Michael Yates (left) social distancing with the then hospitals Chief Executive Martin Barkley

POETRY | A Yorkshire Pandemic of Poetry

Poet Michael Yates writes:

Here is rhyme with some reason! Over this summer, I’ve been Poet in Residence in Mid-Yorkshire Hospitals, writing poems about Covid and the Pandemic. It’s been hectic, informative and rewarding.

How did it come about? Back in 2006, I’d done a similar job: Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield was being rebuilt and a smaller hospital closed. It was therefore a time of change and uncertainty. I was hired to talk to doctors, nurses and other staff members about their attitude to the changes and I wrote poems about them. Then the resulting verses were displayed on the hospital walls.

Flash-forward to 2019. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and got to know the oncology nurses at Pinderfields pretty well before going to radiation therapy in Leeds. (And now I’m in remission, folks!)

As a gesture of thanks to those nurses, I e-mailed them a poem about Pinderfields which I’d written back in 2006. As a result, Mid-Yorkshire Chief Executive Martin Barkley asked if he could display it on a hospital wall (the 2006 collection had long been superseded by a new paint job). 

I agreed. And then, being a pushy sort of poet, I suggested that maybe this was the time for a whole new series of poems. Covid, after all, was far more of a game-changer than a new building might be. 

So Martin hired me. I then travelled round the Mid-Yorkshire Trust’s hospitals – Pinderfields, Pontefract and Dewsbury – and a therapy centre in Castleford. I talked to about 50 people – doctors, nurses, therapists, volunteers etc, all at safe distancing – and produced The Healing Season, ten poems which are now displayed on the hospitals’ website and social media accounts and which will eventually be displayed on the hospital walls. 

And (because I’m sure it’s a question you’re keen to ask about the cash-strapped NHS) I decided to waive my fee. 

Now,If you go to  


you can read a cut-down version of this story. Then click on the link below, and you can read the rest of the poems.

I hope you enjoy them. Stay well!

Short poem from The Healing Season:

My nanna came in with Covid, you see.

It was early days, and families weren’t free

to visit. But I was working here on the ward,

and my nan was someone I really adored

I said: “I’ll bring things you need – don’t worry.”

And as for her washing, I promised to hurry

to see it done. And I did intend

to come in for work on that weekend.

But I changed my mind. “See you Monday,”

I said, and I got the big call on Sunday.

It was just to say: “We’re sorry, she’s dead.”

And I can’t get the guilt from out of my head.