Speaking from and of the heart

Fiona Hamilton, Arts Lead for the Portland Centre

Published in JHH12.3 – Beyond Peak Medicine?

The two poems printed below represent work that is about health and wellbeing in different ways. The first project was about community wellbeing – connections formed between people expressing and sharing moments in their lives in a creative way. Some were patients in healthcare settings and had accessed the project – and different arts practices – through the healthcare environment. The second was an educational event for healthcare professionals where I was poet in residence for the day. I wrote Heart for the Heartfelt art project organised by artist Jan Connett in 2010.The Heartfelt project invited contributors to make a heart that represented a significant, lifechanging moment, or an emotional thread, running through life over time; then to attach a label, telling the story of that moment or thread. Together, these pieces created a powerful collection: unique events that nevertheless touch us through our common experience. A Heart was written for Integrative Medicine for the Healthy Heart, a recent half-day seminar for healthcare professionals exploring the heart. This event was organised by the new Bristol-based Portland Centre for Integrative Medicine. As Arts Lead for the Portland Centre I will be facilitating a writing-for-wellbeing sessions for older people from March 2016 as the first series in the unfolding arts-forhealth programme.


You stay awake while I am sleeping slowing your electric pulse to dance in the dark beneath my ribs keeping beats all through the night

lub dub lub dub lub dub

You urge my blood to find its routes to everywhere it needs to go, to flow, and sometimes when I climb a hill or run excited, feeling anger, fear or love, you

knock the soft drum of my ears reminding me you’re near, you’re here

lub dub lub dub lub dub

Your name vibrates through all our lives connective tissue that conveys shades of feeling, passion, mood

You, on a sleeve You, made of stone, or gold

You, heavy, broken, sinking, steeled

You, skipping, pouring yourself out

You, warm cockle, intricate mollusk opening in sun Or cochlea, snail your spiral ventricles’ continuous cycle out and in and out again

lub dub lub dub lub dub

Dear heart

You small robust generous pulsing plum devoted resonating muscle hostess to the dark red and the bright red rivers that flow through your four-chambered home

You billion-beat non-stop percussionist holding the rhythm for my improvised melodies harmonies and cacophonies I want to listen to you

You’re the humble bassist in the shadows the essential instrumentalist non-seeker of limelight and the lead singer of our universal song

A heart

Was a shape I drew and re-drew two swan’s necks curving towards each other graceful reflections

bearing names and words of love

A heart I discovered was not heart-shaped but asymmetrical bulbous, dark red its chambers and tubes funnelling life, messy and indispensable

My heart is full of surprises: how does it fold in, fracture, re-form? how, after a time of pain did it become a space? a window of light?

a round opening letting warm air pass through? a slow release of joy?