The majority of people who’ve visited the world’s first poetry pharmacy have been looking for help to mitigate the stresses and strains of modern life.
Based in the Shropshire town of Bishops Castle, it is the brain child of poet Deborah Alma who prescribes poems not pills to her “patients”.
Ms Alma, who is a poet herself, arranges the books in her shop according to “mood” because she believes poetry can help alleviate a whole range of emotional ailments from exhaustion and stress to broken hearts.
She also runs poetry workshops and poetic consultations, inviting her “patients” into a consultation room, asking them a list of questions and then “prescribing” them with a carefully chosen poem.
She said: “I think, if there’s a skill in what I do, it’s getting the right poem to the right person after getting to know them a little bit and talking to them.
“When I give a poem to someone it becomes theirs and they own it – they stick it in on their fridge and it can be reassuring, uplifting, lots of things.”
Ms Alma worked with dementia patients for years and saw “how poetry can change someone’s mood and also how people like to be listened to very carefully, so carefully that you write down what they say and value what they say”.
Then in a “mad moment” she came across an ambulance for sale, bought it and set herself up as the “emergency poet” travelling round the country dispensing verse from the back of it.
She believes the art form “can do lots of things, it can be an intimate connection of somebody having been through a problem before you and having come out of it and processed it, it can be a prayer, it can be a curse, it can be a love poem and a charm”.
The World Health Organisation recently released a report which confirmed there is a substantial and ever growing body of evidence of the health benefits of the arts and at the Poetry Pharmacy they believe getting the right poem to the right person can make a difference.