Literary apothecary Poetry Health Service opens virtual doors 

A BRAND new, free creative service is prescribing contemporary poems as a tool for connection and healing. 

Founded by poet, playwright and performer Hafsah Aneela Bashir, the Poetry Health Service (PHS) champions the importance of art in supporting mental and emotional health.

PHS is an Oldham Coliseum Theatre Homemakers commission, in partnership with HOME, Manchester.

Hafsah Aneela Bashir

It features poems contributed by writers from across the world including Hafsah Aneela Bashir (Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellow 2019/20), Roger Robinson (winner of the 2019 TS Eliot Prize), Theresa Lola, Anthony Anaxagorou, Keisha Thompson, Shagufta Iqbal, Salena Godden and USA-based poets Roya Marsh, Buddy Wakefield and Aisha Sharif.

Users will be prescribed a complimentary poem following the completion of a colour-based flowchart. They will then be invited to respond to their poetry panacea with a Haiku of their own.

Hafsah Aneela Bashir explains her relationship with poetry and the inspiration behind PHS: “When my 25 year marriage came to an end and I began another a chapter in a new home, it was Derek Walcott’s ‘Love after Love’ that reminded me to meet myself again and to ‘feast’ on my life and who I have become.

“When my children wanted to venture out to a life beyond us as parents and discover new chapters of their own, it was Kahlil Gibran’s ‘On Children’ that gave me comfort.

“When I lost three very important people together in a short space of time, it was through poetry that I challenged my grief, writing a poem titled ‘To You’ from my collection The Celox And The Clot – a way to channel all the love that had nowhere to go.

“When I faced challenges as a woman, I read Maya Angelou’s ‘Phenomenal Woman’ and the work of Audre Lorde.

“I loved the powerful simplicity of Mary Oliver’s ‘Wild Geese’ when my mind would get quite full – a beautiful reminder that we’re all part of something much bigger that announces our place ‘in the family of things’.

“That poetry can transcend and communicate something to another human regardless of our common or uncommon background across time and space, and then in that moment create an emotional change within us, feels like nothing short of a miracle to me.”

Winner of the Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship 2019, Hafsah Aneela Bashir was writer-in-residence with Manchester Literature Festival, is an Associate Artist with The Poetry Exchange, an Associate Artist with Oldham Coliseum Theatre and a Supported Artist at The Royal Exchange Theatre.

Her play Cuts Of The Cloth was commissioned for PUSH Festival 2019. Her debut poetry collection The Celox And The Clot is published by Burning Eye Books. She has worked creatively with Manchester International Festival, Ballet Black Ldn, HOME Manchester, Manchester Literature Festival and ANU Productions Irl.

She is currently writing the libretto for The Bridge Between Breaths, a Tête-à-tête commission in collaboration with Gareth Churchill and FormidAbility.

The Poetry Health Service (PHS) opens to the public on Thursday 30 July at www.poetryhealthservice.com

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