Thursday, 8 October 2015

Poetry to change lives: National Poetry Day

It gives me great pleasure on National Poetry Day to tell you about a very meaningful piece of poetry that I was involved with this week.

On Tuesday, I was invited to take part in Reconstructing Ourselves. 

Here is a quote from their website to explain the project:-

'Recontrsucting Ourselves is an Arts Council Wales funded project exploring the stories, lives and experiences of breast reconstruction patients and staff at Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

As part of this new Artist in Residence scheme for ABMU healthboard (running from Apr 2014-Sep 2015) Prue Thimbleby (, Sarah Wright and Rhian Solomon ( – a duo of Artists and a clinical Anthropologist - will be working alongside clinicians and patients from Morriston hospital – listening, talking, interpreting and recreating the detailed dialogues and narratives of the people that they meet.

Sarah Wright will be leading a research strand to the project - asking the question; 'Does giving patients the chance to record what they want to say to the consultant and playing this at the start of the consultation improve the outcome?'

Rhian Solomon will be leading art workshops with the patients, facilitating creative works in response to their experiences. 

The project will culminate in a symposium and exhibition which will show the results of the research, a new collection of work by Rhian Solomon which wil be informed by art workshops with patients and staff and a series of digital stories( told by participants involved in the project. The stories will be facilitated by Prue Thimbleby and will involve photography students from The University of Wales, Trinty St David. The university will also be supporting Rhian Solomon through access to their specialist workshops and studios.' 

I was contracted to do 2 things at the Symposium: to perform my daily practice of music & mantra in showing how I have applied the arts in reconstructing myself and to spend the day at the event as an Ethnographic Poet.

Here is the first page of my report from my work as an ethnographic poet on the day to explain my role more clearly:_

 Reconstructing Ourselves

Creating an Evaluative Dialogue with Ethnographic Poetics

Ethnographic Poet
Cheryl Beer

Ethnographic Poet, Cheryl Beer, combines the skills of a participant observer and poet to collate dialogue that represents the thoughts and feelings fed back by event attendees, project participants and speakers at the Reconstructing Ourselves Symposium.

In creating a dialogue through immediate response poetics, we are enabled to integrally apply the arts in measuring itself.

Although the influence of the ethnographic poet cannot be divorced from the dialogue content chosen for the poetic structure, the poems created reflect the tone and emotion, sentiment and political view  from recipients, rather than that of the poet. The ethnographic poet is a conduit.

The skill of the ethnographic poet is to hold the poetic framework as objectively as is possible within qualitative research, whilst acknowledging the presence of self, so as to capture the essence of the symposium dialogue.

Cheryl Beer has 35 years of experience within ethnographic poetics, applying this honed skill in many arts settings. For instance, she collated ethnographic poetics from 270 members of the public from across 7 counties, to write a collection of 30 songs for part of the research regarding the '21 Year Vision of the Arts' kindly funded by The Arts Council of Wales, Arts Connect and The Welsh Government.

More recently Cheryl's work has been part of an academic journey during her MA Drama,  influenced by the research of Frances Rapport (2013) embedding ethnographic poetics firmly within the debate regarding the validity of such research as qualitative analysis.

At the Reconstructing Ourselves Symposium, Cheryl performed some of the dialogue as a spoken word poem in the morning and she engaged 7 attendees of the symposium to participate in a final sharing of music and ethnographic poetics in closing of the event.

Reference: Rapport. F. (2013) Fragments: Transcribing the Holocaust. Hafan Books. Swansea

So, as you can see, the application of ethnographic poetics in this context quite literally is part of an Arts & Science Movement that is changing the lives of women who have undergone or are undergoing breast reconstruction.

The very exciting news & so apt for  National Poetry Day, is that the poems are now going to be made into one of the books within the exhibition  showing at Morriston Hospital and you can arrange to go and visit and read them alongside all of the amazing life changing work.

If you would like to go to the exhibition, here's the link to the contact page of the website where you can get hold of Prue Thimbleby, the Arts in Health Co-ordinator:!contact/c16fm

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