing which is light, solid and easy to hang. We can offer advice on costs and direct you to a specialist printer who supplies this service.

– The A4 poems are laminated and put up on the wall or on notice-boards or in display cabinets, in clusters of four or five, as a way of attracting attention and providing some variety ; these too are replaced every month or so.

– A4 poems are put in frames and hung is small spaces where people might sit or wait for a while – such as consulting rooms, or X-ray cubicles.

– Individual A4 poems are put in angled perspex display frames that stand on tables in the waiting room.

– Whole collections of the A4 poems are put together in ring-binder files and left in the waiting room for patients to leaf through.

– The poems are copied onto the organisation’s screensaver so that staff too can benefit from them. A rotation of them can be displayed digitally onscreen.

– The poems are projected onto the waiting room wall, or even an external wall, a new poem displayed every few minutes !

– Individual poems are silk-screened permanently onto suitable wall areas.

Thinking of hospitals, I would like finally to list certain places where a poem on display might be welcome :

– an X-ray changing cubicle, or waiting area for people hanging on for their X-ray results to come through

– the wall beside the lift door, or in the lift itself.

– the space on the wall above the photocopying machine.

– the walls of staff offices, perhaps above the kettle….

– anywhere in or out of doors where people might pause.

– A final word : there are a lot of ideas and possibilities listed here. Which you adopt, if any, will depend on you and also on how much time you have. But aside from that basic consideration, here is another caution : too much and too many could weaken the effect. Choose judiciously and realistically.

What People Have Said

Fiona Sampson, poet and editor, helped select ten bilingual poems celebrating the EU Enlargement of 2004:

Your idea’s a wonderful one, crystallizing many of the most interesting initiatives in contemporary literature/ promotion practice. But, more than this, it’s also a deeply human, very profound return to the meaning of poetry. I’m honoured to have been part of it.”

TN, Governor, HM Prison, Grendon and Springhill :

“Are you still supplying Poems for…the wall ? We would be interested in a pack, as previous poems have been much appreciated by prisoners, staff and visitors to the prison.”

Hana Amichai,  widow of Yehuda Amichai, Hebrew poet whose work appears in ‘Poems for…one world’  :

“It is a beautiful and very important project, I am glad that Amichai’s poem is included.”

Deputy Chief Exec, Yarrow Housing:

“Since our clients have learning disabilities, for some the written word is not accessible. However, some clients have been very taken with the poems, selecting their favourites and saying how good they are.”

Sir Andrew Motion, FRSL, Poet Laureate 1999-2009, launched the ‘Poems for…one world’ collection and later our first website. Also contributed a poem :

I greatly admire what you’re doing…and am delighted that the NHS has supported you so well…[This] is an inspired scheme…I’ve been delighted to be part of it….”

Selima Hill, poet, contributed work to two of the project’s collections.:

“…Congratulations to you too ! ( I Like the idea of making waiting rooms “less lonely”) PS. Another place where people wait is stations…”

Jayne Greathead, poet, contributed work to ‘Poems for…waiting’ collection:

“It’s a lovely feeling to know my poem has been used in this way.”

Susan Hillyard, Buenos Aires, Argentina, teacher trainer :

Thank you for your poems and for putting them up so generously on the site. I am training 20 teachers to teach English through Drama in Special Education all over the city of Buenos Aires. We are working in very poor conditions without resources and making all our own materials. I am passing your site on to my teachers and am sure they will find some interesting materials…

Mourid Barghouti, Palestinian poet, Cairo, contributed work to ‘Poems for…one world’ collection:

“I am delighted to be part of your creative and beautiful project.”

School Librarian, King Fahad Academy:

“Thank you so much – we love them!…I am planning to laminate all the poems, and have a Poem of the Week in a prominent place in both the boy’s and girl’s schools.”

BB, NHS cancer patient, London, 2013 :

“I just want to tell you that in 1997 I read and copied one of your poems, “The Stream of  Life” [by Tagore] in the waiting room in Hammersmith Gaeni dept. I had just finished chemo for ovarian cancer. I still find this poem inspiring and think displaying poems is a great idea, especially in health settings. I plan to take them with me on retreat. Thanks.”

Sir Michael Jay, Permanent Under-Secretary of State, the UK Foreign Office, 2002-2006 :

“Diversity is an excellent theme, and especially relevant to the challenges we all currently face to build a cohesive society. We would like a set of the poems to use at appropriate FCO events…”

Michael Rosen, UK Children’s Poet Laureate 2007-2009 – his poem celebrating the NHS is included in the “Poems for…one world” collection:

“I think that this is a stimulating, exciting and important project… Many, many thanks … I am excited and delighted that my poem is appearing in several languages [here]. It shows that we can talk to each other just as we try to care for each other… I think the project needs all the help it can find.”

Gareth Evans, teaching in a school in Shanghai:

”…it seems to be an important thing, at least to me, in an international setting, to know that the poem-posters on my classroom wall are also on walls around the world.”

Antjie Krog,  South African poet and translator, contributed work to the ‘Poems for…one world’ collection:

“They arrived!!!! the posters. and what a treasure, my head is bristling with ideas…thank you so so so much.”

Assistant Head of School, Kent:

“Somehow this lovely set of poems came into my hands; I am delighted with them and am displaying them outside my classroom for maximum impact. I also intend to use them in lessons and get younger students to illustrate as appropriate.”

Sue Eardley, Mayday University Hospital, Croydon :

“The poems are… being changed around regularly, and patients often comment on them in passing….Thank you again for the initiative, and please keep us informed of any new schemes, or if there is a way we can encourage other organisations to benefit from this great idea.”

William Radice, writer and academic, translator of Rabindranath Tagore, whose work is reproduced in ‘Poems for …one world’ :

“Wonderful to see this and I do congratulate you on a really excellent project.  It has huge potential.”

David Hart, Poet, commissioned and edited 50 poems for the ‘Poems for…Waiting’ collection, contributed one of his own:

“The pack of poems has come, Rogan, and it’s an excellent piece of work again ; there really has been nothing like these packs before. We have the chance here to open people’s lives to each other.”

Dr S. E-L, Clinical Psychologist, NHS Traumatic Stress Counselling Service, London :

 “…About half our patients come from other countries, generally as refugees fleeing torture and persecution…Coming into contact with poetry in their own language whilst waiting, is a really positive way of helping non-English speakers feel a sense of welcome and inclusion. Many thanks.”

The Royal College of Nursing, from their Bulletin, June 15th , 2011 :

“The RCN is backing this project which supplies poems free of charge for use in hospitals and health centres up and down the country.”

Caroline Carver, poet, contributed work to the ‘Poems for…waiting” collection:

“It is good news that the NHS are using the poems so well, and to know they are reaching the right audiences.”

The Right Hon Tessa Jowell, Minister for Culture, Media and Sport, 2001-2007:

“I think this is a wonderful project, giving people something meaningful and personal to consider, in what can be an anxious place.”

Susan Brown, Chair, “Arts for Health”, Milton Keynes :

“We now have poems in more than 85% of GP surgeries in Milton Keynes….So, thank you for sending us all those [poem-posters]. I hope you agree, it has been a success story and we are delighted with the results.”

Annette Duncan, Programme Area Leader, ESOL 16-18 Courses, Lewisham College:

“You kindly sent me a set of the bilingual poems last year…The poems proved very useful classroom materials and we went on to study other poems. The result is a book of poems, written by the students themselves, in 2 languages – their mother tongue and English. They wrote some truly amazing poems and really enjoyed the process as well as the finished product…”

Eliot Weinberger, US, translator of Octavio Paz, whose work appears in the ‘Poems for…one world’ collection:

“I’m sure that Octavio would have been very moved to know that his poem was appearing in these kinds of public spaces…good luck with this excellent project.”

Lakshmi Holström, translator of two Tamil poems in the ‘Poems for…one world’ collection:

“The thrill is in seeing Tamil as part of a spectrum of languages, each making its own wonderful contribution …[Poems for…the wall] is an impressive and beautiful project, which should continue to grow.”

Chikwendụ Anyanwụ, Igbo poet and Catholic priest, contributed work to the “Poems for…one world” collection:

“Your idea is a very noble one.”

Catherine Maloney, Lewisham College:

“Thank you, the poems are wonderful ! We will put them up for staff and students to enjoy and think about…I think your collection will inspire staff and students alike.”

Tomaž Šalamun, poet, Slovenia, contributed work to the ‘Poems for…one world’ collection:

“I’m very honoured and delighted you have chosen my poem. Very grateful for your marvellous idea.”

Sir David Nicholson, Chief Executive of the UK National Health Service, 2010-2014 :

Your initiative has made a valuable contribution to making NHS waiting rooms a more welcoming and sensitive environment for patients and the series of poems celebrating diversity has been particularly well received.

Maureen Woolf, Counsellor, North Warwickshire NHS Trust:

“I have used some of the sample of poems you have already sent me for some group work with older people who have depression, anxiety, memory loss or other difficulties. The overall response has been very favourable.”

Lyubo Nikolov, Bulgarian poet, contributed poem to the ‘Poems for…one world ‘ collection:

Best of luck in your noble task.”

Juris Kronbergs, Latvian poet, editor and translator, contributed work to the ‘Poems for…one world’ collection:

“I am happy and proud to take part in your project ! It’s a wonderful way of making poetry useful in society, outside the groups of afficionados, libraries and universities !”

Dr. Charles Cantaloupo, Penn State University, USA, translator of Reesom Haile, Tigrinya poet, whose work appears in the ‘Poems for…one world’ collection :

“As the translator, I authorize you, please, to go ahead.  I hope this is enough since your project is great and should not be held up a second more than necessary.”

Andrea Lee, Physiotherapy Receptionist, Warminster Community Hospital, Wiltshire:

“I have received the ‘Poems for…one world’ collection and I am totally delighted with them…Some of the scripts are beautiful in their own right, even without the translations. One of the most striking aspects is that no matter what language and ethnic background, our hopes, feelings and dreams are the same. Thank you once again.”

MV Prescott, Consultant in A & E Medicine, Royal Shrewsbury Hospital NHS Trust:

“I am absolutely delighted with the pack and will be commencing a project in the A & E Department at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital to display these on a rotating basis.”

Menna Elfyn, poet, contributed work to ‘Poems for…waiting collection:

“It is good to know that the poems are appreciated widely…and that in these difficult times poetry still connects people together.”

MIND worker in Camden, London:

“I love reading the poems which are displayed in the reception area at work. I like the variety and I like taking a moment to be still and reflective whilst reading the poems. My current favourite has been photocopied so I can read it from my desk ! It’s a really worthwhile venture.”

Psychology Dept, Scunthorpe:

“One thing that has been extremely interesting is…our clients have begun to post their own poems on the wall. Some are poems that mean something to them and some are written by the clients themselves.”

JP, Hospice Visitor :

“Dear Mr Wolf, I have recently seen a “Poems for…the wall”  presentation folder within a palliative care setting which provided a great source of comfort for many visitors. May I take this opportunity to thank you and all the contributors. Are these poems available for other health and social care settings?”

Tanya Plutzik, widow of Hyam Plutzik, who contributed work to the ‘Poems for…all ages collection:

This is a wonderful idea. It will surely be widely read and will bring comfort and support to many. Thank you for including my husband’s poem ; he would have been delighted to be part of the collection.”

UA Fanthorpe, poet, contributed work to the ‘Poems for…waiting’ collection:  

“I hope that the project continues to go from strength to strength…and to encourage people to read poetry and to feel better at the same time is indeed a worthwhile task – specially perhaps in times like these.”