• The Hub

Poet's Corner IX: Nurses

Updated: May 16

with Audrey Ardern-Jones


Picture: Florence Nightingale tending to soldiers in the Crimean War

/ Credit: The Print Collector - Getty Images


International Nurses Day 2022


The Hub would like to thank resident poet Audrey Ardern-Jones for Poet's Corner: VIII: Ukraine. Posting Audrey's moving personal testament, with such powerful poetry, was a positive way to relate to the current tragedy. Thank you Audrey!


For May's episode, nurse "by training and passion" Audrey Ardern-Jones celebrates Florence Nightingale with three poems for nurses worldwide. May 12, Florence's birthday, is International Nurses Day 2022 with the theme of Nurses: A Voice to Lead - Invest in Nursing and respect rights to secure global health.


Audrey dedicates her poems I Speak for Nurses Worldwide, The Visit (for Judi) and Threads, not to the icons of the profession, but to the "amazing nurses I know who go well beyond the mile and do the most amazing things for other people, as a nurse".


Previously, on The Hub... nurses featured in International Nurses Day 2021, a blog and playlist containing a reference to The Hub's grandmother, a nurse in Ghana, West Africa. Kathy Maskens, a community matron at Epsom Hospital, and Vicky Hurwitz, a nurse consultant in oncology at King's College Hospital, shared their stories and some of their favourite music in Kathy Maskens Desert Island Discs and BTAM 8GR8 Songs #3.


Epsom Hospital Radio: A New Future Online includes the following tribute: Marie Measures, Head of Nursing for Medicine at Epsom and St Helier University Hospital NHS Trust, used the station to send a message of thanks for the resilience of her nursing team during Covid. “Thank you to all of Medicine’s matrons and to their teams for continuous hard work and dedication in very challenging times.”


You can read Audrey's poems, followed by The Hub's background and then listen to her read and discuss her choices in Listen to Audrey, below. Links to an Epsom Hospital Radio International Nurses Day Special, including Audrey's audio recording, are in the following section.


 

I Speak for Nurses Worldwide


Picture: Mary Naa Merya Armah-Kwantreng, a nurse in Accra, Ghana

/ Credit: The Hub



who in summer suns under burning skies

hold hands of the dying despite the sores


who in fog-grey mists of locked-up wards

talk gently to the confused, the paranoid


who unclip, clip, check and check again

the mystical noises of the hospital gadgets


who speak in soft sounding ocean voices

soothing the secrets of unconscious minds


who in the rush of busy early mornings

visit newborns and the homebound sick


who guard the cot sides of a fevered child

catching dragonflies by the garden pond


who tuck in safely an old lady, she thinks

she's picking buttercups on her sheet


I speak for nurses worldwide who honour

nurse heroines of their day, of any day.


by Audrey Ardern-Jones


Published in Doing The Rounds by Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2019.



 

The Visit

(for Judi)


Picture: Audrey Hepburn as Anna Karenina in War and Peace (1956)

/ Credit: Paramount Pictures



Fingers like claws of ice, a tiny sparrow of a lady

waiting in a wheelchair for the evening nurse.


Her musty husband in a jacket dribbling marmalade,

his moustache jagged, a mouth thin as a horizon line;


the room brown like his voice that booms across

the unswept wooden floor in the long lounge.


She listens, her head on one side, tipping sideways,

her voice a sound of nothingness - her mouth soft,


the bottom lip curling round a corner, wet tears

speal through deep-set hazel-green eyes; upstairs


the nurse talks to her, washes her face, holds her hands,

sees the way she trembles at the mention of his name.


Her life untold: a faded photo on the dressing table

of a girl like Audrey Hepburn in a pale lemon dress,


a chipped cup, bits of honey-coloured Pears soap sit

on a washstand - and on a table a patient handbook


about "strokes" with contact details: the nurse promises

to arrange for someone to come and paint her nails,


find a home hairdresser to set and wash her hair,

to be the voice to help this tiny sparrow fly out of the window.


by Audrey Ardern-Jones


In Storm Brain - The Hippocrates Book of the Brain, edited by Wendy French, Michael Hulse and Donald Singer and published by The Hippocrates Press in 2021.



 

Threads


She was twenty-eight when diagnosed, black

hair stolen by chemo, she wore a blond wig


with a wispy fringe. She told me, she'd traced

her family history searching names on gravestones.


I listened to stories of forgotten people, how Nana

and her sister were diagnosed in their forties,


how Mammy died when she was nine and how

her brother was diagnosed last year at thirty four.


Memories of offered masses and sacred litanies,

her hands in mine, arms lighter than a doll's,


her face translucent as almond soap. I spoke

of what she knew, names of high-risk genes,


fate as dice, and that her sibling's and children's

chances were as at birth, 50/50 like a girl or boy.


She gave a blood sample for all the family,

knowing if an alternation in a gene were found,


her family could choose to have a genetic testing,

knowing that choices are never easy, never sure.


For now, she prays to be well for her daughter

sitting beside her, eating crackers in a pushchair.


by Audrey Ardern-Jones


Published in Doing The Rounds by Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2019.



 

Listen to Audrey


Gallery: Nurses on The Hub.

L-R: Veronica "Vicky" Barnes (right), a Clinical Nurse Specialist at St George's Hospital,

Mary "Tilly" Walker; Kathy Maskens, Mary Armah-Kwantreng and Vicky Hurwitz

/ Credit: The Hub; Dr Paul Walker; Kathy Maskens; The Hub; Vicky Hurwitz


I Speak for Nurses Worldwide


Introducing I Speak for Nurses Worldwide Audrey refers to Florence Nightingale as "an absolute icon who changed the face of nursing" and whose words still inspire nurses today. Audrey reveals she initially thought of dedicating the poem to Edith Cavell, a British First World War nurse, who is "celebrated for saving the lives of soldiers in Brussels from all sides without distinction".


However, on reflection, Audrey decided to dedicate the poem to all the unsung nurse "heroines and heroes" she has known and many of us will know from our own experiences, from all around the world.


Audrey's poem is included in These are the Hands - Poems from the Heart of the NHS, an anthology for The NHS. The title poem by poet Michael Rosen, referred to by Audrey in her audio commentary, can be read via: These are the Hands.


The Visit

(for Judi)


Picture: Audrey as a district nurse / Credit: Audrey Ardern-Jones


The Visit recalls Audrey's time as a district nurse and was published in a recent anthology about poetry and diseases of the brain, Storm Brain, by The Hippocrates Press. The Hub's The Hippocrates Prize is an interview with publisher Michael Hulse on an international prize for poems on medicine.


Audrey dedicates the poem "for Judi". A professional hairdresser, Judi attended to several of Audrey's patients... a difficult job but she made a great difference to the sick and isolated.


Threads


Threads connects to Audrey's work in cancer genetics. Audrey ran her own cancer clinic at the Royal Marsden Hospital helping families worried about their cancer risk and was involved in a number of research initiatives. Looking back Audrey says: "I am lucky enough to have had the most wonderful, wonderful career. We celebrate nurses today and I am honoured to be one of them."


Audrey was honoured in the 2013 New Year's Honours list for services to cancer genetics nursing care at the Royal Marsden. A local newspaper reported:


"An expert in cancer genetics who has been made an OBE dedicated the honour to patients and colleagues at the Royal Marsden and elsewhere. Audrey Ardern-Jones, an associate lecturer at the Royal Marsden, was named in the 2013 New Years Honours list. Mrs Ardern-Jones, from Epsom, said:"


“I am overwhelmed and honoured and thank everyone who enabled me to receive this award. The Royal Marsden has a culture of dedication and care where nurses are encouraged to innovate and make a difference. I dedicate this award to the patients and their families I have cared for and to my oncology colleagues both at The Royal Marsden and others worldwide.”

You can listen to Audrey read and discuss her poems for International Nurses Day by clicking on the link below.




 

Poet's Corner on the Radio


You can listen to The Hub's International Nurses Day 2022 Special on Epsom Hospital Radio by clicking on the links below.


EHR: 13:05:22 International Nurses Day Two to Three PM

You can listen to the broadcast of Audrey's audio recording of her three poems in hour one of a two hour live broadcast of chat and music dedicated to International Nurses Day, by clicking on the link below.


The broadcast includes four song requests for the patients and staff at Epsom Hospital's Alexandra Frailty Unit - The A Team - supplied by community matron Kathy Maskens.



EHR: 13:05:22 International Nurses Day Three to Four PM

You can listen to hour two of The Hub's International Nurses Day radio special featuring an interview with community matron Kathy Maskens and staff dedications recorded by presenter Colette Duncan, by clicking on the link below.


The interview with Kathy Maskens predates The Hub's move from a Wednesday evening broadcast to Fridays to facilitate a patient and staff request show with The A Team, at Kathy's suggestion.



 

A Poet with an Artist's Painterly Sensibility


Audrey Ardern-Jones at the summer 2021 unveiling of the Emily Wilding Davison Memorial in Epsom's market square where Audrey read her poem 'Tattenham Corner' about Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison's last moments / Credit: Audrey Ardern-Jones


“Ardern-Jones is a poet with an artist’s painterly sensibility, a musician’s fine ear, a nurse’s affinity for strangers and their plight. Poems for the ear, poems of language – Polish and Bemba, Portuguese and English. An intelligent, finely crafted poetry of curiosity and caring, of listening and loving, of humour and hope.” Paul Stephenson, an award winning poet and blogger, podcaster and co-curator of Poetry in Aldeburgh and teacher at the Poetry School, who interviews poets on their first collections.


Audrey Ardern-Jones spent her childhood in Africa (Lusaka, Zambia) where her English father and Polish mother were posted. She’s enjoyed a wonderful nursing career, specialising in cancer genetics. Audrey has always loved the Arts and founded The Poetry & Music Ensemble in 1984.


Her poems are widely published and have won prizes or been commended in international competitions. Currently, she is Artist in Residence at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and is an active supporter of poetry projects in her community of Epsom & Ewell.


Credit: Indigo Dreams Publishing Ltd.


The publisher's link takes you to Doing The Rounds, Audrey's collection of poems. "This collection touches on the poet's childhood memories of living in Africa - her feelings of being in awe of so much and yet uncertain about many of the happenings. Most of her travel poems in India relate to incidents that have made her question herself - some of the poems about her Polish mother and her suffering post WW2 echo throughout the collection."



 

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