Thursday, 8 March 2012


This is a thinking-aloud piece, prompted by working with Dave and Harry on the poem stampede.

The poems we're making at Salford are not just a process of scribing and editing. There's something subtle that we're trying to catch between the clean lines of language. People with dementia seem to experience apercus in thinking, turnings off the main track, off the written page. We all know this, but the quality of these mental sidesteps are very different for each individual. How to write that jump? It's here that we go into the realm of perhaps.

Perhaps is the business of poetry, some would say. This is the unspecific, the sensed rather than the known, the unsaid. We hope to chart some of the deeper emotional currents experienced by people at the Buddy Cafe where we're working by using intuitive thinking to make artworks and poetry. That's the plan.

But poems can be the opposite of all these woolly things listed above: equally, they're accurate, chilly-eyed, and open. They're blunt. Two people I've spoken with in the last week have expressed surprise at how open our participants are in discussing their state of health. Personally, I like that bluntness, it appeals to the reporter in me.

And anyway the issue of this kind of truth-telling misses the point. It's a discussion about people's fear of using arts and health work to investigate and express. I don't have a problem with that. What I would like us to do however is find a way of communicating the gap. I asked someone who has a dementia diagnosis:

You’re on your own there Phil. It’s one of them things I can’t come up with. A difficult question. You can’t just pluck it out of the air.” (Dave)

How a dementia differs for each person depends on the degree of it, their emotional reaction to it, the particular site of the problem, personal history, character, the support of others, and simply what kind of a day someone is having. How to say it?

To do this we need unmaking, rather than making. We need what Kenny Goldsmith would call un-creative writing. A page with holes, a process with its own built-in obsolescence.

Harry, who wrote the poem 'Stampede'

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