Dial-a-poet: Cocooners to benefit from ‘uplifting’ verse

Poems to be read over the phone to combat isolation as part of Poetry Ireland initiative

As people continue to grapple with the emotional impact of the coronavirus pandemic, older people will have access to an unusual method of support through poetry.

As part of an initiative by Poetry Ireland, individuals who are cocooning can organise to receive a call at a preselected time during which two "reassuring and uplifting" poems will be read to them.

The scheme, which will take place on June 18th, was developed in response to the current Covid-19 restrictions, and aims to provide connection through poetry at a time that can feel very isolating.

Some of the poems being read over the phone include The Planter's Daughter by Austin Clarke, Swineherd by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Making Love Outside Áras an Uachtaráin by Paul Durcan and Lines Composed Upon Westminster Bridge by William Wordsworth.


There is no connection more immediate or visceral than language and people really need that at this time

In the Wordsworth poem, the lines depict the calm and quiet of London City, which is similar to how Ireland appeared during the coronavirus restrictions.

"Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! The very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!"

Swineherd by Ní Chuilleanáin hears the narrator imagining a better future, much like those longing for normality amid the pandemic.

"When all this is over, said the swineherd,
I mean to retire, where
Nobody will have heard about my special skills
And conversation is mainly about the weather."

Participants who are taking part can also choose to have a specific poem read to them if they prefer.

Poet Mary O’Malley, one of the readers taking part in the poetry line, said she was “delighted to do it” and she hoped that the poems could provide comfort to some of the listeners.

“There is no connection more immediate or visceral than language and people really need that at this time. When you’re in lockdown, things go into sharp relief,” Ms O’Malley said. “A lot of the very fine poems that I have read provided solace; I hope that’s what we do. There is an uplift in solace.”

Poetry Ireland previously held a similar initiative on Poetry Day on April 30th, which they said “greatly benefited” both the artists and the older people receiving the calls.

In order to sign up, individuals should contact Poetry Ireland’s dedicated Poetry Line at 01-2548856. A member of the team will take your name, phone number, preferred time slot and any particular poem requests, if you have one.

This line is open for sign-ups 10am to 5pm and closes on Monday June 15th, with calls taking place on Thursday June 18th.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times