This month, our Head of Nursing at MMU, Mr Paul Tubbs, has kindly written a few words about his experiences.
I had already been writing poetry for a few years when I started my nurse training in 1969 but it was an experience in 1967 that shaped what I later went on to write. I was on holiday in Weston Supermare and went into a folk club where a guy was reciting from a little Penguin Modern Poets book – The Mersey Sound – Roger McGough, Adrian Henry and Brian Patten. I became hooked on the pithy, humorous verses and street level sentiment. I had only read traditional poetry at school and this was a revelation!
My own writing took on a Mersey style but I began also to express more raw emotion and I think that this is where poetry is so unique; it can be personal and private, or, it can be brash and loud. Or it can even be all of those, depending on context.
I helped set up a folk club at the hospital where I was a student, RNH Haslar in Gosport. This was to become a vehicle for me to recite my poetry, and that of others, as well as being a platform for me to play guitar and sing the songs I had begun to write. The Vietnam war was still going strong then, so much of what I wrote reflected the protest themes of the time but, looking back, I can see that much of my poetry was quite dark and brooding. Yet I don’t recall myself being so in nature, always having been of a happy disposition. I wonder where that came from?
But, as I began to have exposure to patients and their suffering and challenges, I started to write about my emotions which were often tinged with sadness and regret, but regret about what? Poetry became a way of expressing this in and honest and emotive way. I could write what I felt without having to tell anyone, although reciting poems could be quite uncomfortable, and not just for me!
Some of what I wrote was published in small poetry magazines or the local press, but mostly I wrote for myself. Unfortunately, I lost my opus from the roof of the car on the way to a recital – ‘To the Cells of my body, wherever they are.’ – an outpouring of anger and grief following the death of a patient whose family I had got to know, whose children had helped me decorate the ward Christmas tree, and who died, as far as I was concerned (as a first year student nurse), of medical negligence, the medical staff had dismissed the nurses’ reports of faecal fluid leaking from incisions.
I’ll select some of my poems for the website and you can read, but hopefully not judge, for yourself about what a young student nurse in the 60s/70s felt about love, life and everything!
Thanks Kirsten for the opportunity to revisit a time in my early life that I had all but forgotten about, and for a very enlightening and enjoyable website.
Paul J Tubbs