Today the new staff reading scheme was launched at Wishaw by the library staff at NHS Lanarkshire, and I was asked to give a short talk, ‘Reading Is Good For You!’, all about the benefits of reading. It was great to chat with people who enjoy reading generally. Readers are often passionate people who are convinced of the benefits – because they feel it and know it themselves.
So, I was speaking to at least some of the converted, which felt really good!
I talked about story and how, basically, it’s what we all do all the time.
I quoted from Joseph Gold’s book ‘ Read For Your Life’ – he says that :
‘Story is basic to how human minds see their world and to how those minds work.”
He then quotes another researcher, Bateson who says :
“A story is a little knot or complex of that species of connectedness …that we call relevance…”
Bateson believed that story is organic…that all living beings grow into their own story, which is its history, its very nature- shape-form and function.
Gold says, that. ‘The idea of connectedness is basic to story…’ Linking up bits of information, we grow stories, we grow knowledge. We weave some bits into our own life story.’ I think that this connectedness with all that is alive is like when Shakespeare says ‘We are such things as dreams are made on’.
I read out a poem by Maria Venditozzi, who is a poet and a speech and language therapist.
‘Spending Time with Stephen’
He sits cross-legged in his wheelchair
eyes averted, picks at scars on his arm
or flicks light through his fingers.
Locked-in world of personal safety
from the chaos of external existence.
Senses overwhelm, invoke
sensory storms, a crash of any control
he can normally contain.
Self-mutilation marks this territory,
feedback at its most ferocious.
Speech is a jumble of sighs and spits.
He has tried to master more
but he stumbles on the stumps of words,
gnaws on sounds that make sense to us.
His world makes no sense of syllables.
Showing interest in his present moment,
sharing his sounds and movement –
our lives touch on his terms.
Neginnings of positive interaction.
Tiny steps into his fragile world.
Slowly assuring that what he brings has value,
that interaction can be pain free.
Fear leaves his senses for a while,
creates a space, opportunity for curiosity.
He breathes softly, safely.
He smiles. We smile together.
I think this is a touching poem, where the poet enters the mind of the person who cannot speak. It shows how we can edge our way into someone’s story, by sharing movements and sounds that they make- ‘on his terms’.
Story connects us all. Eye to eye, mind to mind, heart to heart.I encourage everyone to read more and share it!Talk about it in groups, or wherever, as there are more possibilities for benefits in a group discussion.
I hope the new reading scheme is very successful and look forward to more events with NHS staff.
I ended with a poem by Elizabeth Bishop, One Art.
One Art (Extract)
BY ELIZABETH BISHOP
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master…
Poem avaiable here