Like many others I have found it harder than I expected to concentrate on reading during the Coronavirus crisis. I had hoped to savour all those treasures on the bookshelves that I have not had time to enjoy previously and yet I have found myself returning to old favourites and comfort reads. I have made tackling my to read lists even more difficult by increasing the lists with impulse buys. No doubt fellow book lovers will recognise this weakness! However these impulse purchases were made in response to the current circumstances in which we find ourselves. Additionally a couple of them are not my usual genre. Poetry I have discovered is a perfect read for me at the moment; two very different books have made a considerable impact, one a letter and the other a collection they are both welcome additions to my personal library.
For Every One by Jason Reynolds
Told in the form of a letter this is poetry that simultaneously inspires and comforts the reader. Jason Reynolds addresses the ‘dreamers’ encouraging them to persist through setbacks, to value the importance of their hopes and dreams and yet to notice the world around them as they make their progress. This is not a self help book or a how to succeed manual it is an understanding look at the difficulties people, and young people in particular, face as they plan and hope for their futures. Jason Reynolds does not pretend that he has all the answers instead through verse he becomes the reassuring and encouraging voice of a good friend. The author is 2020–2021 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and although perhaps primarily a book that will resonate with a more youthful reader this, as the title so aptly says, is truly a book for everyone. We are never too old to have dreams and plans and this thoughtful book contains an important message that it is not the achievement itself that matters most but the efforts we make as we attempt to reach our goal. Reynolds also confirms that dreams are not only the preserve of the creative types but for everyone whatever their passion be that in the field of athletics, business, family or community.
The prose is passionate, direct and rousing presented in an accessible pocket sized format. The use of different spacing, typeface size and position encourage the reader to read sections at a different pace and concentrate on key points. I have returned to this several times over the last couple of weeks and am so glad I bought it. It would be a thoughtful present for a teen or young adult and a wonderful addition to secondary school library shelves.
For Every One is published by Knights Of, a small independent publisher doing wonderful things and who need our support even more at present. I bought this and another title from them in response to a plea on Twitter and their range of books for children and teens are groundbreaking and important. You can find out more here
These Are the Hands: Poems from the Heart of the NHS edited by Deborah Alma and Dr Katie Amiel
With a forward by Michael Rosen this collection of poems written by both those working within our National Health Service and several well known poets is immensely moving, humbling and at present also heartbreakingly important. Beginning with Michael Rosen’s beautiful These Are the Hands written to mark sixty years of the NHS, we are given an insight into every aspect of the medical profession by those who know it best.
There are poems written by surgeons, nurses, consultants, therapists, porters and radiographers, by GPs, domestic assistants, librarians, midwives and psychiatrists; every possible department and area of medicine is included and the reader is left with the inescapable conclusion that every single person cares and makes a difference. It is hard to read this without adding your own personal experience to your understanding of the poetry and I found the poems dealing with aging and end of life care particularly poignant. But there is joy and love in this poetry too, particularly love. Not the hearts and flowers type but the everyday, nitty gritty, caring type that I and countless others have witnessed first hand and this collection highlights so beautifully.
Among the well known poets featured in addition to Michael Rosen are Roger McGough, Wendy Cope, Lemm Sissay and Kate Clanchy. The collection is divided into sections including Look How we Start, Inside and Solidarity each concentrating on different areas of hospital life. This book draws attention to the numerous different departments and aspects of the NHS and the teamwork involved in its daily life. The poetry is of many different styles and is engaging and full of humanity and hope. This would be a wonderful anthology at any time but at the moment its impact and importance hits home.
All proceeds from the sale of this book will go to NHS Charities Together which supports over 135 official NHS Charities raising money for the many different NHS services. These are the Hands is published by Fare Acre Press and if you would like to find out more or purchase your own copy you can find out more here. There is additional information and links to readings of some of the poems on The Bigger Picture website.