To launch a new collection of poetry about Salisbury Hospital’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Oscar winning actress, and patron of The Stars Appeal, Olivia Colman, has read two of the newly commissioned poems. The Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust collection of poems – My Name is Mercy – is inspired by some of the hospital staff’s experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Olivia Colman reads the poem Fifth Season that is based on a patient’s true story and Nightshift, which has recently been chosen by Poetry Archive Now as one of the poems of 2021. The poem Ridge Line, read by the poet Martin Figura, reflects on the very personal experiences of one staff member, Lizzie Swift, and her horse Drum.

Fifth Season: https://youtu.be/ppZDwIeOtd8

Night Shift: https://youtu.be/GY3eee7ugzI

The Ridge Line: https://youtu.be/gRioZiLC_Dw

The Trust commissioned award-winning poet Martin Figura in March of this year to interview staff from across the Trust, exploring how it felt to be at the frontline of the pandemic response. This has resulted in an emotional collection of poems, titled My Name is Mercy, also the title of a poem based on one of the series of reports that BBC’s Mark Urban produced for the Newsnight programme.

The life and work of staff in an out of the hospital form the subject matter of the poems, including experiencing Salisbury during lockdown and using horse riding to help cope with the stress and mental challenges of the pandemic, and the poet’s own experience undertaking this project.

Stacey Hunter, CEO of Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust said: “We all truly have been through an experience like no other in the history of the NHS. The emotional and inspiring poems in ‘My Name is Mercy’ capture the psychological challenges that our staff faced in working through the pandemic and coping as best they could at work and in their personal lives. Martin Figura’s poems resonate with our staff and provide a testament to their resilience.”

Martin Figura said: “Thank you to everyone who made this project happen. I am especially grateful to those who gave me their time to be interviewed. The lasting impact of the pandemic on their lives was palpable and deeply affecting. I hope the poems go some way towards honouring the experiences and sacrifice of the staff, those they cared for and their loved ones.”

The project was made possible with funding from the hospital’s League of Friends and The Stars Appeal charities.