Thursday 28 September 2017 is National Poetry Day, an annual celebration that encourages everyone in the UK to enjoy, discover and share poems. This year the theme is “Freedom”. At Create, we want to ensure that everyone, no matter their circumstances or background, has the freedom to express themselves creatively and we’ve found that poetry is a fantastic medium for this.
Our professional writer Cheryl Moskowitz, who has led a wide variety of Create projects over the 14 years she’s been working with us, says that poetry can and should be accessible to everyone: “If you are someone who struggles at a basic level with reading or writing you might be resistant to the idea that poetry could be relevant or even possible for you to engage with. Time and time again I’ve seen this proved wrong, however. We are all born with an inherent love of the shape, sound, rhythm and cadence of words and a curiosity about their meaning, especially when that meaning has a specific affect and relevance to ourselves. That’s all poetry really is.
“Some of my favourite moments have been with those who are, at first, most doubtful about their abilities or seemingly disinterested in poetry. Male young offenders in prison settings for example, or women caught in cycles of drug misuse and sex work, or people who are homeless. Somehow the more restricted a person’s life and circumstances, the more it seems there is to gain from the freedoms afforded through writing poetry. Playing with words produces all kinds of new possibilities, opens doors and changes thinking. That’s what creativity is all about.
“We all use language as a form of communication but we can often feel stuck and unable to say the things that we really want to say in everyday conversation. Poetry lifts language to another level, constantly seeks to find beauty and new meaning in the words we use, and helps us to communicate on an emotional and instinctual level.”
The two poems below, both written by participants during our projects, demonstrate how poetry empowers us with the freedom to express our feelings. Poetry has allowed both writers to explore self-expression whilst experiencing the confidence-boosting experience of creating art.
I am a dashing, racing, rushing, bolting,
zooming, hurtling, exhibiting,
hovering, swooping, darting,
I enjoy being high in the sky
and I believe that I will sky dive
I feel like the ability to actually fly is possible
if you are really in the sky
It is one of the best feelings in the world
to feel like flying in the air
I know that once you are up there
you can spread your wings
above those who have doubted you.
I know the doubters will never bring me down.
By Asante, a young carer in Southwark
Spring in winter, fresh flowers and water fountains
Time to make molehills out of mountains
I’ll make you a sandwich and put fresh parsley
On it, I’ll put it on it … don’t mind me.
Any way you twist it, the winter’s going to be spring
Soon I’ll start to sing it, ‘cause it’s a fine grand thing
Whenever a bee stings me in the mouth
Suddenly I remember it’ll soon be spring
Maybe it’s why birds fly south
Maybe it’s the birdsong they bring.
Don’t worry when the cold wind blows
Your love always ushers the spring.
Thank you for the sarnie.
By Marc, a member of Deptford Reach,
which works with people whose lives have been
affected by homelessness and mental ill-health