To mark Mental health Awareness Week and to honour everyone who has suffered or is still suffering mental anguish – and indeed those who care or have cared for them, in-words invited four superb and very different poets to read at the lovely West Greenwich Library.
Mick Delap started us off with readings from Gerard Manley Hopkins, mapping his descent into the gloomiest of depressions, and brought the evening to a close with his latest poem – a moving, heartfelt reaching out to those who think differently about certain issues (I let you guess which ones) – and the sadness at being spurned, at the unwillingness to bridge the gap.
Tessa Foley read from her published collection, Chalet Between Thick Ears (Live Canon) and from her more recent poems and her ‘work in progress’. Raw, funny and moving, Tessa’s words go way beyond ‘standard’ feminist poetry. They are a mirror of the dilemmas and struggles that young women face, bold statements alternating with lines of disappointment, confusion, anger and great courage.
Peter Wallis is a twin. As his twin brother, a young man at the time, underwent a long series of brain operations, Peter started undergoing a process of ‘untwinning’ as he witnessed his brother’s physical illness and analysed his own parallel mental turmoil caused by it. His verses, with their almost obsessive rhythm and medical connotations, perfectly portrayed the brothers’ closeness, their despair and hope and the sense of loss that was never far away. Peter’s experience of hospital waiting rooms led him to start and edit the free pamphlets ‘Poetry in the Waiting Room’.
Sally Festing is the daughter of Derek Richter, the founder of the Mental Health Foundation. Derek’s two siblings, very artistic young people, and his own mother suffered from serious depression – something they could only express, in those days, as ‘being unwell’. Treatment was brutal and Derek had the courage and the drive to work towards a better awareness of mental ill health and better treatment for it. Sally worked on the vast archive of letters and documents inherited from her father, some of which she put into verse, coupled with her own words, put at times into her ancestors’ mouths, creating her latest published collection, Darling Derry.
The whole evening was riveting and I know it will stay with me for a long time. If you wish to donate to the two chosen charities, please go to www.mentalhealth.org.uk and www.thecalmzone.net (or in particular www.justgiving.com/fundraising/daniel-hill52