Sunday, 23 October 2011

The power of poetry

People get frightened by the word poetry. It's always confused me slightly, as I can understand people not wanting to engage with it after bad experiences at school, I can even understand people just not liking it – after all, not everyone has the same tastes. But to see people literally run away when you mention poetry, shows how little understood it is.

People see poetry as separate, esoteric, complicated, when in fact poetry comes from the heart and soul of what makes us human – good poetry resonates with each of us.

But there has to be something done to break down the perceived distance between everyday life and poetry, to project poetry into the lives of ordinary people, to bring people face to face with the power of poetry.

And I was lucky enough to see this in action last week through the Workers of Art ‘Poetry City’ project. The poet John Siddique came into where I work and asked us to (anonymously) share secrets with him, which he would then use as source material for a poem.

I wrote mine down and sealed it in a purple envelope, handed it over and felt a sense of panic that I’d actually written this thing down. It made it real, inescapable. Writing it down gave it a sense of permanence, there was no pretending it didn’t exist. And someone else was going to read it!

John shaped these snippets of real life into a poem, a form that many people choose to run from, but there is no escaping this poem, it’s now being projected in huge letters onto the Westgate Towers in Canterbury every evening. Everyone’s secrets are out there in the open.

Whether you choose to read the words or not, seeing it projected into your everyday life forces a reaction. Whether its ‘wow that’s so cool’ or ‘what the fuck is that?’ people are engaging with poetry in one way or another. And that is the power of poetry.