Creative interpretation


We All Seek Asylum in Slow Time is a journey of exploration to gain insight about the emotions and lived experience associated with mental illness and disease. We are guided on this journey by Dr Yewande Okuleye; Poet-in-Residence on the Oxford Health Histories project. A multidisciplinary thinker in medical history, art, and poetry, her creative interpretation methodology teases out muffled, absent, voices and nuanced histories. The weaving of poetry and imagery allows us a different entry point, to craft a language and aesthetic which highlights diverse and nuanced narratives. Presenting an alternative to policy papers, academia and media discourse about mental illness and disease.

Inspired by a tour of the former Littlemore Psychiatric Hospital site (now residential accommodation), poems and images serve as reimagined vignettes that attempt to capture intimate, collective, and institutional moments of specialised psychiatric care in the twentieth century. History is always a partial rendition, and this is reflected in the themes and voices privileged in the collection.

I was deeply moved by an account of a young girl in good health, sent to Littlemore by her stepmother. Her story set the tone to centre female voices.

Yewande reclaims the positive meaning of asylum as a provocation to help us meditate on the idea of the asylum as a sanctuary, a refuge and protected space. We All Seek Asylum in Slow Time nods to poetry as a powerful tool which connects us to our shared human suffering. Mental illness and disease permeate society and the idea that it can be contained behind closed walls is obsolete. Mental illness lives, breathes, and flourishes in all communities. So, the question here is can we cultivate compassion and understanding about the stress and distress of mental illness? Are we moved to help transform the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness? How can we create asylum in our little way? What would this look and feel like?

Yewande leads us through this inquiry by engaging us with sound, image, and text.


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Listen to Yewande reading out her poems below.

Me Poetic Soundscape

Me Poetic Soundscape Yewande Okuleye by Dr Yewande
Frame Black Bodies
Warm Blooded Turned Cold



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About the Poet - In Residence


Yewande’s creative critical research praxis is informed by her disciplinary background in science, fine art, history of medicine, and health humanities. Yewande uses poetry, spoken word, and literature to reveal and recover overlooked, misrepresented, and forgotten histories. She has written and performed her poetry within academic spaces, conferences, and on the BBC. During her Poetry-in-Residency, Yewande will use a range of sources to ‘get under the skin’ of the multi-layered complexities of the personal, collective, and institutional narratives of mental health in Oxford.

Chapbook by Yewande Okuleye

Click on the image below to read Yewande's book of poems.