The plasma display screen is now common in all kinds of public settings, including schools, libraries and healthcare waiting rooms.
So here is yet another form of screen for the eye to rest on, when already there are so many. And is “resting” the right word ? The screens’ contents tend not be passive. Many reach out and seek to arrest the eye, both for good and for ill. They have the power to penetrate minds.
For ill and for good. Recently, I was sitting in a village surgery waiting room and the large display screen there showed a succession and range, not just of health notices, but also of local resources, opportunities, activities, things supportive of health and humanity in individuals and community. It was full of real interest, varied, lively and in touch. Worth watching. Someone had thought through from first principles how to use this technology – not just as the latest way of putting up the usual old health warnings and strictures, but something of wider and deeper potential. The doctor’s work need not wait for the consultation room, those regulation ten minutes. It could begin here.
And might this new and powerful screen also be a good medium for the display of short poems ? Poems for the wall might speak even more eloquently, reach out even more effectively, from a screen on the wall, than from a noticeboard or picture-frame there. For a start, the words can be larger. They can be read from further away.
All of us have to sit in a waiting room at some point in our lives, and maybe at several points. And waiting rooms can be lonely and tense and de-personalising. And poetry can speak to people here, powerfully, recognising. It can speak to the person’s inner world as well as about the outer one. It uses another kind of language than sales talk, expert talk, officialdom talk. The poem that works for people speaks directly to them. It finds them. It can throw light on things and make connections.
Nafsiyat is a multi-cultural counselling service based in North London. A few years ago, the screen in its waiting room began displaying a succession of bilingual poems selected from this project’s website. It was an obvious move. Everyone spending time in that waiting room has a mother tongue other than English. The poems made that waiting room an empathic community, a recognition and a welcome.
Clevedon and St Katherine’s are comprehensive schools in the Bristol area. In 2018, during Mental Health Awareness week, a succession of quotes from this project’s mental health collection was shown in rotation on Clevedon’s various display screens ; and a rotation of the bilingual poems was shown on the large screen in St Katherine’s library.
And in 2019, that village doctor’s waiting room described earlier in this post, with its imaginative and helpful spread of local announcements and communications, began including poems from this project among its sequence, adding to and enriching the kaleidoscope on view. And in a few weeks’ time in 2020, a health centre a few miles down the road will be doing the same thing.
I am storing the originals of all these bits of work, of course, and each one, or all of them, is/are available, free of charge, to anyone who requests it or them. But I am finding that there is no common or predetermined method, or programme, for using these screens, or adopting these poem-posters as part of the different displays. A fairly common approach has been to use a Powerpoint platform, with a “slideshow” option. But this is not the only approach that is followed. In one case, I was asked to send the poems over already fully formatted and saved in jpeg. In another, we have agreed that I should send over a template saved in pdf, and the texts separately in Word ; my contact person at the other end will then do the formatting and we’ll agree the final result before it is uploaded.
I am happy to use whatever method works best for whoever is interested to pursue this idea. You just need to contact me (see “Contact Us” across the top of the Home Page).
Please note that, when we requested copyright permissions some years ago, it was given free of charge in each case – on condition that our formatting included acknowledgements of publisher and author, and the poem was displayed free of charge and in a public venue of the kind mentioned above. That condition still of course applies.