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The Wellbeing Verb

January is a month of resolutions and fresh starts, of gyms and diets. This week Ian McMillan and guests tackle the language of Wellbeing and Self-Care.

January is a month of resolutions and fresh starts, of gyms and diets. This week Ian McMillan and guests tackle the language of Wellbeing and Self-Care.

Poets are not generally known for their physical prowess, but in George Szirtes new collection 'Thirty Poets Go To The Gym' (Candlestick). What happens when famous poets from Lord Byron to John Berryman and from Emily Dickinson to Elizabeth Bishop try to get into shape?

What are the strongest influences on the ways we chose to live our lives? Does taking care of someone meaning letting them take care of themselves? These issues are at the heart of Kendall Feaver's new play 'The Almighty Sometimes', starring Julie Hesmondhalgh. Julie discusses her role with Ian, and also examines what wellbeing means to an actor.

The poet Melissa Lee-Houghton won the Somerset Maugham Award for her debut collection 'Sunshine' (Penned in the Margins), an intensely personal collection dealing with her experience of abuse, addiction and mental health issues. Melissa discusses how she protects herself when publishing such personal work.

Producer: Cecile Wright
Presenter: Ian McMillan.

Available now

48 minutes

Melissa Lee-Houghton

Melissa Lee-Houghton

The poet Melissa Lee-Houghton was shortlisted for the Costa Prize for poetry for her debut collection ‘Sunshine’ (Penned in the Margins). Melissa reads from the book and discusses the long lines that are a feature of her poetic style; for Melissa they propel her poetry forward and represent the rapid pace of her thoughts and the aspect of automatic writing in her poetry. Melissa is passionate about the importance of reading and writing to her own mental health and explains the trauma she suffered when her books were taken away from her. 

Ruby Tandoh

Ruby Tandoh

The food writer Ruby Tandoh has just published ‘Eat Up’ (Serpent’s Tail), a radical food manifesto urging us to eat what we love, to give up the diet and engage with the joy of everyday food. Ruby celebrates time, which she calls the ‘under-scrutinised ingredient’ in cooking, the recipe-as-poetry and the writing of Nora Ephron. We also hear her hymn of praise to a humble chocolate egg. 

George Szirtes

George Szirtes

The gym isn’t known as a poet’s natural habitat, but when George Szirtes went he found he was joined by the voice of Rainer Marie Rilke. This led to the birth of a new collection of poetry, ‘Thirty Poets Go To The Gym’ (Candlestick Press). The book is a series of parody pieces in which poets such as John Betjeman, Sylvia Plath and Dylan Thomas attempt to pump iron. George tells Ian that his skills as a parodist come from an often unconscious place where he has internalised the way these poets sound. 

Julie Hesmondhalgh

Julie Hesmondhalgh

Julie Hesmondhalgh is in rehearsals for Kendall Feaver’s play ‘The Almighty Sometimes, which was the winner of a Judges award at the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting. Julie plays Renee, the mother of a girl in the mental health system. She explains the attraction of Feaver’s script, which uses humour to deal with complex and ambiguous states of being. The play examines the blurred line between creativity and mental health and asks what happens if wellness comes at the cost of self-expression? The Almighty Sometimes is on at The Royal Exchange in Manchester from 9th – 24th February.

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