• New Collection – Poems for Rising Ten

    This project’s latest collection was launched in October 2022. “Poems for Rising Ten” is for children approaching the end of their time in primary school. There are 25 poems in all, each one accompanied by art work. In most cases, the images are not  literal illustrations as such. I think they offer something richer than illustration, carrying or suggesting the spirit of the words, rather than prescribing shapes for them. They are by Rachel Stevens who has given her work free to this project.

    The poems have been uploaded here on this website. As with all the other poems we reproduce, they are available free of charge.

    To access the new poems for viewing and/or downloading, you’ll need to register with us. For that, see the horizontal menu along the top of the home page. Having registered, look along the same  menu, and you’ll see the heading ‘Poem Collections.’ There are six collections named under that heading. ‘Poems for Rising Ten’ is the sixth. Click on that. The poems can be found beneath the introductory text.

    To launch the collection formally, we printed the poems onto A3 foamex board and exhibited them in a quiet country church, through most of October. Here are some initial pictures of them, taken by smart phone : https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=7949865511750928&set=pcb.7948868918517254

    The exhibition was well received by visitors of all ages. Early on, senior forms from the local primary school walked over with their teachers to see the poems in their ancient setting and to respond to them through written words of their own.  

    Here below is a photograph of how the display looked from the north west of the church :



    The UK Poetry Society is presently helping to promote the new collection among the schools on its mailing list. 



  • “Modern Poetry in Translation” and “The Reader”

    “Poems for the wall” has began some collaborative work with two organisations : “Modern Poetry in Translation” and “The Reader.”

    On the face of it, these organisations, or projects, are quite different. But they have in common a belief in, and a commitment to, honest words of high quality and integrity, true witness, in whatever language and whatever form ; and to a need for those words to reach out to people far and wide and find them where they are.

    It is unclear, as yet, quite where this exploratory work will go. So far, it has brought the material available on this site to the attention of the large numbers of people in The Reader’s “constituency” ; and has resulted in an agreement with Clare Pollard of MPT that I might reproduce here some of that organisation’s work over the years, re-formatted as bilingual posters. This enterprise will be slow but infinitely rewarding. Here is a link to the first product, an early Chinese poem by Du Fu, grieving over the loss of his world. I am grateful for the help of Paul Harris, the translator.

    I also want to thank Chris Meade for his suggestion that “Poems for…the wall” might do some work with MPT. He is presently Chair of the latter. Over twenty years ago, he was Director of the Poetry Society, and in that capacity was instrumental in getting “Poems for…the wall” up and running. So there he still is, fruitfully.

  • Exhibition of Bilingual Poems in Clifton Cathedral


    Here is a link to some photographs of poems displayed, greatly enlarged,  on the walls of Clifton Cathedral in the Spring of 2019.

    Just click on the first image and it will expand. Then keep clicking on an arrow that appears on the right of each picture, to take you through to the end of the series, at your own speed.

    There is a slightly different selection of the photos brought together as a Facebook “Album.” If you are on Facebook you can find it here.  

    Canon Bosco runs Clifton Cathedral and it was he who suggested that a balcony within the building, prominent but little used, could be used for an exhibition of the project’s poems. You will see from the pictures that the cathedral does not conform to a medieval, or gothic, stereotype. Built in the late 60’s and early 70’s, it is unashamedly modernist, even “brutalist” and I find it inspirational.

    The poems seemed to belong there. They and the raw concrete etched with wood grain seemed to suit each other, even to speak to, and for each other. On seeing the exhibition up for the first time, someone exclaimed that it was like coming across a modern-day Book of Psalms in this place, in terms of its universality and complexity, its human cry.

    A huge building, the cathedral was of course designed to act as an affirmation of the sacred in itself, even while it gives shelter to and informs a liturgy that serves the same purpose. I felt the exhibition was doing a lot more than use this huge and wonderful space as backdrop ; it was joining and adding to the statement it makes and the stand-point and tones of reverence it calls for.

    And of course, the building, the faith it was built to embody and extoll, and the poems, all shared a vision of reality and human life in absolute contrast and opposition to our presentday lurchings and retreat into competitive nationalism, mutual suspicion, division and fragmentation.

    I shall add three more details here, for anyone interested :

    First, Clifton Cathedral is – as I have suggested – a wonderful building in itself, yet is off the beaten track. I recommend that anyone visiting Bristol should give some unhurried time to it.

    Second, most of the exhibition’s poems were enlarged from the A4 pdf and printed onto a foamex board. The firm who did that work are based near Basingstoke and achieved a quick turn-around between order and delivery.  The board we used is a light and weather proof material, solid yet flexible. The process is surprisingly cheap.

    Thirdly, the vast majority of the exhibition’s “public” consisted of the cathedral’s own congregation whose total number is close to a thousand. They come from all over Bristol and are multi-ethnic. Masses take place at the cathedral throughout each week-end and most people attend one or another of these on a regular basis, each week. Those who visited the exhibition tended to do so either on the way to their particular mass, or just afterwards.

    Following the exhibition proper, Canon Bosco put up photographs of the exhibition’s poem-posters by the cathedral’s main door, to “show those who didn’t come what they had missed,” he said. 



  • Poems Displayed on Plasma Screens

    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.


  • Poems for…the wall in Bristol, Summer 2018

    When “Poems for… the wall” was piloted in London twenty years ago, it was a local affair. Some small poem-posters were put up in NHS waiting rooms in Hammersmith and Kensington. However, as the project became quickly better known and demand spread, it lost contact with an immediate locality. The poems went out far and wide, around the UK and then beyond, first by post and later digitally, downloaded from this website. In those circumstances, the co-ordinator’s bike tended to stay at home and I knew rather little of what actually happened to the poems, once they arrived at their destination.

    But now I’m in Bristol and the bike is out again. Earlier this hot Summer of 2018, two local schools exhibited poems from the “Self at Sea” collection as part of their response to Mental Health Awareness week. Poems were enlarged to A1 and A2 and A3 on foamex board half a centimetre thick. Being writ large suits the poems and they had significant impact, I understand. The teachers used the opportunity well and imaginatively. Here are comments from two of them :

    …What was so fantastic about this was that it enabled questions and conversations around this topic to take place. I was therefore able to dispel myths, allay concerns and tackle the stigma surrounding mental health. Again, this is a rare and valuable opportunity for that to happen amongst peers and within the safe community of a school.”

    “…The poetry was beautifully displayed and of a high calibre. I think it’s so important for the students to explore mental health. It has definitely led to a greater understanding of mental health for the students, but also helped me get to know how some of the students’ families have been affected by mental health issues too…”


    And there was a long-standing exhibition of them on the wall of a popular local café called Beacon House, run by Bristol University, near the Wills Monument in Clifton.

    Finally, here is a little Summer anecdote :

    This year, the NHS was 70.  In its 60th year, the NHS commissioned Michael Rosen to write a poem celebrating its work. He came up with a poem of wonderful simplicity and directness called “These are the Hands.” I saw it and asked him, could the “Poems for…the Wall” project adopt and display it ? Yes, he said. Good idea. So I did and it’s up and still available on the project’s site. You can find it in the “One World collection.” Here is the link.

    Then I asked Michael, how about translating it into several languages ? People of many mother tongues receive help from, and work within, the NHS. And I am lucky to know people willing and able to provide distinguished translations in their own mother-tongues. Good idea, said Michael. So I did, : into Greek,  Turkish, Somali and Punjabi – in both its Gurmakhi and Arabo-Persian forms. All these versions of the poem can be found among the same collection.

    But that was a round a decade ago. This year, in 2018, with Brexit swirling through the UK corridors, I suddenly thought that Michael’s poem was just as relevant in 2018 as it had been in 2008. Even more poignantly so, in fact, as the NHS is under great strain these days, along with much else that bound us together as a people and a nation. And these days, we had Facebook (for good and for ill). In 2008 we did not. Michael’s poem would look good on Facebook, I thought. So I uploaded the poem in Portrait format on my Facebook timeline and it looked very good.

    Within days, my Facebook copy of Michael Rosen’s poem had been shared 5,209 times, and liked/loved 1,145 times. That’s quite a lot, almost viral, I’d say. Michael shared it on his timeline too and – separately – attracted similar numbers. In addition, I put the poem up on my own blog, and it looked just as good on that. Here : https://roganwolf.com/2018/07/03/the-70th-birthday/   And about ten days later, The Guardian also reproduced the poem, ten years old, but still absolutely present, perhaps in a sense ever more present.

    And I am wondering about the nature of the response to the poem which we witnessed here. The Brexit issue filled the nation’s news coverage day after day and it was and is so divisive and so utterly bewildering, almost suffocating. I think it shames this nation. The NHS is an altogether clearer and better cause and something we can be proud of. We are not – by and large – divided on that. Yet the NHS is in trouble, starved year on year of the resources it needs.  And we are still being governed by a political party that believes in low tax and instinctively hates a strong state.

    I have a strong feeling that the enthusiasm for Michael Rosen’s poem “These are the Hands,” which we witnessed in these weeks, was not just the result of the poem’s eloquence, nor due only to the enduring popularity of the NHS, but also because the people who responded recognised that the NHS was under threat and in the wrong hands just now.

  • What’s Italian for “Poems for…the Wall” ?

    A really nice article about this project has recently been published in a good Italian arts website called “Margutte.”

    The piece was initially written in English, mostly for this site. But then Margutte’s editor, Silvia Pio, edited the text  of the English with great skill and good judgement, making it an article.

    She then translated it into her own Italian and uploaded the article in both languages. Click on http://www.margutte.com/?p=26369&lang=en for the English version. (NB. The link only goes live once you have clicked on “Read More”).

  • Reaching into Bristol – new partnerships

    Based these days in Bristol, “Poems for…the wall” has started to work in partnership with the Bristol Poetry Institute. The BPI is based in the literature department of Bristol University.

    The BPI has not only procured some seed money for us, but has also been greatly helpful in providing local contacts and opportunities.

    Thanks to that sponsorship, a small exhibition of the project’s bilingual poem-posters is currently on display in a popular university café called Beacon House, near the Wills Memorial Building at the top of  Queens’s Road.

    For, like many another university of the present day, Bristol University brings together students and staff from all over the world, representing a huge range of different mother-tongues. It means, of course, that large numbers of young people are spending a great deal of time studying, under pressure, in a place where the language mainly spoken is not their own.

    A good half of the poems-posters supplied by “Poems for…the wall” are bilingual, with fifty different languages represented. For these to be displayed in a popular place like Beacon House, means that many a non-English student currently living and studying in Bristol will have found his or her own language taking pride among them. At the very least, the poems offer a statement of welcome and respect.

    And for English readers, they offer a view of human experience and connectedness that is rich, international, complex and big-hearted.

    Further and even more ambitiously, two local comprehensive schools, Clevedon and St Katherine’s, are currently mounting exhibitions of the project’s mental health collection. The poem-posters have occasionally been enlarged for exhibition in the past – most notably by the Foreign Office and by the Central Middlesex Hospital in Park Royal, West London. But in these two local school exhibitions, we have made the enlargements ourselves for the first time. They look splendid. In each school’s case, there are two posters at A1 size, 4 at A2 and six at A3.

    We hope to continue to explore the creative possibilities of these contacts over the coming months.


  • Another way for poems to speak


    A busy gathering place for students, staff and visitors from all over the world is not where you’d normally expect to find an exhibition of poster-poems.

    But if all those poems were bilingual, with many different languages represented, written originally by poets often famous in their own countries ? That might be quite an eloquent statement, quite apart from what the words themselves were saying.

    The collage of photographs here records a small exhibition of bilingual poem-posters that has recently been showing in a public setting managed by Bristol University. The exhibition went up under the stewardship of the university’s Bristol Poetry Institute.

    Half way up the collage, towards the left, you can see a background photograph of all the poems together displayed on the wall. Four of them are printed on paperboard at A3 size, the rest on card at A4 size.

    Although they are too small to be read here, it may be of interest to note that there are ten different languages represented in the group picture : Arabic, Dutch, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Japanese, Latin, Mandarin, Punjabi, Tigrinyi.

    I have slightly enlarged five of the languages for this collage : Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese and two ages of Mandarin. One of the Mandarin pair  – by Gu Cheng  – was written approximately a thousand years after the other – by Li Bai. And the poem by Li Bai was almost certainly painted, not written.

    And when Li Bai positioned his letters, he started at the top and from the right and his eye ran downwards and leftwards. By the time Gu Cheng was writing, a thousand years later, he saw his writing in the same way as the westerner does – horizontally and rightwards from a margin on the left.

    And for those Westerners who don’t know, please note that the Arabic and the Hebrew you can see in the picture above here are both written and read from the right.

    The poet David Hart once said of the “Poems for the wall” project : “we have the chance here to open people’s lives to each other.”


  • “Poems for the wall” breaks surface in the south west

    A very good international magazine called “Resurgence,” based in Devon, did a feature on the project in August this year. Click here for the online version.

    And during November, an exhibition of the project’s bilingual poems went up in a busy public setting run by Bristol University. The poems make a strong public statement of mutual tolerance. Tolerance ? More than tolerance. They celebrate our difference, richly. They glory in it. They make poetry of it. Over the next few months, we shall be exploring further ways of displaying these poems in Bristol settings, run both by the university and the City Council.

    “Poems for the wall” has begun working with the Bristol Poetry Institute, based in Bristol University. See their website here.

  • Six Developments for Summer 2017

    Our new title – Poems for…the wall. It makes clearer the fact that we supply poems for public space. It doesn’t affect the titles of our collections.

    This new website – It is almost finished now. It is striking to look at ; it is technically up to the mark ; it is simple to use. Thanks Joe.

    Our “three main collections” have now become five. The two new ones are “Poems for…self at sea” (on mental ill-health) ; and “Poems for…bridges to learning disability” (on learning disability). You will find them on this site in the “Poem Collections” menu.

    A new base in Bristol – we can now be found on the website of the Bristol Poetry Institute. Find us here :  http://www.bristol.ac.uk/arts/research/poetry-institute/poetry/

    Some new publicity – a good feature on Poems for…the wall is due to be published in the next issue of the magazine “Resurgence” due out at the end of August. See : http://www.resurgence.org/

    2017 is our 20th birthday ! – this project, which puts poem-posters on public display free of charge, began in 1997 !