For the last few weeks I’ve been working with two groups of older people, sharing poetry and creating new poems.
I just love the way poetry triggers thoughts and associations and gives people a voice and allows them to speak about what is meaningful to them, whether it’s about something that happened yesterday or sixty or seventy years ago. There are no right or wrong answers, no pressure to remember specific things, and imagination is as important as memory.
Some lovely poems come out of this process. Here’s one of my favourites. It came out of the first session with a group run by Presbyterian Support’s Enliven service. We started with poems about dogs and after reading the poems we started talking about pets. Everyone wanted to talk about cats, so we went with that. The poem captures the participants’ unique way of seeing and the importance of their pets. They were delighted with seeing the poem created from their own words.
A dog would die for you, but a cat
just sticks its tail in the air
and walks away.
They seem to know things
and appear when they hear
noises from the kitchen.
They regard humans as poor providers;
that’s why they bring in rats and mice.
A cat chooses you. Ours came from a paddock
at the end of Woodville Street.
It has a long tail with different coloured circles –
grey and red and brown.
Our neighbours brought us chocolates
because the rats have gone since the cat arrived.
You do go for looks with cats.
Ours is ginger. Very pretty.
Cats purr like traction engines.
They like to be patted; they’re very relaxing
and calm you. You pick them up
and they snuggle up and gaze at you.
I dunno—I just love them.