'Emergency Poet' opens literary 'pharmacy' to support mental wellbeing

Literature academics from Keele University are opening an innovative “Poetry Pharmacy” to dispense literary “first aid” as a way of bringing the therapeutic benefits of poetry to the local community and to support mental health.

“Emergency Poet” Deborah Alma, a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Keele, and senior lecturer and poet James Sheard have started the venture as a novel way of showcasing poetry, focusing on good mental health and well-being.

The “Poetry Pharmacy”, set in a Victorian shop in the high street of the Shropshire town of Bishop’s Castle, is holding a launch event on Thursday 3 October and will officially open to visitors on Friday 4 October.

Supported by Arts Council funding, the “Poetry Pharmacy” will offer free consultations on Fridays. The shop will also be used to offer community courses in poetry along with a series of specialist day retreats themed around creative practice as a response to difficulty and trauma.

Following a five-month restoration, the "pharmacy" will also become a new centre for poetry and creative writing, with an emphasis on good mental health and well-being that will encourage strong partnerships with the local community.

Visitors will be able to move through the building according to their mood - from ‘Matters of the Heart’ to ‘For days when the world is too much with us’, and guests will find books, stationery, gifts and local artwork available to buy to address a particular mood.

A dispensing “pharmacist” will be on-hand to prescribe some poetic medicine for a complicated mix of emotions as well as being able to deliver full-length consultations in the shop’s designated consulting room.

Deborah Alma, the Emergency Poet, said: “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 the therapeutic effects of poetry under one roof, with an emphasis on well-being and inclusivity.”

The “pharmacy”, based on the Bishop’s Castle High Street, will be open every week from 10am to 5pm Wednesday to Saturday, and Sundays 10am to 4pm. Half-hour consultations are available free of charge by appointment on Friday afternoons, and cost £15 at other times.

Find out more about the Emergency Poet and "Poetry Pharmacy" on Facebook and Twitter.