The Poetic Consultations are an idea from a theatre in Paris, the Théâtre de la Ville. Actors wearing white coats like doctors have been calling up children to have a little chat and perform a poem for them.
Why? Well, poetry, and talking to people, are really powerful medicines that cheer us up and make us stronger. Because of the COVID pandemic, theatres are closed, actors can't work - and we all need cheering up!
The idea has taken off over the past year. More than 200 actors have given 15,000 20-minute consultations, including 2,000 to kids aged 8 to 15 - and not just in France but around the world - in 22 languages. And it's free!
"It's spreading like a virus!" joked the man behind the Poetic Consultations when WoW! caught up with him at the theatre this week.
He's Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota and he's the director of the Théâtre de la Ville (The City Theatre).
But first let's hear from Augustin. He's 11 and he lives in the French city of Strasbourg. He agreed to test out the Poetic Consultations for WoW! and this is what he found...
A poem for you...
Augustin admits that he felt a bit shy at first when he got a call on the phone from Isabelle, who's an actor. But she soon put him at ease, asking him about the things he likes doing and what he's interested in.
"She chooses a poem for you, based on what you've talked about," says Augustin.
The poem that Isabelle chose for Augustin was "How to Paint a Portrait of Bid" by the French poet Jacques Prévert.
"First you draw a cage," Augustin recalls about the poem. "Then you wait for a bird. Then you rub out the bars of the cage and then you just have a bird."
I really saw the scene in my head ... It was like real life.AUGUSTIN, ON ISABELLE READING A POEM FOR HIM
Augustin says he wasn't feeling bad beforehand - although like all of us he's a bit fed up with having to stay at home so much. However, he really got a boost from spending 20 minutes on the phone with Isabelle, the actor who was sitting in her white doctor's coat.
It's like medicine for your mood.AUGUSTIN
"Actors are like doctors"
So we asked Emmanuel, the theatre director, if Augustin's experience of feeling better was the point of the Poetic Consultations.
Absolutely, he said. And when Augustin said it was "like medicine for your mood", Emmanuel said he was reminded of a line from the poet Fernando Pessoa. Pessoa wrote: "Poetry can cure all ills."
"Actors are like doctors," said Emmanuel. He also gives his own consultations, when he has to find just the right poem to suit the child he's talking to on the phone. It makes him happy to bring kids joy.
It's also important for him to have found a way to take care of actors during the lockdown by giving them work to do. And he remembers how he once wanted to be a doctor , when he was 8.
As he grew up, he found it was possible to make people feel better in other ways - for example, in the theatre, by nourishing their imagination.
Our imagination and our dreams are as important to us as our everyday reality.EMMANUEL DEMARCY-MOTA, DIRECTOR OF THE THÉÂTRE DE LA VILLE, PARIS