6th May 2022 Alison Baker Kerrigan, Arts Office TUH
Celebrating Poetry Day Ireland in recent weeks, a ‘Menu of Poems’ - selected by Galway poet Rita Ann Higgins - was distributed throughout Irish hospital wards, waiting rooms and other healthcare settings for patients, visitors and staff to enjoy.
A short anthology of poetry distributed annually to healthcare users, the Menu of Poems is produced by Saolta Arts on behalf of Arts and Health Co-ordinators Ireland, supported by Poetry Ireland and HSE Health Promotion and Improvement. The anthology includes poems by Catherine Ann Cullen (children’s poem ‘Eliza Analyser’), Martina Evans poem ‘Gazebo’, Imelda May’s poem ‘Stargazer’, and Rita Ann Higgins poem ‘Lucky Mrs Higgins’.
Describing her role in selecting the poems as a “great pleasure”, Rita Ann Higgins (who was also invited to include a poem of her own) explained that “it’s not unusual to reach for poems at a time of crises or distress, sometimes poems are all we have to get us over the tough times. It made me take down the books I had not read for a while. It was like meeting old friends. In the end the selection made me feel warm and grateful for the powerful voices of Cullen, Evans and May, may the creative force stay with them."
Expressing her gratitude for being included, Imelda May, Musical Artist and Poet said she was “delighted that one of my poems - Stargazer - was selected.
"What a beautiful thing to do. It’s such a lovely thought and I am very honoured that my poem was picked by Rita Ann Higgins who is a lovely friend of mine. I am a fan of hers and inspired by her greatly. I hope people get something beautiful from reading poetry from their hospital beds, that it gives them nourishment, joy and healing. Hopefully the words will stay with them way beyond their hospital stay.”
Liz Kelly, Director of Poetry Ireland, added that they were “once again delighted to see the Menu of Poems forming such an integral part of Poetry Day Ireland. Poems have been such a salve to so many of us throughout our lives and in addressing the challenges of the past two years. The selection of poets featuring diverse and enriching voices is wonderful and everyone who selects from this menu, is in for a treat.’’
Outlining how the project continues to grow its audience annually, Margaret Flannery, Arts Director at Saolta Arts explained that “this year we were delighted to introduce two new elements. Rita Ann selected a poem that we are producing in a poster format especially for paediatric health settings and all the poetry is available to listen to online. I would like to thank the poets involved for their recordings as we can reach more people and share the selection widely.”
Hospitals and health settings that participated in Menu of Poems 2022 included: Arts for Health Partnership Programme, West Cork; Arts and Health at Cork University Hospital; Arts and Health Programme at Tallaght University Hospital, Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary Community Health Organisation; Galway, Mayo Roscommon Community Health Organisation; Saolta Arts and Saolta University Health Care Group incorporating University Hospital Galway, Merlin Park University Hospital, Mayo University Hospital, Portiuncula University Hospital, Roscommon University Hospital, Sligo University Hospital and Letterkenny University Hospital; Kildare County Council Arts and Health Programme; Naas General Hospital Arts Committee; St. Luke’s General Hospital, Kilkenny; St Luke’s Radiation Oncology Network in Dublin, St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin; University Limerick Hospitals Group incorporating University Hospital Limerick, Limerick Maternity Hospital, Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital and Croom Hospital; Waterford Healing Arts Trust; West Cork Mental Health Services Arts and Health Programme and Wexford General Hospital.
Downloadable versions and recordings available at: