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Poetry while you're waiting

Patients at a Liverpool dental surgery are being treated to video verses from local pupils. Karen Thornton reports

BLOOD on your shirt is the last thing most people would want to contemplate while sitting in the dentist's surgery.

Yet that, along with phrases about death being dark and only the strong succeeding, is to be relayed to patients in a Liverpool dentist's waiting room.

They are lines in hard-hitting poetry written by pupils from West Derby boys' school.

The one about blood on your shirt comes from a poem about bullies written by Keith Haughton, a Year 8 pupil. He and other pupils recorded each other reciting their work in nearby Haymans Green dental surgery.

They wrote their poems after working with Maureen Almond, poet and performer, in a community and education outreach scheme run by the city's Bluecoat arts centre. Two of the arts centre staff are patients of dentist Terry McGrath, and they persuaded him to take part in the scheme with the offer of some verses about teeth.

The video is being edited and should soon be playing on the television screen above the patients' chair in his surgery. "On the day, we had about 40 pupils here. It was a great response, and a lot of patients have come up and said 'what a good idea'," said Dr McGrath. "I can't imagine the poetry will put patients off. It will take their minds off the treatment."

Ms Almond said: "The pupils are full of life. They have a dry wit and a fantastic sense of humour that has kept me firmly rooted."

West Derby has an extensive "writers in schools" programme of its own, which ensures all 1,500 pupils have contact with poets, authors and script writers.

Mike Tracy, a media studies teacher who co-ordinates the programme, said:

"We are showing the pupils that a writer is no different to them, and that writing is a series of skills that we can acquire, exercise and develop."

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