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Gym Poet Brings Poetry In Action To Your Club

Gym Poet Brings Poetry In Action To Your Club

If you think poetry has nothing to do with you, think again! Poetry is in the vocabulary you use every day from Homer’s expression to “bite the dust”, John Donne’s “no man is an island”, Alexander Pope’s “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”, Milton’s “all hell broke loose” to the many well-used phrases coined by Shakespeare, such as “good riddance”, “seen better days”, “neither rhyme nor reason” and “dead as a doornail”.

During this autumn season we are collaborating with a Northampton-based poet, James McInerney, to bring poetry to a very unexpected place – your very own Fitness4Less gym. James has previously worked with Transport for London to bring poetry to a wider audience by targeting commuters on the Underground, making their journeys more stimulating and inspiring. His short poems, which feature on electronic billboards and screens in Tube train carriages, particularly focus on mental health awareness and subjects like anxiety and depression. He says, “With the help of some amazingly talented actors, actresses, voiceover and YouTube artists from all over the world we are proving that the spoken word can be a very powerful thing indeed and its versatility can open people’s eyes and make them see how emotion can be portrayed in such a beautiful way with poetry at its core. That in itself can be healing”.

But it’s not only about tackling depression; poetry can make you appreciate the miracle of life and the natural world around you too. Most of us know a poem that means something special to us and that may be used to mark a significant event – a funeral (“Remember Me When I Am Gone Away” by Christina Rossetti), a wedding (“How Do I Love Thee” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning) or a Remembrance service (“In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae), for example. A poem can give comfort, express the deepest feelings or even make us laugh (“Bloody Men Are Like Bloody Buses” by Wendy Cope). Poetry helps us appreciate and understand the world around us; it can shed a sideways light on life and pinpoint the truth in a few concise and descriptive words. Like music and the other arts, poetry can move us and help us to empathise and connect with others.

Poetry is important. That’s why we have poets in residence operating at places like museums and educational institutions, prisons, corporate organisations, law firms, book shops even a tattoo parlour! That’s why we have a Poet Laureate, who is appointed by the government to compose poems for special occasions and significant national events. Poetry is all around us. It’s in the nursery rhymes we learn as children, in our favourite romantic songs, in dub performance verse and rap music, in the activism of Benjamin Zephaniah, in quotes from Shakespeare that have been absorbed into our everyday language, in political and environmental campaigning, and in the humorous limericks of Edward Lear and the comical rhymes of Roald Dahl and Hillaire Belloc.

Poetry is not just for the elite. It’s for everyone and can be enjoyed by us all. So embrace our campaign to bring poetry into your life and especially into the gym. The power of poetry can take us into a different place, feed our minds, make us think and relieve stress. So, while you are working out at the gym to make your body strong and fit, why not join in our campaign to pay some attention to your mental wellbeing too by sharing some of your favourite poems with us? We'd love to hear what poems have affected you or mean a lot to you, poems that perfectly express feelings you have experienced or that simply move you or cheer you up. We will be displaying a variety of poems on screens on gym equipment, on noticeboards in changing rooms and in Reception, and we’ll be broadcasting them over the tannoy. Poetry will also feature in some classes. We are looking for members to get involved, to share their own best-loved poems, maybe even to write their own verse, and to spark discussions on our social media platforms.

We have coined a special new hash tag - #gympoet - which will feature on some merchandise, such as a sports cap, water bottle, note book and tote bag, and there will be chances to win one of these items if members get involved by bringing in their own inspirational quotes and poems.

So look out for blogs and social media posts about the Gym Poet initiative and bring the power of poetry into your life. Just to get you started, here’s a link to James McInerney’s Instagram account, where you can see some of his poetry millsmc07

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