Blog Our Sweet Old Etcetera

Behind the scenes at the Scottish Poetry Library

Writing Resilience

Image: Harriet Tubman slave statue in Harlem. Tubman was one of the few female Black American Abolitionists in the 1840s and 1850s. Harlem New York by denisbin, under a Creative Commons licence

Late last year, we were approached by Iona Beange from the University of Edinburgh’s Centre of Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, to support a community poetry group in their response to Stella Chan’s research, Project Soothe. Hannah Lavery, Scottish Poetry Library’s Engagement Coordinator, delivered five workshops in Dunbar for the Writing Mums. Last weekend, they shared their poetry at the Centre’s Resilience Ceilidh along with Harmony Choir, Leith’s Scottish Women’s Institute and the Science Ceilidh band.

Catherine Simpson, a member of Writing Mums, wrote a blog after one of the workshops on resilience. She writes about her experience below.      

I attended a writing workshop run by Hannah Lavery, Engagement Coordinator at the Scottish Poetry Library, for the ‘Writing Mums’ – a writer’s group from Dunbar who originally met at the school gates.

Hannah suggested we explore the theme of ‘Resilience’, to fit in with the University of Edinburgh's Cognitive Ageing Project.

Hannah read to us from Hollie McNish’s poetry collection Plum about the initial terrors and ecstasies of motherhood and asked us to write for a few minutes from the prompt ‘Little Things’. This exercise produced work that had members laughing, crying and nodding in recognition.

As did the second prompt: ‘Keep Going’, inspired by a quote from American abolitionist Harriet Tubman. ‘Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.’

We also read ‘Self Storage’ and ‘Public Resource’ by Caroline Bird which provoked a discussion about how important self-care and the ability to let go was to resilience.

Then Hannah read an extract from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s new book What Happened about Hilary’s reaction to her shock defeat by Trump. In it she said she knew after she lost she was expected to act ‘with grace’. I jotted this phrase down then I wrote a piece called ‘F*ck Grace’, a plea to my two young-adult daughters to reject being ‘ladylike’ and choose self-confidence and, where appropriate, anger, instead. 

When I got home I read the poem to them and they agreed.

Thanks to Hannah for a very inspiring workshop that left me with pieces of work to develop (and a new rather surprising and unconventional family motto).

Category: projects