Launch of "Greater Goings On..." poetry collection and review
Neil and Nicola told UKAN what has been going on since the book launch:
“The main thing that has been happening is that poems are
being integrated into particular teaching sessions where they are most
relevant. So far it's been a great success! Because the poems are so
personal the students seem to really feel an emotional connection with
the writer and this motivates them to debate and explore the issues in
the poems in much greater depth. For instance first year students have
been debating just how people go about getting help. As professionals
we can use impersonal technical terms such as 'referrals' or 'pathways
to care' but the poem used gives a real insight into the actual
experience of being ' a referral'.
||A joint project by UKAN,
Asylum Associates and Sheffield Hallam
University (SHU), Greater Goings on…(than you could ever
guess) is a collection of poems by people with experience of mental
distress. It includes an essay by Peter Campbell on the value of
service user poetry in health care training as well as a specially
commissioned poem from Ian MacMillan and beautiful colour illustrations
by Barbara Kirk.
The unique publication is the brainchild of Neil Carver, a SHU lecturer
in Mental Health Nursing. Neil and his colleague Mental Health Nursing
lecturer Nicola Clibbens, and UKAN’S Terry Simpson and
Justine Morrison were the book’s editors. Most of the poems
featured were chosen from entries to the national Poems for Learning
competition. A launch event in December 2007 featured Ian MacMillan and
Terry Simpson and was attended by poets, service users, students and
The book is also now on the mental health nursing reading lists and
other health related courses in the University are utilising the poems.
Looking to the future there are many possibilities. There is a wealth
of creativity out there and it would be great if we were able to hold
future competitions that could involve, say, prose or photography as
well as poetry”.
A Review of
Greater Goings On… By Lynda Steele
This collection of intimate poems skilfully describes mental distress,
often at its worst, and how it is managed on a day to day level.
In “Unwell Again”, by Martin Treacher, the line
“Capacity to interact seems lost and gone for good”
sums up the paradoxical element which so many of the other poets
include, which is that during periods of extreme mental distress, the
feelings of loneliness and isolation seem too much to bear,
but “letting someone in” has no meaning.
Another theme echoed in the poems is the experience of lack of
understanding from other people, family and friends included, who are
apparently “normal”. I hate this word but it is
relevant here as it is part of the problem; labelling people in
negative terms. In “What is Understanding” by Jan
MacAskill it appears that she has been given a label which she is
afraid of owning. Now, I’m one of them
too," and she associates “them” with,
Round with knives.
Dangerous. Not living normal lives."
It seems that now, she will have to revaluate her position. Is she one
of “them“ or one of
“us“. Perhaps, like a lot of service users with
labels, she may attempt to keep it a secret to avoid the stigma and
lack of acceptance in general.
Along with isolation and lack of empathy, there is also a thread of
fear running through a number of the poems. David Kemp, in his poem,
"WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT, YOUR HELP, AND YOUR AID.
WE NEED TO BE SHELTERED WHEN WE GET AFRAID."
His poem, written completely in capital letters, conveys very starkly
the mix of painful feelings I mentioned earlier. In his very honest and
detailed account of his own experience, he begins with a narrative
covering the raw facts about the effect his illness has on his life.
The nightmarish scenario of losing a sense of oneself is highlighted in
the line, "Now your life`s not your own, you have no
control". This sensation is very difficult to understand for
someone who has not felt it. Many of the feelings described by David
and the other poets are experiential. They are outside of our language
but these poets have made a brave and genuine attempt at using the form
of words to capture the unimaginable…Greater Goings
If you would like a copy
of "Greater Goings On…" please send a
cheque for £6 made payable to Asylum Associates to:
The Limbrick Centre
Sheffield, S6 2PE