This year, poetry for me became something more than dusty pages and old blokes in church halls. When terror ripped through the lives of people who never asked for a war, killing the truest, most innocent lives, poetry galvanised an entire Community. One bloke stood up and, for a moment, everybody listened to his words and were moved to tears.
Except the smart people know that poetry has never just been for books and schools, it’s for everybody. It is the blood that drives every song on the radio, from manufactured pop to the anthems of a generation. Revolution is everywhere, and in every syllable, even now. When I was young it was Pink Floyd and Bowie sewing the seeds of diversity, swinging at authority. Now there is a new generation of poets, whose words have such strength as to stop even this cynical old woman in her tracks. I defy anyone with a soul to really listen to Tunnel Vision and not think, at least for a second, of the legacy the actions of a few have wrought on our Planet.
The greatest agent of collective human advancement is not free markets, despite what our leaders might have us believe. It is the ability to express ourselves without fear of attack or reprisal, of thinking beyond ourselves and collective greed to something better, nobler than wealth as aspiration. It is the means by which the World exists together, side by side and stronger, living longer, place where nobody is persecuted for being different. Poetry has always given a voice to the darkest recesses of the human condition: that window on our souls is never more needed than now, this moment, every second.
Poetry is freedom, and expression to believe in ourselves.
It is a persistence of memory, growing old and looking backwards, looking forward with optimism to what yet might be achievable. It groans with angst and moans with pleasure and without it, I realise now, I was less of a writer. This year, I started writing poetry not as a chore, but with tentative ardour, and now my love affair is in full, glorious flow. It gives metaphors chances to illuminate unexpected corners. It has allowed a woman who was afraid of her own voice to once more stand upright, inhale and then speak her words with pride. It has transformed my existence, and there will never be the right couplet to express how grateful that makes me.
Never believe you’re incapable of change. I’m almost 51 and my poetic journey has only just begun: maybe if I’d started earlier… but there is no time for regret anymore. It is time to live each day as it comes and realise that it is us that makes life better not just for ourselves but the people around us. This day has given me the opportunity to share what I think and feel about a concept I hated as a kid, tolerated in my teens and then ignored for decades because I’d forgotten how to listen. Now ears and mind are open again, I can’t get enough of it. Poetry has transformed the course of my writing, and I’m grateful for one day where I can proudly stand up and admit that it will always be a part of my life until I die.
Poetry is worth all the effort. Take the first step into a wider Universe, and you may yet be surprised at what you discover not only about the world, but within yourself.