This first blog of 2021 gives me an opportunity to announce the launch of my second pamphlet for Wayleave Press: Just Above the Waterline, to be published next week. There will be a launch via Zoom on Friday January 29th, 2021 from 7 to 8 pm, with guest poets Carole Coates and Pauline Yarwood.
As a poet I have learned never to underestimate the power of words and the effect they have on other people and I have come to understand that it is my solemn duty to use words wisely to tell the truth. Recent events in the US have indicated all too clearly the power of lies and disinformation and how they can become the assumed truth with dangerous consequences.
I have no idea how to begin to talk to people who are caught up in believing these lies and conspiracy theories, whether they are about politics or the pandemic. All I can do to try always to be truthful in my writing, to speak with as authentic a voice as I can and rely on the power of truth itself to reach my listeners and readers.
The first group of poems in the new pamphlet is based on my voluntary work with asylum seekers and refugees. Some of the truths I tell in these poems may be shocking, but I want to reveal what is really going on for the people I am privileged to work with, and sometimes reality does not make for comfortable listening. The story told in each of these poems is true.
Inevitably, given our current reality, the pamphlet includes poems about the pandemic and my experience of it, living as I do in a small northern city, part of what the media likes to describe as ‘elsewhere in the UK’. In these poems I have tried to be faithful to reality as it unfolds for me, and this section includes a poem about spending a night in hospital in August 2020 (thankfully not with Covid-19 but a mercifully less serious broken thumb!), and having the opportunity to bear witness to the extraordinary work of the NHS.
We live in a strange and damaged world, an uneasy reality, and I am sure that, more than anything else, we need to reach out to each other with truth and kindness.
Yesterday the number of people vaccinated exceeded the number of people infected in the UK, just. I write as we all are right now, just above the waterline.