The work of care home poets on display at top bookshop in Wrexham

A group of care home residents in North Wales have turned their memories into touching poems.

Now the work of the senior wordsmiths from the Gwern Alyn care home, in Wrexham,  has gone on show at the Waterstones book shop in the town.

People can read the poetry or buy a copy and all the money raised will go to the Hope House children’s hospice.

The Poetry Group saw residents of the home, part of the Pendine Park care organisation, working together to turn some of their fondest memories and most difficult experiences into verse.

According to Waterstones manager Ged Armstrong, the poetry is already proving very popular.

He said: “People have really taken great interest in it. We are finding customers sitting in the shop and reading through it. I think many are touched by both the way the poems are written and of course the subjects.

“Some poems are humorous while some tackle quite difficult subjects and I think readers really get a sense of the personal memories of those that have written the work.”

He added: “We are certainly pleased to have been able to support Pendine Park residents by putting their book on display and we were really pleased to welcome the poetry writers to the store.”

Gwern Alyn’s activities coordinator, Yvonne Moran, said: “Many people seem to think older people living in care homes only watch television or sleep all day. But nothing could be further from the truth!

“We set up the Poetry Group as a way of stimulating interest and getting residents to think and talk to each other.

“The main thing is each poem we have written is relevant to a member of the group. Some are humorous while some are very touching and some extremely thought-provoking.”

She added: “But having written such lovely poems we didn’t want to simply leave them gathering dust in a cupboard somewhere so we looked at how we could put them into a book.

“Pendine Park’s Artist in Residence, Sarah Edwards, has been working with other staff to put the book together and Ged was very enthusiastic about having the book on display at Waterstones.

“He has also put a comment book with it so people can leave their thoughts and, perhaps, a small donation to a local charity, Hope House Children’s Hospice. It’s something we, and our residents and members of the Poetry Group, are very excited about.”

But Yvonne says nothing will beat the experience she has enjoyed of working with residents putting their memories into poems.

She said: “It’s been a wonderful experience and I feel very privileged. It really shows that older people have so much to say and we should never forget that.

“I have, on occasions, laughed till I cried and I have also cried from the sheer emotion of some of the stories and memories they have put into poems. It really has been a momentous experience and we have many more poems just waiting to be written.

“And I have to say relatives of our residents are really thrilled with the poems and the hard work residents have put in. I think everyone is touched buy the poems and the sentiments expressed in the work.”

Resident Marian Williams, 91, absolutely loves being part of the Poetry Group and really enjoys hearing the experiences of her fellow residents too.

She said: “One of the poems is called Climbing Trees and Walls. We wrote this as when I was a little girl my parents would never allow me to climb yet my brothers were always up trees enjoying themselves.

“Even now I gaze at trees and think I’d love to climb that! Of course I used to climb trees when I was out of sight of my parents. But if they caught me I’d been in real trouble.”

She added: “It was really great fun sitting down and talking with my friends and reminiscing about what we used to get up to.

“I have lived here at Gwern Alyn for about a year now and I really like it. I have lots of friends and we can be as busy as we want, there is always something for us to do.

“It’s wonderful to see our book on show here at Waterstones, whoever would have thought. We might be famous yet, who knows!”

Beryl Francis, 94, who originally hailed from Marchwiel, found the Poetry Group stimulating and really enjoyable.

She said: “I always liked literature and studied hard at school. We did Shakespeare and things like that even if it was a long time ago!

“I have lived here in Gwern Alyn for 12 months now and really like it.

“I have loved coming to Waterstones and seeing our book out on show. How marvellous and humbling. I hope people take the time to read our poems.”

Resident and Poetry Group member, Joan Bowyer, 92, agrees adding: “It’s nice to talk to other residents and share memories.

“I’m really pleased we have put the poems into a book and if it makes even just a few pounds for charity that’s a really good thing.”

Resident Tom Wynn, 88, is a member of the Poetry Group and penned War, a poem which draws on his wartime experiences of fighting on the front line.

He said: “I was called up at 18 and was originally sent to Algiers and later Italy. I saw things I don’t like to think about and I suppose my poem is anti-war.

“Every soldier that fought, or fights today, probably becomes anti-war. I saw a woman pushing a badly wounded man, I think it was her brother, along the road in a wheelbarrow trying to get behind the American lines. You don’t forget things like that.

“We were only boys and we had to see and do things we should never have had to. It was strange but being on the front line your senses, your hearing and sight, seemed to improve and I tried to explain that in the poem.

“We did the poem together and I don’t care if it’s anti-war, it’s just about what I saw and what I did.”

Tom’s daughter, Susan Clutton, said: “I think it’s a brilliant poem and I am so proud of him. It really brings it home what the war was about then. Perhaps we don’t realise today quite what it was like.”

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