Poetry and Photographs

Welcome to the third of the 2022 series of workshops with Arthur Rank Hospice Charity, aimed at members of the Living Well community.

Today’s session follows up on our previous discussion about precious objects. We want to think about photographs and how, like a poem, they can capture a moment or sensation. Photographs can become treasured possessions, heirlooms. They can be very personal, or they can be works of art admired by millions.

This morning we will:

Hear some poetry and dramatic extracts on the theme of photographs.
Discuss how the authors use the subject of photographs to express their ideas and feelings.
Talk reflectively together, share our perspectives and favourites, and how these poems can give us a new perspective on our own memories

The Poems

1. ‘On Finding an Old Photograph’, Wendy Cope
[Unfortunately we aren’t able to link to this poem as it is not freely available online.]

2. ‘Last Photograph of My Parents’, Ruben Quesada

3. ‘This is a photograph of me’, Margaret Atwood

4. An extract from ‘Seven Arguments With Grief’, by Patrick Morris. Performed by Caroline Rippen.

“I have a single photo.  Printed.  I carry it with me, always.  I NEVER look at it.  No one is allowed to look at it.  I deleted the image on my phone so no one would ever have that image, no one would ever be able to look at that image, not even me.  It exists, but never to be looked at.  Now that’s temptation.  But every day, I recall it, in more detail.  She was 10 in it.  10’s an interesting age for a girl.  Well it was for Sadie.  Interesting.  She is wearing her favourite button-down shirt, striped, pale yellow shorts with spots, and a cowboy hat, I don’t know where she got it from I certainly didn’t give it to her.  She looks like she could be unaware of the camera, her father took the photo, she’s looking away, towards something, or someone, like her best friend has just arrived at her birthday party.  Her arms are out, her left arm is out, her right arm is pointing at the camera, right into the lens.  Like we’re being accused of something.  Yellow wallpaper behind her.  It wasn’t my house.  The walls, yellow, flowers.  Not my house.  I always wanted to climb into the photo to get a better view, to see into her eyes, it’s like she’s always just slipping out of view.

New detail today – a stain on the wall, the yellow wall, just to the left of her head.

I would actually kill anyone who looked at this photo.

That’s not just an expression.  I would.  I would kill them.”

You can find the full script here.

The audio play is available here. Read more about our collaborations with Menagerie here.

Further Reading

We recommend this interesting article by Wendy Cope, author of our first poem, which touches on some of today’s themes: Wendy Cope

You may like to have a look at Words for our selection of poetry and prose on the theme of death and dying.

We’d love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and learn from your insights and experiences. Feel free to speak to the nursing team or get in touch with us directly cambridgegooddeath@gmail.com.