Creating a group poem

Tips from one of our experienced Memory Café session facilitators.

Creating a poem as a group is a way of ensuring that everyone – participants, carers and volunteers – feels involved and shares a sense of achievement in the session. It energises participants and builds confidence. They too can be poets. They too can create something beautiful from recalling moments in their lives. The most important thing is to make everyone feel involved.

To create a group poem:

  • Decide a theme – holidays, jobs, favourite pets, food, seasons, anything can be a theme.
  • Follow the group’s suggestions. Listen to everyone. Invite quiet people to contribute by asking them something easy to answer.
  • Flip chart paper, fat pens and big writing are useful so everyone can see the work in progress.
  • Write everything down. Don’t worry about neatness! Keep reading back what you have so far and then ask for the next suggestion. Reading back helps with further ideas.
  • If possible, everyone should contribute at least one line, phrase, remark or even just a word.
  • If you have been sharing favourite poems, is there a line that someone particularly liked? Did a poem bring out a memory?
  • Around now the group can think of a title and also how they would like it to end.
  • Now you have captured the words, some tweaking may help with the sense and the flow, for example you could change the line order.
  • Once you have this, write the poem out clearly.
  • Reciting the poem with the group, either at this session or the next one, celebrates that sense of shared achievement.

We’d like to share ‘Orange Sky, sunrise or sunset?’, a poem Claire wrote with a Memory Cafe group in Plymstock, Plymouth. We also caught up with her on the process involved in creating it.

Orange Sky, sunrise or sunset?

Shining on Jean’s summerhouse
was this orange sky,
it looked like there was a light on
in the summerhouse
it was so beautiful…..
Funny you should say that
Michelle said, it calls to mind
the orange sky
over the water
by the Tamar
the sunset reflecting
over the water
where the Tor Point
ferries cross.
Albert thinks of sea fever
I must go down to the seas again
to the lonely sea and the sky
and all I ask is a small cup
full of Earl Grey
and Bergamot.
And Netta’s brought
the Jaffa cakes
while Paul’s built a bonfire
with flames of orange-yellow
and George has the toasting sticks
so we’ll all have marshmallows.
Now the sun has set
the moon peeps out
with a star to steer her by.

By Netta, Paul, George, Jean, Albert and Michelle 21/3/18

Claire tells us how ‘Orange Sky, sunrise or sunset’ came about

“Before we started readings we were chatting and I was drinking earl grey tea I had brought with me. We discussed what bergamot was and someone looked it up on their smart phone.

Jean had talked about her new summerhouse.

During the poetry reading and discussion before the group poem making, I read ‘Sea Fever’ by John Masefield. Albert immediately recognised this and could say it with me. His whole being lit up with the recognition and ability to recite.

The summerhouse conversation led to the beauty of the light on the windows and this led to Michelle being reminded of the light on the water. So one thing quite naturally seemed to lead to another.

During the making of the poem we talked about things we liked, such as eating Jaffa cakes (Netta) and making bonfires (Paul) and toasting marshmallows, so we put these in.

For those who don’t know it, ‘Sea Fever’ opens with these two lines:
“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by…”