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Poetry and Loss: writing poetry to improve bereaved people’s wellbeing

The Poetry, Grief and Healing project has led to transformative career impacts for poets engaging with loss, publishing a global array of poets writing about losses of all kinds. The research has also had local, national and international impact through the development of writing and wellbeing resources.

Dr Yvonne Reddick founded the Poetry, Grief and Healing project in 2017, to support people’s wellbeing and creativity through writing. Collaborating with psychologists, counsellors, poets and the poetry journal Magma, Reddick published an array of poetry and articles about loss from around the world in the Loss Issue of Magma (2019). A poem Reddick commissioned and published in Magma, by poet Malika Booker, won the 2020 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. The winning poem, ‘The Little Miracles’, tells the story of Booker’s mother’s declining health and the moments of hope that can nevertheless sustain us in times of loss. The Loss Issue received over 8,000 poems from public submissions: more than double the number of submissions Magma had ever received. The State of Poetry and Poetry Criticism report on diversity in publishing singled out the issue’s championing of diversity, reporting that the issue published more poets of colour than any other single poetry journal issue in their data set.

Reddick has developed and coordinated highly successful writing workshops with hospices, museums and literary festivals in Lancashire and nationwide. As the COVID-19 pandemic struck, NHS services were stretched to their limit. The scale of the global pandemic highlighted an urgent need for resources to help people cope with loss. The NHS Lancashire Recovery College asked Reddick to run online writing workshops and create digital writing resources specifically for NHS practitioners and the public. In 2020, a textbook written by Reddick was circulated nationwide by the NHS Recovery College network and distributed to practitioners in India and South Africa.

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