• “Poems for…” speaking truth to Mr Trump

    The “Poems for…” project is proud to display four poems written by people President Trump would wish to ban.

    Click here for links to the poems. Two were written by Iranian poets (once called Persian) ; one is in Syrian Arabic ; one in Somali.

  • Two new “Poems for…” collections available

    The two collections were launched in Bristol in the Autumn of 2015. The charity United Response assisted.

    The mental health collection is called “Poems for…Self at Sea” and consists of 30 poems. It was funded by NHS Westminster.

    The learning disability collection is called “Poems for…Bridges to Learning Disability.” This one consists of 20 poems and was funded privately.

    A significant number of authors contributed to each of collections, several writing from first hand experience, others from many years of close proximity. The poems were carefully selected.

    The poems are formatted in poster form and are available free of charge both in hard copy and online. The posters are small but can be enlarged. Alternatively, they are available as part of an attractive booklet produced by United Response.

    But these days there are other ways, of course. For instance, we have made the mental health poems into a slideshow, for display on digital screen. Each poem was also recited out loud and the recitations recorded. And then the recitations were blended with the slideshow, the words onscreen matching the words out loud.

    The result is on Youtube. Here is a link to it : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmtDPbcyves

    What next ? Might someone project the slideshow onto a public wall ? During Mental Health Week, perhaps ? Any takers ?

  • Poems for…Bridges to Anatolia

    “Poems for…Bridges to Anatolia” is based largely – though not entirely – on the translation work over the years of the Turkish poet Mevlut Ceylan.

    Ceylan lived in London for many years and under the title “Core Publications” produced a significant number of booklets that feature and celebrate Turkish poetry. Each is translated into English, the vast majority by Ceylan himself. Some are anthologies, following a theme. Others feature the work of individual Turkish authors.

    Ceylan’s quiet and patient work opens the life of one culture to another and in doing so reveals the distinctness of each but also and more importantly their common humanity. He has built and opened a bridge.

    The selection offered here took over two years to put together and consists of over twenty poems. It features work by the following Turkish poets : Rumi (who wrote originally in Persian but lived in Konya, now part of Turkey) ; Asaf Halet Çelebi ; Cahit Külebi ; Mufide Guzin Anadol ; M. Mahzun Doğan ; Müştehir Karakaya ; Ümit Yaşar Oğuzcan ; Cahit Irgat ; Nâzim Hikmet ; Cumali Ünaldı ; Erdem Bayazıt ; Bejan Matur ; Erdem            Bayazıt ; Nuri Pakdil ; Cahit Zarifoğlu ; İpek Şenel.

    The collection is offered free of charge. You can find it here in pdf.

    It is also available as a slideshow. This supplies a rotation of the poems for display on a plasma display screen. Such screens are becoming common in public settings. Presently, each poem remains on the screen for 25 seconds and is then replaced by another from the collection. The reading period is of course adjustable.

    The slideshow can be adapted to different screen sizes.

    If anyone is interested in the slideshow, please contact.

  • “Poems for…” comes to London for Those who Wait

    CNWL NHS Foundation Trust is one of the largest NHS Trusts in the UK. It provides healthcare services across a wide swathe of north west London and various areas beyond.

    The Trust has just announced its adoption and funding of a pamphlet of poems and photographs now available free of charge across all its waiting rooms, for people to take away with them if they want.

    Two thousand copies of the pamphlet have just come back from the printers, and have begun to be distributed.

    The photographs it contains are striking – both poignant and strong.

    The poems have been selected from the various collections put together for the “Poems for…the wall” project over the years, described and available on this web-site. They include a significant number of bilingual poems, written originally in a non-English mother-tongue. The pamphlet will thus acknowledge and bid welcome to the multi-ethnic nature of our society and of its healthcare waiting rooms. Individuals planning to vote UKIP next year will also presumablly continue to require CNWL services and will therefore have the chance to enjoy this booklet too.

    In these times of crisis for the NHS, amid so many other crises, here is a development that seems to run counter to the prevailing tide and speaks for the fullness of what the NHS is about. It reminds us that the NHS is for everyone and is as much concerned with heart and soul as with body.

    The pamphlet’s production represents, and is the culmination of, years of co-operation between the Trust and the “Poems for…the wall” project. A small mental health service called Portugal Prints should also be thanked for their good and careful design work..

  • 6 Burmese poems join the “Poems for…One World” collection

    The six poems being published here are all contemporary and have been carefully selected. Several of them have been published already. Two have not. The UK Foreign Office have played an important part in the whole process, though not in the selection.

    How to view and download the poems

    For the full collection of six poems, click here. Then scroll down through the six.

    The poems are also available for individual downloading. Log in on the Home Page (registering first if you haven’t already done so) and then go to “Downloading the Poems” in the left hand margin.  Once there, open up the “Poems for… one world “ collection and you’ll find each of the Burmese poems near the top of the list of contents, under B for Burmese. Click on the pdf signs in order to open and download.

    How the collection came about

    The idea for including Burmese poems in the “One World” collection occurred in 2007. The length of time it has taken to reach fruition is due to several factors.

    Personnel at all levels of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office have helped in this long process. In fact it could not have happened without them.

    The relationship began in 2003, when I sent a letter to Denis MacShane, then Minister for Europe. I proposed to him that the “Poems for…” project, with its bilingual poems for display in public space such as class rooms and waiting rooms, could have an international application. Not just poems in English, or translations into English. The poems could be in all languages, talking to one another. Centred in Europe, this project could thus help to draw a continent together.

    Not everyone responds to letters of this kind. But here was an exception and, soon afterwards, the Foreign Office supplied me with some funding to make a collection of ten bilingual poems, one for each of the 2004 EU Enlargement countries, for distribution round all those public walls, all those places where people gather. The poet Fiona Sampson helped me select the poems.

    And soon after that, I was given permission to promote the project on the regular FCO staff bulletin. In response, various embassies expressed interest in receiving poem collections and one was the embassy in Rangoon. It was at this point that the idea of adding Burmese poems to the collection occurred.

    But then repression in Burma escalated and poets who might have contributed were imprisoned or went to ground. There was pain and pause before some liberalisation began. Aung San Suu Kyi was released from her house arrest. Hillary Clinton dropped by. More recently, Barack Obama.

    The Rangoon embassy put me in touch with a previous ambassador there, Vicky Bowman, now married to the Burmese artist Htein Lin and living in the UK. She in turn directed me to a book of Burmese poems now available.  Produced by Arc Publications and called “Bones will Crow,” the book was edited by the poets James Byrne and ko ko thett. It was launched in the UK in the Summer of 2012.

    Most of the poems in our small collection have been selected from “Bones will Crow”, with thanks and deep respect.

    But Vicky Bowman also suggested a short poem which she herself has translated. It is by a prominent politician in Burma, called Zargana, and was written in a Burmese prison.

    I am excited by this collection, and by what it means, and deeply grateful for all the help I have received in putting it together, so that now it can be published free around the world.

    Rogan Wolf
    February 2013
  • The Royal College of Nursing is backing the “Poems for…the wall” project

    Based in London, the Royal College of Nursing sends its monthly newsletter by surface mail to each of its 400,000 members. This month’s issue will be recommending the “Poems for… project.  So a large community of people will be put in touch with us.

    The newsletter refers to a longer piece on the project that will go up on the Royal College’s website simultaneously. The piece is headed “The Art of Nursing.”

    It links to a poem called “These are the Hands” by Michael Rosen. In 2008, while he was the UK’s Children’s Poet Laureate, Rosen was commissioned to write the poem in celebration of the NHS’s 60th birthday of that year. Soon afterwards, Michael Rosen gave his permission for us to publish it. And soon after that, we had it translated into four other languages and added all the different versions to the “Poems for…one World” collection, positioned in alphabetical order according to language. One of those languages is Punjabi, which can be written in Hindi (Ghurmukhi) script as well as Urdu (Perso-Arabic) script. I am grateful to Amarjit Chandan for helping us demonstrate both possibilities.

    But here in pdf we have brought together all six of the poems that now share the same title as Rosen’s original – in 4 different scripts and 5 different languages. Beneath each one is a common title “Poems for…the art of nursing.” And here is what Michael Rosen had to say about it all : “This is amazing and wonderful. Many, many thanks. All power to your elbow…I think that this is a stimulating, exciting and important project. We all need to be able to talk to each other and we need to be able to talk to each other about things that matter. I wrote the NHS poem firstly because I was asked to but more importantly because I care deeply about the NHS. My parents fought for it, it brought my children into the world, it saw my mother and father out of it with care and dignity – and much more besides. The people who work for the NHS come from all over the world and the NHS cares for people whose origins are all over the world. It is a truly international, inter-communal, inter-cultural institution. How right then that what we say within the NHS can, when appropriate, talk multi-lingually. I am excited and delighted that my poem might appear in several languages. 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.”

  • “Poemsfor…” presents at an international conference on Poetry and Medicine

    The conference brought together academics, medical professionals and poets and others working at the arts/health interface. Guest poet was Marilyn Hacker.

    Here is the power-point presentation that I presented there.

    And here is the paper which I read.

  • 60 new “Poems for…One World” now available for downloading

    You will find thirty different languages represented in the collection. These include : Mandarin, Japanese, Tamil, French, German, Italian, Russian, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Estonian, Ewe, Igbo, Tigrinya, Somali, Afrikaans and /Xam.

    The last six named are languages spoken in Africa south of the Sahara, either presently or in the past.

    But this time there is also some variation on the collection’s main theme of creating free and open speech between language and language.

    For instance, the new collection includes a poem called “These are the Hands” by Michael Rosen, the UK Children’s Poet Laureate between 2007 and 2009. He was commissioned to write the poem in celebration of the recent 60th birthday of the UK National Health Service.

    Michael agreed that we could add the poem to our collection and offer it to everyone visiting our site.  And then he agreed that I could get it translated into various languages as well.  The point is obvious. People sit quietly together in NHS waiting rooms, sharing their common human precariousness and mortality, who back in their own places of origin might be trying to kill each other.

    So in the new collection there are four versions of the poem, besides Michael’s English original – in Punjabi, Turkish, Greek and Somali. And soon I hope to add other languages too – such as Arabic and Hebrew.

    A few days ago Michael saw the poems for the first time. Here is his response : “This is amazing and wonderful. Many, many thanks. All power to your elbow … 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.”

    But there are other variations, hinging on the meaning of the word “frontier.” Frontiers are not just geographical, lingual, cultural. There are other bars besides those of language.

    There is a frontier in me between life and death. I am afraid to cross that frontier.

    There is a frontier in all of us – I suggest – between mental well-being and mental ill-being. We are almost as afraid to cross that frontier as the one that divides life and death, and our fear affects our behaviour, the closer to the frontier we find ourselves.

    So in this new collection there are pairs of poems in English which seek to speak clearly across this other kind of frontier, in the cause of better human connection. 

    – A pair of poems by someone who was dying of an aggressive terminal cancer, and kept recording it all in verse, almost to the last minute, and humorous to the last. 

    – A pair of poems by someone also recently dead, who was seriously physically disabled himself and was campaigning to the last and with high effectiveness for disability rights. 

    – A pair of poems about someone with Downs Syndrome (my sister). 

    – A pair of poems by children. 

    – And a pair of poems by people familiar with in-patient psychiatric units, having often been patients themselves.

    Each one of these pairs could become a whole collection in its own right, if we can get the funding …

    For poetry can be both powerful and intimate and therefore can play a part in strengthening community, binding people in. It can speak to people beneath the skin, it can penetrate armour, it can speak straight to you, where your average advertising copy or political speech merely works on or round you, diminishing you. 

    In three months time, we shall combine the sixty new “One-World” poems with the earlier forty-five, making a total of one hundred and five (or thereabouts) poems for one world.

    Thank you again, Stephen Watts, for the guidance, counsel and friendship you give, without which this collection could not have happened, just as the previous collection of forty five could not have happened.  Access to your dragon’s hoard of poetry books from all over the world is like entering an unutterably powerful electric field. I come out of there with all my hair on end.

    Rogan Wolf, May 2010
  • New Poem Collection Goes Online on This Site

    We have already reported on a day held in Rochester in July of this year, which brought together children from several schools in the region of Medway (see”Two Hundred school children celebrate diversity in Medway”). The purpose of the day was to celebrate diversity and to explore some of the richness of our different cultures, as well as the tensions that arise as a community absorbs difference and forms and re-forms around it. Various arts were deployed on the day, but the chief medium was poetry and the time was hugely productive in that regard.

    The new collection consists of almost 40 poems produced either in preparation for the day or during it, 15 of them competition winners. (Competition judges were Rogan Wolf and Stephen Watts).

    Most of the poems follow the themes suggested, with extraordinary energy and urgency. There are some very vivid accounts of the strains and paradoxes implicit in being young in a society of tumultuous change and inter-change. Also many of the poems about animals show immense compassion and awareness of the fragility of our environment.

    If you have already registered with us, downloading the new collection requires you only to log on. If you haven’t registered yet, you’ll find this easy to do. Go to the appropriate entry on the menu bar and follow the directions. Then just visit the Poems for…young lives page.

  • Michael Rosen poem celebrating the NHS joins “Poems For…” and goes Multilingual

    Michael Rosen

    Photograph: Graham Turner

    2008 was the 60th birthday of the NHS. As part of the celebrations, the NHS commissioned Michael Rosen, still then the official Children’s Poet Laureate, to write a poem. His “These are the Hands” is meant to be for children but is appreciated by all age-groups. With its subject a health service that’s for everyone, here is a poem that’s for everyone too.

    This year, Michael has enthusiastically agreed to his poem being placed under “Poems for…” colours and published on this website, available for downloading. In future it will simply join the “Poems for…Waiting” collection – to be downloaded along with all the other poems. For now you can download it from the link above simply by opening it, saving it to your own computer and then printing it.

    But then we had another idea. Everyone sits in the waiting room. As we all come together to watch sport, and to shop for the week’s food, so at some point we all come together to wait for the doctor. Therefore, all ages, all races, all nationalities can find common ground in Michael Rosen‘s poem. So let’s place it in other languages, so that it is not just celebrating the NHS, but our own immense variety and common human fragility. Michael was enthusiastic about that idea too.

    The poem has already been translated by the distinguished Punjabi poet Amarjit Chandan. You can read the Punjabi version here.

    We hope soon to have versions of the poem in Somali, Arabic and Hebrew.