“It was a beautiful sunny morning when, in the charming town of Bishop’s Castle, the gate of Deborah Alma’s Poetic Pharmacy rose up…”
That’s the way we would like to imagine, as in a novel opening, the beginning of the new adventure that will see our favorite Emergency Poet as protagonist: Deborah Alma. Her intent? To open a Poetry Pharmacy so to be able to give all her followers a space for counseling moments, and the pleasure of reading and writing good literature. A few days ago we had an interview with her and here’s what she told us …
When was the idea of Poetry Pharmacy born?
I started driving everywhere with my ambulance. During that period I was working outside, in the rain and in the cold, and I was travelling long distances. While travelling I was just looking through the windows for a shop and I found it here in Shropshire, in a really pretty town, Bishop’s Castle. I was looking at an ironmonger’s shops. Just like it happened with the Emergency Poet, the whole idea came all in once. When I saw that mahogany counter, I just imagined Poetry Pharmacy could be a kind of a mixture between a bookshop and a place where I could bring Emergency Poetry in the inside. In this way people could come to me instead of me travelling around.
Are you thinking to give artists a place or it is just a sort of atelier for your work?
Poetry Pharmacy is a lot of things! It is very depending on giving a look to the building and being inspired by the actual building itself. So this place will host three different strands. There’s a bookshop that will look like an unusual one. I want to make it like it seems a poetry pharmacy was there for a hundred years, or longer. Then there will be a café, which it will be a literary themed café. But all these elements will be preparatory to what will take place behind the scenes. Upstairs there’s a big space – which will be a workshop space – and it will host reading and writing workshops, as well as reading groups. There’s also an office on the back and, instead having my stretcher on the ambulance, I’ll have a consulting couch where I’ll do my consultations. It will be like a pharmacist who takes you on the back of the shop to talk about private problems.
You are involved also into politics. At a time like this, with Brexit and hatred growing day by day, how can a place like a poetry pharmacy help people?
I don’t think that is a surprise that when the news about the Poetry Pharmacy was appeared on Twitter, lots of media were interested in what I was doing, like TV news and newspaper. I think there’s no coincidence with the difficulties and the time this country is living. I think, for start, people are looking for good news and some lighthearted or hopeful news. But yes, the whole thing is about what poetry can do. Sometimes it is associated with mindfulness or being thoughtful. I also think that, in the absence of religion, people are looking for meaning in their lives and a poet could be someone who can do that. Yes, maybe, the Poetry Pharmacy is more relevant now than before.
Can we say you are the first Poetry Pharmacist at all?
Well, kind sort of. I think that through hundreds of years people have used poetry to make people feel better. The Ancient Egyptians used to write lines of text on paper and then they eat them. They considered that a medicine. So it is not a new thing. I don’t think giving people poetry to feel better is a my idea, I think an idea of mine is the ambulance. About the term, I had already found the shop when I discovered someone published a book titled “Poetry Pharmacy”. So I asked myself if I had to change the name of the shop but no, I’ll use it though.
You also edited of a wonderful collection of poems called “#MeToo: Rallying against sexual assault and harassment – a women’s poetry anthology”. How could this experience match with the Poetry Pharmacy?
That theme had a particular connection with a part of me and my personal interests. I think the #MeToo anthology which I edited the last year is the book I wished I had had when I did some work with women who have been victims of domestic abuse. And the area I work in is about poetry speaking and how I could be helpful with reading and writing poems through crisis and trauma. I used the hashtag #MeToo because I’ve been into an abusive relationship and that’s my connection with it. It’s about writing the difficult of facing these kind of situations.
Let’s talk about your future projects…
Well, my problem is that I have too many projects! So now I’m setting the bookshop, the café, and I’m doing a kick-start campaign to find founds for this project. Recently I’ve edited ten “happy poems” for the “Ten Poems Instead of A Card” series. Occasionally, if I’m able to find time, I write my own poems.
Want to know more? Visit Poetry Pharmacy Kickstarter project clicking here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1245541163/the-worlds-first-poetry-pharmacy