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Poetry for Change

It starts with words. The lies and the truths. Politicians know how to use them: to deceive, persuade, or both. With new platforms for the arts, poets have the chance to counter falsity, to spread their words more than ever.

In designing this course, I looked for poems that called for change: their rich imagery, their sonority, their depth of meaning raising in the reader an urgent desire to join their voices with the poets — poems such as ‘The Dead’ (María Rivera) and ‘Dear Mr Gove’ (Kim Moore) which, when I first encountered them, had me picking up my pen.

We have all experienced it: that moment when a writer gives us the clarity we have been searching for, the feeling that our own concerns and frustrations have somehow been released by the poet’s wonderful phrasing. The more quality poetry I read that calls for change, the more I want to write it: to clarify my own thoughts and to help keep the conversations, the debates, and the protests going.

We now have more ways to communicate than ever. While this means more and more people can make themselves heard, every day we see language reduced, simplified or replaced altogether, in the era of the emoticon. But read a powerful poem, and we are reminded of the thrilling heights that poets can achieve with language.

Though there are claims that the readership of poetry is expanding, there are still many people who don’t read it. I don’t believe the old argument that this is because poetry is difficult. Far from obscure, the poems I have listed on the course outline, while rich and complex, run their meanings direct to the reader’s heart. I believe the relatively small readership of poetry is due to the fact that, too often, poems are limited to the realm of poetry. While none of us would be without the beautiful bounds of bookshops, poetry books, poetry festivals and the poetry ‘scene’, we also need to make sure our poems surface in the wider world.

It is my hope that this course will help people to improve their writing skills as they explore personal experiences—their surroundings, the details of their lives, their encounters with injustice—developing and expanding their use of imagery, poetic form and technique as they work towards more precision and power in their writing, in order to offer up their own truths and, in doing so, helping others to express their frustrations and hopes in these troubled times.

Create poems that are a force for good over five fortnightly sessions in Bristol. Book here.

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Image Credits:

Robert Couse-Baker. This image has been cropped and filtered. Licence