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Therapeutic poetry

By David Butler Metaphor and language, What are you reading? 08 Oct 2015

In the noijam tradition of  “What are you reading”, I have just read The Nation’s Favourite Comic Poems (1998) edited by Griff Rhys Jones, BBC. What a delight. There is plenty of Ogden Nash, Roald Dahl and Lewis Carroll as you would expect, as well as poets from centuries ago and the last few years. And Hilaire Belloc’s century old poetry is hilarious. I loved “Rebecca who slammed dooors for fun and perished miserably”. My reading of Talking Turkeys by Benjamin Zephaniah fixed my wife’s tummy ache… Here is a taste…

Be nice to turkeys dis Christmas

Cos turkeys just wanna have fun

Turkeys are cool, turkeys are wicked

An every turkey has a Mum  (and so on for 5 verses)


And Spike Milligan…

Things that go ‘bump’ in the night

Should not really give one a fright.

It’s the hole in each ear

That lets in the fear,

That and the absence of light.

Ah Spike, I hope you didn’t think it was the ends of the nerves that lets in the pain.

And W.H. Auden in “Give me a doctor”

Give me a doctor partridge plump

Short in the leg and broad in the rump

An endomorph with gentle hands

Who’ll never make absurd demands

That I abandon all my vices

Nor pull a long face in a crisis,

But with a twinkle in his eye

Will tell me that I have to die

Make what you want of this!  There must be a lot of therapeutic poetry out there, lots of SIMs…please share

– David Butler

P.S. I had a cup of Rooibos tea with this book.

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  1. I have a fave that I’d like to share. Spike Milligan, can’t remember the reference but I remember the poem:

    Lumpkin Gronic wanted a tonic to try and make him happy.
    ‘These valium pills will cure your ills’ said Doctor Grippy Grappy.
    So he swallowed the lot, the lid and the pot,
    but didn’t feel much better
    And then after dark he started to bark,
    By dawn he’d become a red setter.

    Reminding us that perhaps there are other options than pills…

  2. Ah yes dear Spike, now there’s a case study. If only I had had the protectometer back then. I think the words on his grave stone say it all:-
    “I told you I was ill!”

  3. betsancorkhill

    The work I’ve been doing with knitting strongly suggests that rhythm is important…. finding something that you can do which is ‘in sync’ with your own personal internal rhythm of the moment. You can find this in knitting, poetry, Tai Chi, yoga to name a few. I think we subconsciously want to perform these activities at a rhythm that is maximally calming in that moment.

    Knitting loses its therapeutic benefits when you have to knit to a tight deadline which forces you to knit at a faster rhythm. I suspect when you read poetry you also do it at a speed that has a calming rhythm for you – speed it up and it might have a different effect, perhaps? Limericks in particular have a pleasing rhythm.

    Rocking chairs are another interesting example – perhaps granny who knitted in a rocking chair with a purring cat on her lap had it right all along!

    Just a thought to mull over…

    On the back of our knitting group success we will be starting an African drumming class in our pain clinic in January :)… A bit of bilateral rhythm, movement and fun!

  4. davidbutler0noi

    Rhythm! – that’s a nice thought, Betsan. I was only just thinking about rhythm at the end of a holiday here in the south of France. There is a rhythm of life here – things don’t have to be always better than last year, the wine doesn’t need hype and bullshit – it is made as it always was, the Apple festival in the next village is as it was 20 years ago.

    Rhythm feels healthy!. I think I will have another shiraz and ponder on it a little more!


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