Case study 2: Sandy’s poem


The Challenge: This is the first poem I wrote from two separately answered questionnaires.


I was pleased to be asked to write a birthday poem – to a mum from her son and daughter. I’d met Hannah but not Ben, so in order that I might hear each of their voices individually I asked them to fill out two separate but identical questionnaires, that I might compare and contrast their answers. Unsurprisingly their answers were very different!


To write Sandy’s poem I made notes on each questionnaire – I very often read a received questionnaire once quickly, jot down anecdotes or sentiments that stand out to preserve my initial impressions, and then leave it a day before returning to it with my notes as a guide to the important things – and picked out things the questionnaires had in common. Walking. Wine. A mother who was always “there when needed” (a quote lifted directly from one questionnaire – more on that in the next case study!). That was a good start.







When it came time to write, I realised I was going to have to deal with son and daughter separately. To my mind it seemed they love their mother for some of the same reasons and many very different reasons – so in the opening stanza I separated the voices, having them each refer to themselves in the first person, and then united them in first person plural until they each got their chance to speak with separate stanzas in the middle (read ‘Sandy’s poem’ here). The dance of the voices within this piece was tricky and was a big part of what made writing this so hugely enjoyable.


Sandy loved her poem and wrote me a lovely email to thank me. I’m really pleased that she had a lovely sunny April birthday.

"We each have different footfalls now

The paths we walk are new

But when we lose our way, we know

To tread in time with you"

Sandy's poem