Queens Nursing Institute Award review for my first collection OURSELVES
Ourselves by Beda Higgins
This volume of poems about healthcare is an impressive collection that shows the depth of perception of the nurse as poet, and the depth of experience that can only come through the intimate acts of caring for people at their most vulnerable moments in life.
The strength of the collection is the close observation of the small things that are often so important to people in hospital or in a care home – the eye that is confined to a smaller space but freed by memory and the imagination. Beda Higgins’ poems appeal to all the senses and we smell, taste and touch the things with the characters that appear fleetingly before us. To borrow a term much used in healthcare, these poems are truly person-centred; an individual’s life and experience is at the centre of each imagined world.
The poems are carefully crafted but read incredibly naturally; very accessible but at the same time repaying repeated reading, to gain new meanings from the text. It is a very diverse collection – the nurse’s voice runs through it all but we also hear from children, from carers and family members, from people of many walks of life and backgrounds, at all stages of the life course and in death. The poet has a privileged position to transcend the usual taboos surrounding death, and to present the poignancy and shock of this final act. ‘One wayward cell suggests a mutiny…’
There is a sense of timelessness throughout the book; some of the poems feel as if they are calling to us from a past generation and one nurse is accompanied by the ghosts of her forebears, their cloaks swirling along the hospital corridors, their presence giving her strength to finish a busy shift. The effect is deeply compassionate and life affirming and we are left with a sense of tranquillity and peace, and a necessary recognition and acceptance of life’s dramas and the ultimate mortality of those we love.