In Winter 2021 we were pleased to be able to bring our project Poetry Cares into Devon care homes for the first time. We have been delivering poetry and reminiscence sessions in community settings since 2016, and were excited to test this strand of work for care residents. Our pilot delivered two six-week poet residencies. The wonderful Angie Belcher worked with Kenwith Castle Care Home in Abbotsham, Bideford and the brilliant Heidi Stephenson engaged residents at Trenant House in Plymouth.

We were thrilled to see the impact of the repeat sessions on residents, with the poets having time to get to know participants well. As well as sparking memories with recited poems, the poets encouraged the residents to share their memories, thoughts and creativity by writing their own poetry.

Sue, Activity Coordinator from Kenwith Castle, commented on the difference the sessions have made:

“Residents shared new memories and one lady came regularly although she doesn’t usually attend activities or leave her room. One gentleman who has difficulties verbally due to his dementia was very engaged, responded well to Angie and shared memories of his football try outs. We noticed that he was laughing frequently and relaxing into speaking… We feel privileged to have been able to take part in the pilot”.

We hope you enjoy two of the many poems created during the residencies.

Day Out

Blue skies, blue seas,
sailing boats on the water.

Roller-coasters, laughter,
drunken singing.

Splashing each other,
shivering in the waves.

The swish of the tides,
seagulls crying out.

All kinds of different
smells in the air:
fish n’ chips,
scrumpy (…“Cider with Rosie,”)
ice-cream,
Devon cream teas,
coffee…

The steam trains whistling by…
An orange sunset;
the cormorants drying
their wings in the after-glow.

We’re off on a day out!
Compass, map,
book, sunglasses
in our backpacks,
a packed lunch,
thermos flask…

The wind in our hair,
morning sunlight on our faces
and JOY in our hearts!

Group poem by the Trenant House Residents

The Dog

The poor old dog doesn’t know I’m here.
I don’t see him a lot.
A lovely dog, he wore a coat
A brown dog.
The poor old dog doesn’t know I’m gone.
I still love the dog, though I can’t see it so much
I do go to look at them.
If he could find me, he’d look after me.
The poor old dog doesn’t know I’m gone.
I used to look after things and people
Now they look after me.

By TW, Kenwith Castle Care Home