Cleo Asabre-Holt: Very first draft: Bett’s Ward (Working Title)

7 Sep

Okay, so I have got nowhere near to even coming close to what I intended. For this reason I have copied in my basic poem idea (after this preamble) which is far nearer the direction I want this piece to start moving toward. I have struggled writing this quite a lot since I usually only write when I feel like it. I wasn’t feeling like it. Here are the results of that!

Basic Poem Idea: An observational, narrative-driven poem about a character who is admitted into a psychiatric hospital. Upon arrival this character watches other in-patients and projects assumed ideas and back story onto them, whilst interweaving some of her own history and feelings about her situation/being admitted.
The character walks through a set of up to two in-patients (who are engaged in actions like drinking tea, listening to the radio flooding the ward, sitting with cuddly toys, board games…). Upon reaching them, the narrator voices her first impressions which will ultimately progress into genuine insights, gained from the time spent with them whilst hospitalised.

e.g. Character walks on stage (and onto ward for first time). She addresses the stark décor and mentions the nurses confiscating certain possessions that are deemed “dangerous.” She notices a young female in-patient (Liz) who she feels is “normal.” However, during her stay, the central character notes that Liz is, in fact, more disturbed than she first thought.

I want to push myself in terms of character, tone, pitch and expression. Help with these things and anything would be appreciated.

Bett’s Ward:

It was a Friday and I was on the edge,
Of a seat with my hood over my head;
The crinkled corded border not covering
enough of my face as I’d have liked.
My dad had just left to bring me pyjamas,
A toothbrush, clothes and face-wash.
I walked him to the door, followed by a nurse
Who was there to ensure my restraint.
I am a risk to my own safety they said.

Back on the seat, my chin down
In its’ involuntary slump,
pointed at the parquet floor:
Varnish reflects back
an unidentifiable murky impression of me:
Vague hues of dark green,
blue from my hoodie and jeans.

I remember Coldplay’s “Paradise” playing incongruously
As the same nurse who’d tailed me to the door,
sat adjacent to my right hip,
A pen and notepad occupying her lap.
Her fingers and the bic pen begin noting down the items on my body.
She takes off me what she calls “a jumper”
Then , “Could you please remove your shoes,”
And walks between the cream walls of the hall
Where she disappears into an office, from which she shortly emerges.
My hoody’s cords are gone.
And the laces that were in my trainers are no longer there to tie loops in.
My feet slip in the soles easy, but the tongue,
too loose for support, sags impotent.

Eve tells me, “You’ll see the doctor on Monday. Any of the nurses are here if you need them.”
And Eve retreats to the office.
My fingers clutch my upper arms and cleave into skin.


I need to introduce the other in-patients at some point. I feel these characters will generate interest so need to make them just so.




One Response to “Cleo Asabre-Holt: Very first draft: Bett’s Ward (Working Title)”

  1. poetclare September 8, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    Hi Cleo

    This is a really ambitious idea for a poem. I like it a lot, but at the pace it is developing, and with all you want to have in it, I can see it developing into something pretty epic – a whole sequence or book or show! I wonder, have you read the book ‘Beautiful Girls’ by Melissa Lee Houghton? I’d really recommend it for a portrait of a psychiatric hospital.

    What you’ve written I found excellent and really involving – it’s not too sentimental or emotional or showy, it feels absolutely convincing. I LOVE the line break after ‘edge /
    Of a seat’ (though I don’t think you need a comma after edge). The double meaning of restraint is very interesting. And I like ‘they said’ – it starts making us ask questions: who decides who is mad?

    I really like the humour of Coldplay’s ‘Paradise’ playing but I’d get rid of ‘incongruously’ – the reader can work out it is an ironic juxtaposition themselves, you don’t need to spell it out.

    Another little note on the Coldplay verse – I thought your tenses were jumping around a bit. We’re in the past tense (tailed, sat) and then shift to the present (walks, emerges). This can look a bit sloppy or confusing… Stick to one. Talking inconsistency, you also sometimes use capital letters at the beginnings of lines and sometimes don’t. I’d try and stick to a rule (for example, only capitals after full stops)

    The section about the cords and laces being taken is fantastic – that impotent tongue such a powerful image. I’m very interested to see where this is going, anyway,

    Hope that’s useful,

    Best Clare x

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