Poetry and ‘dementia’

Blog, Poetry

I have recently become associated with the research centre ‘Representations of Home in Literatures and Cultures in English’ at the University of Lisbon  https://www.rhome.letras.ulisboa.pt/en/ – which is a joy as well as an honour. Colleagues have accepted my proposal to undertake a study of great personal interest to me. Through this I am also linked to the medical humanities programme: http://ulices.letras.ulisboa.pt/en/projects/medical-humanities/ – again, a truly helpful connection.

This is the background to my proposal: in 2021 my life-partner Malcolm Rigg was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and since then I have begun to think about how I might be able to integrate our radically changed lives into my own work, so as to impart some meaning to what sometimes feels an overwhelming re-alignment of our reality, both in our relationship and in the world.

I have also become more aware of the rather limited, negative and medicalised language with which Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative neurological diseases are described and communicated. I am consequently very interested in shedding more light on how ‘dementia’ – the D-word – is portrayed, and in exploring ways of extending and deepening the discourse. As a poet myself, I want to explore these issues with and through the medium of poetry, as I believe it has special affordances for an understanding of ‘dementia’, through its scrupulous and lyrical telling of transitions and borderlands, twilight zones and crossings-over… 

I hope to be writing papers on the work of different individual poets, including Sarah Day, Jane Draycott, Louise Glück, Philip Gross and Janet Sutherland, and to upload draft papers as and when they are ready.

If you have any further suggestions for poets whom you think I should consider, please contact me at lesley@lesleysaunders.org.uk 


Blog, Poetry

I have an article published here: https://www.rhome.letras.ulisboa.pt/pt/roam/summer-autumn-2023/table-of-contents-534/writing-oneself-home which arose out of a panel discussion in which I participated in spring 2023.

I also have a chapter in Chris Brown and Graham Handscomb’s book, The Ideas-Informed Society: Why We Need It and How to Make It Happen, published by Emerald Publishing in September 2023. My chapter is called ‘A little conceptual housekeeping: ideas and their contexts’.

Two Rivers Press have re-issued Christina the Astonishing, which Jane Draycott and I co-wrote back in the 1990s – the beautifully re-designed edition has some newly-discovered artwork by Peter Hay: https://tworiverspress.com/shop/christina-the-astonishing/

My full collection, This Thing of Blood & Love, came out in February 2022 from Two Rivers Press:  https://tworiverspress.com/shop/this-thing-of-blood-love/  The journal Raceme recently carried a review of the book that called the title poem (which was inspired by a response to Cy Twombly’s sketch ‘Achilles Mourning the Death of Patroclus’) ‘powerful and highly accomplished’, ‘a storm in twenty-two lines… which seems to me to manage in language what Twombly and others of the mid-late twentieth century did in paint… Saunders delves under the skin and into the heart.’

I am very touched that Professor Clementina Mihăilescu of Sibiu University, Romania, has produced a book, An Interdisciplinary Approach to Lesley Saunders’ Poetry, in which she adopts an approach using ‘the latest tendencies in criticism, sociology, psychology and psychoanalysis’, which include Jung’s archetypes, Bakhtin’s chronotypes and Bachelard’s aesthetic theory.

I was delighted to be awarded third prize in the 2022 Rialto RSPB poetry competition https://www.therialto.co.uk/pages/2022/04/26/nature-and-place-2022-winners-announced/ for my poem ‘Ghosts’ and first prize in the Winchester Poetry Festival prize last autumn for my poem ‘The Starlings’ – both poems are elegies for the grievous loss of wildlife in our islands.

In 2021 I took part in an online conversation with Yan Martell, The Art of Fragments, about how the fragments of text and artefact have shaped and informed our work; watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_PCVmvD86E

My poetry collection, Days of Wonder, created in collaboration with artist Rebecca Swainston during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, was launched on 6 October last year: http://hippocrates-poetry.org/poems-to-live-for-live-2/6-october-2021-poems-to.html

For Rebecca’s startling and beautiful work, visit https://rebeccaswainston.co.uk