Thursday, 18 January 2018

Statistics of hope

Photo: UNHCR
Sixty-five million people are displaced in the world today. Many of them are in camps, unable to move on.

Every three seconds some one else has to leave their home to flee war, climate change, famine, violence.

This poem was first published on the poetry24 website (link below).  I was prompted to re-post the poem here after seeing Ai WeiWei's stunning film Human Flow, which draws on the same statistics I use, as calculated by UNHCR -

Statistics of hope

Count to three: one   two   three, there’s another

one   two   three, and another    displaced person,

one every three seconds, somewhere in the world.

One   two   three. In Chad a woman travels in a cart

30km to a mobile clinic, collapses 300m short.

A doctor checks Bless, a seven month old girl,

suspected malaria.  One   two   three.

In Tripoli: women are detained, 30 in a small room,

one blanket each, they’ve been there months,

it may become years; no access to law, no medical care.

Fifty-eight refugees adrift in the Med in one small boat.

412 rescued from the water, escaping

Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh.

One  two   three: one little boy sits alone

on a floor in a corridor in a former resort in Greece,

now used for refugees needing mental health care.

In Nairobi 400 people each month arrive at one clinic.

In Nigeria 45,000 refugees pack one camp

for displaced people from Cameroon.

One  two  three. Gloria, aged 11 years,

displaced in Malawi, HIV and TB positive.

8,000 in a camp near Raqqa, Syria,

there for months, years.

Hundreds of thousands from Myanmar

seek shelter from the monsoon  in rice fields in Bangladesh.

They wait for permission to move, drowning in hope.

One in every 113 people on the planet is a refugee.

Someone is displaced every three seconds.

One  two  three. 65million displaced people

in the world, now,

one   two  three

Debora Njala, 18, HIV and TB positive, in Malawi, says:

“I will achieve my dreams and the future is bright.”

One  two  three. A man, a woman, two children

in a camp in Lesvos, not allowed

to leave for mainland Europe.

The father, Karon says:

“It is my true dream that my children will live

in a country without war, without bloodshed.

This is the only thing I wish for.”

All it takes is the will of the developed world …

one  two  three …
In the time it takes to read this poem 100 people in the world will have become displaced.

Here's a recording of me reading this poem:

If you want to read more poetry that is inspired by current news events poetry24 is one of the places to go. Read more here:

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

In the open field

Writing poetry need not be a solitary process. Sure, we all need plenty of quiet time to write and develop ideas, but I also find working with other poets a productive and worthwhile experience.
Poets often get together to help each other progress their work.

The first such group I became involved with locally was PENfro Poets, which started in 2012 and grew out of the PENfro Book Festival, held in the inspiring surroundings of Rhosygilwen.

We are still going as a regular group and as well as working on our poems together, members take it in turns to present a workshop topic.

Some of our poetry can now be seen on a new website, together with work from the Art Group, also held regularly at Rhosygilwen.

Below is the latest work I have had posted on the site, and there’s a link at the bottom where you can find poetry from other members of the group.

This haiku sequence was written in response to a workshop run by PENfro Poet Peter George, which examined the second of the Four Quartets and challenged us to take inspiration from the writing of TS Eliot.

Meditations on the open field

early morning
in the open fields –
clear sky forever

in the emptiness
a robin’s loud song
                and silence falls

in this wide space
you can see your enemy
but you cannot hide


listen to silence
be sure to hear the echo
of the buzzard’s call

beyond the boundary
is the empty plain
                a gate swings open

in the middle of
an open field
the only shadow

November sunset
                pink clouds light the field
                as dark rises


fine mist rests low
in morning valley
winter trees shine through
while black birds make silhouettes
like ghosts on a frosty field

*Several of the above were first published as individual haiku in Blithe Spirit: Journal of the British Haiku Society

For more from the PENfro Poets and to see work of some of the talent local artists, check the link:

Sunday, 5 November 2017

There's no time for chocolate

People often ask me where my inspiration for poetry comes from. This is always a difficult question to answer, as inspiration comes from everywhere! However, this poem gives an idea of the sometimes tortuous way that poems can come into being.
It’s a cento, a poem usually made up entirely of lines selected from other poets’ poems. John Ashberry’s ‘The Dong with the Luminous Nose’ is probably one of the best known.  In it he links together lines from famous poems by Blake, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Edward Lear, and others into a surprisingly coherent collage.

My poem below is a self-cento and is made with lines from a variety of my own poems that were started during NaPoWriMo in April 2017 – National Poetry Writing Month, when poets try to write a new poem every day for a month.  Remixing and restyling some of my own lines at the end of the month of writing was an interesting experience and I was able to use a few lines that started life during the project, but didn’t end up in finished poems.
Leonora Carrington’s painting Crookey Hall was part of the initial inspiration for the poem.
This poem was first published in Three Drops from a Cauldron in October 2017.

There’s no time for chocolate
A young woman in a long white dress
runs away from a big grey house
where white water falls in columns
over rocks that shine from
dark corners of her dreams. There’s
talk about a love of the dead, maggots and all,
but she has rescued the black demons
to stop them being lost, or maybe too much alive.

A child is drowning in a pond
but the young woman runs right past.
There’s no time for chocolate, she tells the kid.
If she had taken her hand that day,
if she hadn’t looked away …
but she wasn’t really there at all, of course.

A tall woman stands aside,
points a long arm and giant finger at
grand gothic turrets and gables –
that place of stone and grey customs.
Three ravens guard the entrance
where the woman in the white dress has escaped.
Two naked people stand there,
but they are interested only in themselves.

In one frame of the film of a night
the demon screams, scared –
what if we can’t save the bees?
Does the snow listen as it falls from the sky?
I painted all the walls purple,
waves crash wild on the shore,
banshees cry across the sound.

Someone asks if we want to fly a kite,
but it’s only me here now.
The tempest passes,
the snow hears the natural sand,
a river runs through the slow heat and
the morning meadow weeps under
cherry blossom and fresh green willow.