Just the right medicine: the Poetry Pharmacy is opening its doors
The Emergency Poet Deborah Alma opened her permanent Poetry Pharmacy in the town of Bishop’s Castle in Shropshire on Friday 4 October. Its website says that the “beautiful Victorian shop with its original shelves and mahogany counter will be filled with poetry, literary and other gifts, retro and vintage stationery, as well as poetry books and pills, to address your emotional needs. Your Poetry Pharmacist will be able to prescribe suitable philtres and tonics, and you will also be able to visit the Dispensary Cafe to be prescribed coffees, teas and tisanes, sodas, sherbets and seltzers to lift the spirits.”
Deborah and her partner, fellow poet James Sheard, have been dispensing poetry for over seven years as the Emergency Poet from the back of a vintage ambulance at festivals, conferences, hospitals, libraries and schools, with a poetry pharmacy of poems-in-pills under the attached awning.
“The whole impetus for that project in the first place, was to be a vehicle (pun intended) for poetry to be delivered to people who don’t usually encounter it; to be inviting and not intimidating, to counter the widely held perception that poetry is ‘difficult, obscure and not for the likes of me’.
“We were peering through the dusty shop-door windows on the High Street in pretty Bishop’s Castle in the Summer of 2017 and had a vision of the Poetry Pharmacy bottles of pills set against the beautiful Edwardian shop fittings, the original drawers and shelves and mahogany counter in a shop that had been closed for over 10 years.
“We believe that poetry can do so much to match or alter a mood, to assist in so many ways with good mental health. The Poetry Pharmacy is a way for us to park up the ambulance and bring the therapeutic effects of poetry under one roof, with an emphasis on well-being and inclusivity.”
The Poetry Pharmacy, which was helped along its way with a Kickstarter funding appeal, will be open from 4 October, on Wednesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm and Sunday 10am to 4pm. It also aims to be a new centre in the Midlands for poetry and creative writing, with regular reading and writing workshops, as well as bookbinding and printing workshops and more, with an emphasis on good mental health and well-being.
ILLUSTRATION: DRUSILLA COLE