Editors and contributors at the launch of This Gift, This Poem

This Gift, This Poem

Thursday, April 14, 2022
Brenton Stacey
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Brenton Stacey

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Brenton is Avondale University’s Public Relations and Philanthropy Officer. He brings to the role experience as a communicator in publishing, media relations, public relations, radio and television, mostly within the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific and its entities.

Anthology an academic’s abiding gift to the anxious and alone

An anthology featuring leading Australian poets is an Avondale academic’s abiding gift to those in hospitals and aged care residences who feel anxious or alone.

Created to bring comfort and solace, This Gift, This Poem (Puncher & Wattmann, 2021) connects the arts—particularly writing—with wellbeing. Quoting poet Mary Oliver—“It’s a gift to yourself but it’s a gift to anybody who has a hunger for it”—Associate Professor Carolyn Rickett says the anthology “has at its heart this idea of community, and poetry itself being a gift that is shared and received.”

The publishing process reflects this spirit of generosity. Seventy poets contributed work, four edited the anthology (Jean Kent, Dr David Musgrave, Carolyn and Professor Jen Webb), and one published it. “One of poetry’s chief purposes is to draw people together,” says Judith Beveridge, a collaborator with Carolyn on previous anthologies including New Leaves, which showed the healing power of writing and reading poetry. Judith writes in the foreword about the tools of poetry and how they enable a more intense, visceral connection to language. “In moments of crisis, we turn to poetry because it has that unique ability to express and formalise emotion, to bring something of ourselves into being. This anthology does exactly that, keeping readers in its tender yet bracing hold.” In the preface, Provost and Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Kerri-Lee Krause describes the collection as “a soothing balm designed to help us pause for a few moments” and “to breathe deeply.”

While co-editor Jean Kent launched the anthology at the Newcastle Writers Festival on April 3, its publication came at a fortuitous time—during the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns that followed. It means “the original aspiration of wanting patients and families waiting in liminal hospital spaces, or residents living in aged care settings, to feel they are not alone is now a reality,” says Carolyn. The ability to hold a book and return when needed to the human voices in it—personal reflections accompany each poem—provides “a sense of solidarity and presence,” arguably a “more enduring quality than a bouquet of flowers.”

The vision for the anthology builds on Carolyn’s research in medical humanities and her experience as a chaplain at Sydney Adventist Hospital. She gifted copies to the hospital’s Spiritual Care Services team so members could share the anthology with patients over Christmas.

This Gift, This Poem is dedicated to the late Dr Cedric Greive and Professor Jill Gordon, both pioneering members of the New Leaves team, and to the New Leaves poets themselves.

With its focus on wellbeing and community, funding for the anthology came primarily from the Lifestyle Medicine and Health Research Centre. Carolyn is indebted to—and cheered on by—the “enthusiastic encouragement” of director Associate Professor Darren Morton.

This Gift, This Poem

Read This Gift, This Poem or share the anthology with others.

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