IT IS quite literally poetry in motion.

Deborah Alma, the Emergency Poet, spends much of her year travelling around the country in her ambulance prescribing poems to patients who are feeling stressed, down, or merely in search of literary recommendations.

Deborah, a poet in her own right, will be stationed in Jubilee Square in Brighton on Wednesday to mark National Poetry Day. She’ll be wearing her usual doctor garb.

After a ten-minute “consultation” with patients, who lie down on a stretcher akin to a psychiatrists’ sofa, she assigns them a text to suit their circumstance – whether it’s work stress or money worries.

“It feels like having a massage for the mind,” says Deborah. “The questions I ask are carefully designed to be intimate but not invasive, to allow me to get a sense of the person and their reading tastes. Towards the end of the consultation we can get into some difficult and profound stuff.”

The Emergency Poet initiative marries Deborah’s passions for literature and wellbeing. She has previously used poetry in workshops to communicate with people with dementia, and has also collaborated with the NHS on various schemes. The catalyst for the whole idea, however, was more incidental than that.

“I had given a poem to a friend who had a broken heart and told her to stick it on her fridge,” says Deborah. And did it work? “Well, she got over him,” laughs the poet.

“That combined with my desire to have a camper van. It was a mad idea but I saw an ambulance on Ebay and bought it on a whim.”

Once she’d done that, she thought she might as well go the whole hog and make the vehicle look authentic. It is kitted out like the interior of a doctor’s surgery.

It goes without saying that poetry is hardly the most popular art form in mainstream society. As Deborah admits, “most people don’t read poetry”. She doesn’t see this as an obstacle, though – in fact, it can make the whole endeavour more rewarding.

“Ninety five per cent of people that have a go aren’t readers and that’s the best thing about it,” she says. “The texts I have are accessible and that message of inclusivity is important.”

But if the visitors to Deborah’s van aren’t naturally inclined towards written verse, why are they attracted to the ambulance?

“The reason people come is because it looks a bit ridiculous,” says Deborah. “It kind of looks like they might have their fortune told. People are hearing a bit more about it now, though.”

She adds that British people are always “willing to have a go” and that the appeal of the Emergency Poet is that it “isn’t about poetry, it’s about the people who come”.

Literature is undoubtedly good for the soul and in some ways Deborah is tapping into something therapeutic with her travelling library. Not only do guests receive poems, they also get a free therapy session – and a chance to offload.

“I ask them questions about the last time they stood in the countryside and felt properly at peace” says Deborah (when was the last time anybody asked you that?).

“All the questions are ones people enjoy answering – people like to talk about themselves. Quite often people are concerned about their jobs or money, but ultimately they realise they don’t want much in their lives.”

In the middle of a weekday, in the centre of a bustling city, the idea of taking ten minutes to reflect on your life seems like a hugely enticing idea. The Emergency Poet is “about being valued and heard – it’s like inviting someone in for a coffee”. The success of this scheme has motivated Deborah to embark on a new venture.

“I’m buying a shop and turning it into a poetry pharmacy in Shropshire,” she says. “It will be a retreat, a bookshop – lots of things”.

In this age of instant news and social media buzz, it’s reassuring to know that poetry hasn’t lost its capacity to stimulate the mind and soothe the soul.

Emergency Poet, Jubilee Square, Brighton, Wednesday, March 21, 11am to 4pm,