For some time I’ve wondered how many doctors are aware of our poetry cards. Most receptionists are happy to display the cards but I’ve never been sure whether Doctors know of their existence. So earlier this year I wrote to Joleen Salisbury the editor of GP Pulse, the current affairs magazine of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, to see if she would have space for an article about PitWR. Joleen was more than happy for me to write an article and in this latest quarterly issue there is a two-page spread on PitWR including two poems – Another letter to Hone by Jan Hutchison and Michael Swan’s How everything is. Both poems have featured in previous PitWR cards. The magazine is sent to over 4000 College members so it will be interesting to see if we receive any feedback.
And if you’re interested, here’s a copy of the article which appeared in GP Pulse.
Poems in the Waiting Room NZ (PitWR) owes its existence to a spur of the moment email. After reading about the UK poetry project on a website I emailed the chairman congratulating him on the initiative and thought no more about it. The following week Michael Lee replied offering me funding to start up a NZ project, and a license to use their name provided I adhered to their guidelines for selection of poems and maintained a quality product.
My first reaction was ‘no way’ but after a few days I found myself thinking about possible poems, making lists of medical practices and googling printing companies! Two months later I delivered the first edition (500 cards) to Dunedin medical waiting rooms.
Since that first edition in the summer of 2008 PitWR (NZ) has become a registered charity, gathered four trustees, produced another twelve editions, distributed over 30,000 poetry cards and slowly expanded the project. We currently deliver 3500 free cards every season to medical waiting rooms, rest homes, hospices, and prisons throughout Nelson-Marlborough, the West Coast, South Canterbury, Dunedin, North, Central and South Otago, and Southland with Scott Base and a maternity hospital in Samoa included in the mix.
We place absolutely no pressure on practices to take the cards but if accepted we expect the cards to be displayed where they can be easily uplifted by patients to read and/or take home. At one practice the receptionist told me she often picks the cards up off the magazine table and offers them to people who are twiddling thumbs or looking worried. Most practices receive 10-20 cards – she’s asked for 40 every season. At another practice the receptionist told me her patients weren’t really interested and pulled the cards out from under the counter still rubber banded from my visit three months prior!
Poems are chosen with care. We avoid poems, which might distress patients who may already be in a fragile emotional state. We also steer clear of political or religious themes – we don’t wish to be held responsible for inciting arguments in waiting rooms!
In August we approached the RNZFB re the possibility of braille poetry cards. They were very keen to trial this initiative if we could fund the cost of transcribing and printing. When The Lion Foundation approved our application, the spring card was transcribed, bound into booklets and made freely available to RNZFB members throughout NZ. If we can secure further funding we hope new braille poetry booklets will be available every season.
Our immediate goal is to secure further funding so we can move into Canterbury – each edition of PitWR requires sponsorship to cover our two costs, printing and postage. Our ultimate goal is to offer poetry cards to every medical practice, rest home, hospice and prison in New Zealand.
‘first published in RNZCGP GP Pulse magazine – issue 12 December 2011’
In case you missed the Spring 2011 and 2010 editions of PitWR, here are the two poems featured in GP Pulse.
Another letter to Hone
The way you’re
with the sun
these trees and
a ruffian wind.
You must move
along the spine
of the land and
turn. I want
to hongi with
let their juices
drizzle on my tongue
© Jan Hutchison
(Jan won the 2011 Takahe poetry competition with her poem Reading the Book Aloud.)
How Everything Is
Perhaps this is how everything is.
The scree steepens into rockface;
you work your way up ten or twelve pitches,
each worse than the one before,
the last a brutal overhang
with few holds, and those not good;
somehow, pushing your limits,
you struggle through to the top
with your arms on fire,
to find a car park, toilets and a café.
© Michael Swan
First published in The Rialto, No. 62