Ken Cockburn is a poet, translator, editor and writing tutor based in Edinburgh. He has extensive experience of running poetry sessions and writing workshops for children and adults in a range of indoor and outdoor settings including schools, libraries, prisons, hospices and care homes, as well as gardens, beaches and woodland. We were delighted when Ken said he would deliver a series of poetry sessions at Eagle Lodge Care Home, on Ferry Road in Edinburgh, as part of our Story Nation project. Below, he shares some reflections on the project as it comes to an end.
I enjoyed my time with the residents of Eagle Lodge – ten sessions that should have been weekly, but thanks to Covid and holiday plans were spread over twice that time, as we watched the trees outside the lounge window put out their spring buds and blossom before appearing in full summer green.
Each week I chose poems on a particular theme. Some I’d planned in advance – Scotland, Spring, Easter – but others were suggested by the conversations that developed week on week. After some of the residents had taken a trip on a canal barge, I read a selection of works about sailing, and we travelled ‘around the world’ over the course of two sessions, with poems from and about places residents had mentioned.
I read a mix of the familiar – nursery rhymes, Burns poems, ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud…’ – and the unfamiliar, including a selection of haiku by Buson – little snapshots that with their immediacy and humour went down so well that I read more over the following weeks as well. Marvell’s ‘Bermudas’ (for the sailing theme) prompted one lady to remember learning to row on the Tweed as a child.
“Taking part in the project made me realise my wife was the poet in the family – she got the children reading and writing poetry. All the poetry in me had come from her. I take advantage of it now.” - Workshop Participant
I was also pleased to be accompanied on some old songs – ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’, ‘Auld Lang Syne’, and ‘Summertime’.
Each week I took in some objects to complement the readings –a jam jar with flowers picked in my garden that morning, a blow-up globe to help us navigate our way round the world, and some things to eat, from Easter eggs to marzipan – which to my surprise several people had never tasted. They were a little suspicious at first, but after the first bite they were won over. For our sailing theme I made some origami boats, which were still there on the sideboard when we came to the last session.
My thanks too to staff members Clare and Joanne, who organised and took part in the sessions with enthusiasm and good humour.
Our Story Nation project aims to bring the spirit of the Book Festival to audiences who, for various reasons, cannot access our physical events. It aims to combat isolation and create rich opportunities for engagement with the written word among vulnerable or unheard communities, enthusing and empowering readers across Scotland.
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