Poetry Health Service gets set to open its virtual doors

Date published: 28 July 2020

Founded by poet, playwright and performer Hafsah Aneela Bashir, the Poetry Health Service (PHS) is a brand new, free creative service that prescribes contemporary poems as a tool for connection and healing.

PHS, an Oldham Coliseum Theatre Homemakers commission, in partnership with HOME, Manchester, embodies and champions the importance of art in supporting our mental and emotional health.

It features poems contributed by writers from across the world, including Hafsah Aneela Bashir (Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellow 2019/20), Roger Robinson (winner of the 2019 TS Eliot Prize), Theresa Lola, Anthony Anaxagorou, Keisha Thompson, Shagufta Iqbal, Salena Godden and USA-based poets Roya Marsh, Buddy Wakefield and Aisha Sharif.

Users will be prescribed a complimentary poem following the completion of a colour-based flowchart.

They will then be invited to respond to their poetry panacea with a Haiku of their own.

PHS will be available to access from Thursday (July 30) via a dedicated website and phoneline sharing a range of exciting, inspiring, heart-warming and healing poetry.

Founder Hafsah has explained her relationship with poetry and the inspiration behind PHS.

She said: “When my 25 year marriage came to an end and I began another a chapter in a new home, with a different landscape, it was Derek Walcott’s ‘Love after Love’ that reminded me to meet myself again and to ‘feast’ on my life and who I have become.

"When my children wanted to venture out to a life beyond us as parents and discover new chapters of their own, it was Kahlil Gibran’s ‘On Children’ that gave me comfort and tamed the pangs of a mother’s heart letting ‘the bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness’.

"When I lost three very important people together in a short space of time, it was through poetry that I challenged my grief, writing a poem titled ‘To You’ from my collection The Celox And The Clot – a way to channel all the love that had nowhere to go.

"When I faced challenges as a woman, I read Maya Angelou’s ‘Phenomenal Woman’ and the work of Audre Lorde.

"I loved the powerful simplicity of Mary Oliver’s ‘Wild Geese’ when my mind would get quite full – a beautiful reminder that we’re all part of something much bigger that announces our place ‘in the family of things’.

“The fact that poetry has an ability to make sense of what you can’t put into words sometimes, is not new.

"That poetry can transcend and communicate something to another human regardless of our common or uncommon background across time and space, and then in that moment create an emotional change within us, feels like nothing short of a miracle to me.

"Especially in a world that can leave many of us feeling isolated, cold and disconnected at times.

"Just take lockdown as an example. As the government introduced strict measures to keep us in our homes, I shared poetry and short stories everyday for 75 days straight.

"It was poetry that connected so many of us together.”

Winner of the Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship 2019, Hafsah was writer-in-residence with Manchester Literature Festival, is an Associate Artist with The Poetry Exchange, an Associate Artist with Oldham Coliseum Theatre and a Supported Artist at The Royal Exchange Theatre.

The Poetry Health Service (PHS) opens to the public on Thursday at: www.poetryhealthservice.com

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