Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Awareness weeks

Following the 3rd editorial in today's Guardian, here comes a poem of mine from 2004. It was written for a competition, sponsored by the AlphaGalileo science news service, for science writers and "anyone else who gets to hear of it". I got to hear of it via Clare, whose portfolio career in science includes a fair bit of journalism. The terms were as follows:

> Write a paragraph, poem or even for our broadcast colleagues, short
> screen play, that includes all of the topics from the list of 'misery
> days' identified by Martin Ince from AlphaGalileo's calendar.
> These are:
> ME Awareness Day
> Cot Death Awareness Week
> World Asthma Day
> Multiple Sclerosis Week
> Cystic Fibrosis Week
> Parkinson's Awareness Week
> National Depression Week
> Mental Health Action Week
> World Tuberculosis Day

In 2004, all of those fell in a block between 20 March and 12 May. My entry was written, as perhaps goes without saying, in the knowledge that everyone reading the poem was likely to have been touched in some way, at some time, by one or more of the afflictions in the list.


Cystic fibrosis, tuberculosis,
asthma, those three you get in the chest;
MS & Parkinson's, in how you move;
depression, not just when you say you're depressed.
Mental health's massively controversial:
its opposite some make a matter for pride,
and some say there's none. ME is more like
keeping on finding your battery's died.

All of them fight for our awareness --
a stretch of two months in late spring --
I've printed the web pages on
backs of The Man born to be King.
They map on to the Christian Lent,
Holy Week, and those floaty days
of Easter sightings; Eliot's
cruellest April; and red Mays
of action, grey with light around
the corner. Darwin's carnival
parade, this street of rival pains;
and one I've left till last of all.

The things I've named might have folk laughing
at themselves, and you're aware.
Cot death can't be funny, even
that way. No, I've not been there.

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