Arts

Popping the poetry pill: Waging words against Parkinson’s

29 November 2017 | by D.J. Taylor

Radio

 

The Art of Living: Frank Ormsby’s Parkinson’s
BBC Radio 4

A highlight of this fascinating documentary (26 November) was Frank Ormsby’s account of the phantasms that lay in wait for him throughout his working day. These “silent visitors” included the dog found lazing on his table and an unidentified girl who seemed to sit on his shoulder. At other times, he explained to his interviewer, Marie-Louise Muir, his dreams were haunted by the subject of his poem “Bomb”, a balaclava-clad assassin who “runs up to me with a calm intent”.

Had The Art of Living begun with these revelations rather than coming to them 20 minutes in, the listener could have been forgiven for assuming that Frank had simply taken too many psychedelic drugs. In fact, he was a distinguished Irish poet and one-time schoolteacher, living in a house in Belfast amid a collection of 4,000 books, who happened to be suffering from Parkinson’s disease.





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