The Monthly interviews the writing group, Page Turners, whose members are visually impaired.

Page Turners is a writers’ group consisting of people who are visually impaired.

How long has the group been in existence?

Olive Rodgers – The group has been going for about 18 months. We had a few people who had worked on creative writing before that and they were asking if we could we make this activity something that would happen regularly.

So we started up a group and we worked with a woman called Olive Broderick and we have been going ever since.

And is there a difference for participants who are visibly impaired?

Olive Rodgers – We have been asked how people who live with sight loss can be part of a creative writing group. Everyone has a story to tell and we have a great group of volunteers who help the participants, we have people who meet people off buses to ensure that everyone can access the room where we hold the meetings.

Does that make a difference to those of you who attend the group?

Adam Hoolihan – As you might be able to tell I am not from here, and I haven’t been here very long, and having people meet you off the bus makes a massive difference. It is incredibly reassuring. It means that one of the obstacles has been removed regards getting here.

When I listened to your poetry I didn’t think that there were any differences between your group and people who weren’t visually impaired?

Adam Hoolihan – I think if you listen closely you can hear certain areas, themes maybe, which might be more heightened; taste, touch, sense of smell, because these are the senses you have to rely on much more if you are visually impaired.

Kim Corbett – Most of us used to have sight, so there are memories we can draw on and imagery that we have from when we could see.

Betty Wallace – I lost my sight almost overnight and now I can’t see anything at all, so I tend to rely on memories, and my friend comes here with me and helps me write down my ideas.

Moyra Donaldson (Facilitator) – We have discussed using both our increased sensitivity and our memories to enhance our writing.

Moyra Donaldson (Facilitator) – All writers mine their memories for ideas and thoughts to help construct poems or stories.

Ryan McCartney – I think a lot of the time you think about things first, you do the work in your mind first, and that sends a message to your arm to move into writing things down.

The more you reflect and the more you get your thoughts out the more everything begins to make sense.

It means a lot to me to be able to get my thoughts out and turn them into poetry, and I really like working on my words until they begin to materialise into something that is coherent and makes sense.

Kim Corbett – I think it really is important to say that just because you are visually impaired doesn’t mean that you can’t do things.

Some of us play bowls, some of us play tennis. The technology exists today to allow people who are visually impaired to be able to read, write, to do lots of things. We can do anything that sighted people can do. We do things in a different way.

Angie Porter – I think if it was something you liked to do before you had problems with your sight, you should be able to continue to do that. You just have to find a different way of doing it.

I loved reading and writing before I had troubles with my vision, and so I haven’t let that stop me from enjoying it now.


Is this the first time you have had a poet facilitate your classes?

Angela Allen – We have done some poetry before but I found with having Moyra here, I used to think that I couldn’t do this but now I can’t wait to get my poems down on paper.

Ryan McCartney – The reason I got into poetry for my GCSE English I concentrated on a poem from WH Auden, the poem Night Mail. We were talking about that today the way the poem is laid out it sound like the train chugging through the night taking its route to deliver the mail. It is a great poem and I really liked how you can make words do that.

Moyra Donaldson (Facilitator) – We talk a lot about rhythm and what you can achieve if you use words in a certain way.

Terry Hopkins – I really enjoy coming to this group and I love writing generally, but it has been great to learn more about poetry.


In Nursery school

by Ryan McCartney

The sand pit was always my favourite place.
Hands pushing
Fingers scrubbing
Feeling of rough, cold, saltiness
Surrounding my hands.
Making sand castles
They had to be perfect of course.
Slapping their heads
‘You bad sand castle’
Then came quiet time.
We went to another room.
There were two steps we sat on.
‘Run Ryan, run Ryan’
I kept saying
Because the top step was always the one I wanted.
Arms thrust to make sure I got it

We will meet again

by Terry Hopkins

Mum said, ‘Come on it is time to get ready’, so we did.
All dressed in our Sunday best,
shoes shining
baby Mandy in pram
and of we set for the railway station.

It being a frosty day just after Christmas the ground was crunchy under foot after the freezing night before,
The reason for the trek was to see my dad off to active service in Malaya.
He stood there looking so grand in the uniform of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers,
with his boots shining,
all the brass gleaming
and the proud white feather on his hat blowing in the wind.

He said to my mum ‘Time for one last ciggy’
Then kisses all round.
He climbed up onto the train and of he went on his long journey to be soldier,

My last memory at that time is my mums’ tears and the noise of the train,
‘Up a daddy chuff, chuff chuff’ the train went as it moved slowly of into the distance beyond.

My mum said, ‘He will be back soon”,
It was not to be for three years.

The Match

by Olive Rodgers

Crackle …. buzz…. buzz … crackle,
‘And now over to…’
Buzz…. buzz.
‘Move your arm up.
To the right.
Stay there’
Came the command.

I stand with the television aerial
The ball cold in the palm of my hand.
Antennae – stretched towards the ceiling
Trying to catch a signal.

The television
Saved for and bought with a week’s wages
From a ‘man in The Yard’.

The Belfast shipyard
That magical kingdom
Where everything could be bought, found or fixed.
Yellow paint for windowsills
Broken bicycles mended
Television bought.

This one was unique
It came with a broken dial and a pair of pliers
Which you used
To change the channel.

Bet my friends didn’t have one like this.

‘Lift your arm up.’
Buzz … crackle
Snow drifting across the screen.

‘Todays match is between Manchester United and Sunderland’

My father a keen Sunderland supporter was not going to miss this.
‘Now stay like that’
Came the order.

Arm beginning to cramp

This was going to be a long afternoon.

The Lazy Labrador

by Ryan McCartney

I lie vertically lapping up the rays
No one to disturb me, surely,
I lie praying, my two hands together.
Counting every ray of sunshine.
As I dream of chasing a cat up a tree
But not at this moment in time no way,
“You’ve had a let off you lucky thing
But only for a short time, be ready any day.”
I am dreaming of a stream of running water
Panting rhythmically like The Orient Express,
“Oh, how very dry my mouth is for definite
I would drink that stream as dry as a bone oh yes.
“Oh, go away, you horrible fly
Leave me alone, in no mood today.
Buzz away off somewhere else
And leave me to sleep the whole day.
A faint rumble rumble
My ears prick up now definitely
“The boss is now home
Now run, it’s time for tea!!!”

First day at school

by Angela Allen

Smell of apprehension.
I walked through the big blue door.
My shiny black shoes
And brand new schoolbag.
I feel excited.
My classroom, a new world full of wonder.
Pegboards, desks, chalk dust and blackboard.
Noise, chatter, some children crying – why?
The smell of brand new books filled with pictures.
Another world of wonder.

Years roll by.
I am holding my child’s hand at the classroom door.
That smell of apprehension hits me again.
My daughter, brave, excited, asking me
Why are the boys crying?
The classroom seems smaller to me now and less intimidating.
Memories of my first day come flooding back.


by Angie Porter

Longer away, unable to maintain
Confidence descends and descends
Eventually strengthening and healing
But only on the outside.

Hiding, afraid, depending on others
Does not solve the problem
Head down, feel sick with worry
No understanding of insecurity and ease.

After company, help and listening
The feeling on shoulders lightens
The most frightening, meeting people alike
A little more off the weight.

Changed person now, for the best
Almost different individual inside
Head held high, smile and cheer
Await eagerly for tomorrow…….

I Am

by Michelle Porter

I am a woman of many talents
I love
I laugh
I cry
I love adventure to be able to go and find whatever I have to find.
I love people
I love company
I love life.
People may come and go but I will always remain..
So I have loved and learned that life can be cruel.
But grasp it – you can have good things.
So don’t let love pass you by.
Grab it
Embrace it,
Because life is not forever.
Don’t let it pass you by.
Life = no regrets.

The Bars

by Kim Liggett

My face is pure red.
I don’t care.
My hair trailing ground.
I don’t care.
My school bag spilling it’s guts everywhere.
I don’t care.
My friends run off – left me there.
I don’t care.
I’ve pins and needles from toes to hair.
I don’t care.
I’m upside down
Hanging through the air.


by Betty Wallace

As a child we had many cats. My mum loved cats – grey cats,
black cats, orange cats with strange names like ‘Tiddles’,
‘Ginger’ and ‘Tiger’. Late at night, she would go outside to the
garden shouting to the cats, while my father shouted at her to come inside and put the lights out.

My mum was very small – about 4 feet, 10 ½ . One night when
she was outside calling to the cats in the garden, and a young
man came up the street a little the worst for wear. He saw mum<
in the garden. He squealed out loud ‘Oh My God – it’s a banshee!’
and away he ran squealing.

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