Word Collage Poem

I Don’t Know You ..

I don’t know you
But a Siarach by the blàs
My mother was from Carloway
We had cousins over your way in Keose.

They would come to the communions over the moor
Twice a year, rain hail or shine.
And stayed the entire week.
We gave them room and lay in the barn.

My father went to Uig to buy a cow once
He walked all the way to Valtos and back in one day
Oatmeal when the sun was at its highest point
And water from the moorland stream.

My father, he was in the war with a man from Lochs
Crossbost -Alasdair Mor a big man
He became one of the Oatmeal Monuments
Then the Clyde Trust -The Skye Navy.

I prefer the land and the sky myself
The moor between Tolsta and Ness
I was a herder when I left school at 14
2 shillings a ewe we got to keep
Then from treacherous bogs and cliffs

I can still walk that moor today
Know it like the back of my hand

Oh well it so lovely that you came to see me
I hope it is kippers or salt herring tonight
No fresh fish nowadays
We were brought up on fish.

See and bring me some haddies the next time
Don’t be long till you call again
I just knew I knew you when you came in.

Maggie Smith

Little library session last night

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The team enjoyed an intimate library cafe session last night where we presented the project and shared the words of the people we have been working with. Ian Stephen shared his personal experience of working on the project and what it has meant to him as well as relatives of participants, through spontaneous feedback in the local shops. He spoke about the poetry, films and workshops and told several stories and shared his own poetry and the work of Frank Thompson. Ian explained that one relative told him that a session he was involved with immensely improved the quality of what turned out to be his father’s very last week. And that a poetry reading brought a much loved and missed relative back to life for a precious time.

Maggie told some wonderful collected stories in Gaelic and English and Jon offered a projection slideshow of images from the project.

We shared cyanotype images from Mhairi Law’s workshop, word portraits and collages and these were very well received.

The daughter of one of our participants read her mother’s word collage poems and shared with the group that her daughter was so excited about them that she shared them on Facebook with all of the family.

National Poetry Day

To celebrate National Poetry Day, here is a word collage poem – collected words from a conversation under the stairs at An Lanntair.

Through the stairs

Look at all those busy legs,
My hip is sore
And my knee, today.
Look at them hurrying up the stairs!
And the little ones, little legs.
Look at her skirt, swooshing round her knees
And her toes
Going upstairs.
What’s up there?

Margaret Anne Macleod

*this was collaged together from what Margaret Anne said while waiting for the lift and looking through the steps at the people going to the café at an Lanntair.
I love the way that older people living with dementia often notice and celebrate people’s bodies and take time to focus on things we often take for granted.

Word Collages

I’ve been using word collages since 2004  in relation to projects involving awareness and support of dementia and people living with dementia.

I first heard about this form of poetic representation of a person’s words when I was lucky enough to be lent the book (which I later purchased) Openings by writer John Killick and photographer Carl Cordonnier. They travelled Europe collecting beautiful images of care and the words of those being cared for. It is a book well worth hunting down.

The reason I’m using this as one form of media is because people’s voices matter and they offer a personal insight into thoughts, hearts, minds and personalities as well as local history. Being able to share thoughts and conversations is vital for self esteem and connecting with others.

One of the problems with communication through the kinds of issues the symptoms of dementia gives rise to is the time it takes to communicate and how trains of thought can be lost. Word collage can effectively glue the trains of thought back together over several conversations and sometimes several days or hours and create something that still showcases that original thought.

At times, the words that can’t be found are replaced with something even better. One lady was finishing her breakfast with her son recently and I noticed her tea was getting cold, so I brought her a fresh cup and she said ‘This is my…. my… This is my….’
Her son stepped in and said ‘I’m your son, Mum.’
just as she looked at me with beautiful, bright blue eyes, shining with pride, she held her hand over her heart and said
‘He’s my own’.
Here’s an example:

Have you been round all the neighbours?

I’m going to town but I’ll see how big my brood is.
At the school.
I’ll finish up here and get washed, take off my apron.
God be with you.

Have you been round all the neighbours?
Will you have a cup of tea?
Sit down, stay a while, come in, sit with me.
Tell me what the neighbours said.

Put the dog out. The fire is going out.
I’ve been to the shore.
I’m late for the postman.
Is it raining?
The washing is out. I’ll get it.

I’ll just put these to bed. It’s getting late.
The fire is getting low, put some more on.
We’ll sit by the fire and talk, oh yes.

Shifting back in time through dementia is not always a negative experience, as these words show. Often, there are memories relating to a time of great  purpose, a bygone era of village life, of crofting, of nursing, of caring for each other’s children and each other, of visiting neighbours, of talking by the fire as it burned down. These memories were shared by several people with a warm smile and a glow of contentment. Paula