Poets love sharing their work with readers and audiences; for many of us, it is only when our poetry is heard and experienced by others that it fully becomes alive. Poems just scribbled in a notebook, or saved in a computer file, may be only embryonic. There is an empowering for both the poet and the people who engage with them, by hearing or reading them, once they are let out of their boxes. For me, the very best poetry not only expresses the poet’s ideas, thoughts and experiences – it also provides a space, a platform, a megaphone, for others to think and speak their feelings. Poetry does not need to be written in the first person, be autobiographical, or just focus on your own expression. Because poetry comes alive when it is shared, every poem is interpreted anew by every reader, and they are empowered by that experience. Someone else’s poem may resonate, stimulate, annoy or entertain the reader into thinking again about an idea. It may inspire them to write their own poetry!
At the third of the Power to the People workshops, I read a couple of poems, including the one below, which wasn’t used to adorn the pianos themselves. In fact an earlier draft of it had been submitted (but not selected) for the anthology And the Stones Fell Open
Unpublished poetry drafts act to the poet a bit like compost does for the gardener – they may contain some waste matter or leftovers, which after quiet time in the dark transform themselves itself into useful nutrients for future growth. I’m taking advantage of the privilege of being one of the spokespersons for Power to the People to share this poem with you, in the spirit of empowering you to pick up your pencils.
‘Power to the People’
When they had locked up everyone else,
they came for the poets.
‘We’re sick of you twisting one word
to make it mean another,’ they said.
‘You mean, like political spin?’ said the poets.
‘Yeah, that. And the way you persuade people
to believe the impossible.’
‘You mean, like rhetoric?’ said the poets.
‘Umm, that too,’ they said.
‘Anything else?’ asked the poets,
linking arms round a pile of metaphors,
and stamping their feet rhythmically to get warm
(the brazier at the barricade was running low on fuel).
‘Yes. What really gets our goat
is how you have fun with words,
and create things of beauty and meaning,
which bring all sorts of different people together.’
‘It’s a fair cop,’ said the poets,
and handed out pencils to the crowd.
In recent weeks, discussions with LCI have led to the glad news that my role as poet-theologian will continue on an ad hoc basis. It started during the first lockdown, when I was commissioned to write weekly blogs, which led to the publication of Reflections: A Poet-Theologian in Lockdown Leeds . Further reflections on the Power to the People aspect of the Leeds Piano Trail have followed, and will continue till the end of the year. I shall be looking for opportunities to expand the role, so if you are reading this and think I should be aware of an event in your community, or would like to suggest themes for me to consider, do get in touch! You can use the comments section at the bottom of each blog to get in touch.