I grew up listening to Bob Marley’s music. In fact, I used to get a bit annoyed when people would expect me to like Bob Marley, because I’m black. In those far away days, Duran Duran and Teardrop Explodes were the tunes I was ‘jammin’ to! However, Bob’s music was played a lot during the 80s and those haunting lyrics and melodies sunk into my soul until I knew all of the words to Buffalo Soldier, No Woman No Cry, Zimbabwe and many more.
It wasn’t until a recent inaugural trip to Jamaica this summer (I know, the flights are expensive) that I finally got to understand the deeper meaning of Marley’s music and that of some contemporary reggae artists. There is something about the intense heat of the sun, the dark, voluptuous vegetation and the searing poverty that makes the words and sounds of reggae come to life in Jamaica.
Throw in a dash of dark rum and the shining bodies of Jamaicans of African descent and I began to understand that the intensity of reggae exists as an echo to the complexity of its people, who are still reconciling their bloody history with a present, which is a tale of two radically different experiences. Including the homophobic and sexist material.
I suppose that’s the beauty of travel, you get to fill the gaps in your own history and imagination and create a new history too.
Woman, put on my forehead your balsam hands,
your hands softer than fur.
Up there, the tall palm trees swinging in the night breeze rustle hardly.
Not even the nurse’s song.
Let the rhythmic silence rock us.
Let’s listen to its song, let’s listen to the beating of our dark blood, let’s listen
To the beating-of the dark pulse of Africa in the mist of lost villages.
Look how the tired moon sinks towards its bed of slack water.
Look how the burst of laughter doze off, and even the bards themselves
dandle their heads like children on the backs of their mother.
Look how the feet of the dancers grow heavy, as well as the tongue of the alternating chorus.
This is the hour of the stars and of the Night that dreams reclining on that range of clouds, draped in its long gown of milk.
The roofs of the huts gleam gently. What are they so confidently telling to the stars?
Inside, the hearth extinguishes in the intimacy of bitter and sweet scents.
Woman, light the lamp of butterclear oil, let the Ancesters, like their parents, talk the children in bed.
Let’s listen to the voice of the Ancients of Elissa. Exiled as we are they did not want to die, their seminal flood is lost in the sand.
Let me hear, in the smoky which I visit, a reflection of propitious souls
Let my head on your breast, warm as a dang taken from the fire and smoking.
Let me inhale the smell of our Dead, let me collect and repeat their living voice, let me learn
To live before I sink, deeper than the diver, into the lofty depth of sleep.
My last post about PoetryAsHealing was a let ‘me tell you what it’s all about’ kind of post. As we’re nearing the end of the the year, I’m happy to tell with you that my PoetryAsHealing sessions have been a huge success. Working with MIND feels like a natural fit as so many poems in my Songs of my Soul collection address our private struggles with the big issues in life such as love, loss, major change and relationships.
Leading a group of carers through a labyrinthine selection of poetry from a range of traditional and contemporary poets, was an honour and a delight. Together we discussed an eclectic mix of themes covering diverse aspects of human emotions. Our conversations were stimulating and life-affirming. Two members of the group wrote imaginative and moving pieces of poetry during the sessions.
PoetryAsHealing is a subtle form of healing, and the best thing about it is it’s not just for poetry lovers; it’s for everyone who thinks, breathes and feels.
If you would like to sample a PoetryAsHealing workshop, please fill in the form below.
Ok. I’ve been really slow at blogging about my PoetryAsHealing project. Partly because I’ve been so busy doing it. I’m passionate about poetry and mental well-being so I inhabit a sort of heaven when delivering this programme.
PoetryAsHealing provides carers or people with mental health challenges with a unique opportunity to discuss a delicious range of topics through the poetic form. We look at carefully selected poems on a vast array of topics including religion, politics, spirituality, culture and everything in between, in a safe and nurturing environment. Who says discussions about to politics and religion only end in arguments? Pah! Over the past few weeks, we’ve discussed arranged marriages, slavery, depression, love, sexuality and many more topics. We’ve discussed the poets themselves, their poems and the circumstances in which they were written.
Together, in a safe space, we’ve shared incredible pieces of work by Sylvia Plath, Allen Gingsberg, Maya Angelou, George the Poet, Pascale Petit, Walt Whitman and many others. We’ve laughed, engaged in heated debates, shared some fantastic insights and opened up to learn more about ourselves and each other. We leave the sessions feeling optimistic and connected. It’s all part of the healing process.
Conversations between members of the group have been far-reaching and meaningful, with the aid of our poets’ voices.
It’s stimulating, intellectual, emotional and most of all it’s HEALING. How on earth can poetry *heal* you say? Well, using your voice to articulate thoughts and feelings is very powerful. Using a poet’s words, which are one-person removed, provides a perfect vehicle to enable us to speak to one another. It’s like travelling on a bus in a foreign country, where everyone else speaks a difference language, but somehow when you’re on the bus you can understand everything.
Our ‘poetry bus’ provides a mix of contemporary and traditional poetry for us to ruminate over, discuss and relish. The poems are chosen for their power to move and provoke discussion, sometimes about issues that are too difficult to discuss in a ‘normal’ context.
Anyone can join the group; being a poet is not essential! You don’t need to know anything about poetry. People come in with an open mind and leave with new words in their heads. The poets’ words help to unlock inner words that may have been locked away. Some people are inspired to write their own poems, others are content to listen and enjoy the discussion. The power of poetry to soothe, entice and encourage reflection on the world and on oneself is undeniable.
I’m honoured to share my love of poetry in this therapeutic way.
Writing a book is a lonely business. The stereotypes are true, I mean, I’ve been sitting in my office since 8am, unshaven – I use that word figuratively – and I probably won’t see another person until my son comes home from school. I watch people walking up and down the street with dogs, buggies and earphones, which doesn’t really count as social interaction.
On one level, it’s blissful, I write, dream and research to my heart’s content. I play what my husband, calls ‘whale music’ to help me focus. So far, so idyllic. But attending The Author School was a rude awakening – I need to get myself and my work out into the daylight – IRL and online.
To be a successful writer, which I define as someone who writes what they love and sells decent amounts of it,requires consistent and concerted marketing and PR input. I used to work in corporate comms and PR before I became a writer. Being tangled in my love affair with words, I had unceremoniously kicked my steady former love to the curb. Shame on me! All of the tools are at my disposal but I’ve left them to rust. But, like an autumn breeze, change is in the air. It’s time to polish my press release writing, tinker with my Twitter and sex-up my blog. (Not like that!)
Attending the Author School reminded me to look up from behind the screen, pause my book writing and start flexing my marketing muscles. I had fallen into the trap of building an irrational resistance to self-PR and book promotion, for fear of being too ‘in-yer-face.’ The truth is, being in-yer-face/BOLD/CapitalLetters, is what gets people’s attention. It has always been this way.
So join me in giving your book a boost. Whether you’re still writing it or it’s already published, turn some of your writing attention to writing about your book, in detail. Plot development, characters, themes, why you’re writing it etc., that is as important as the end product and will help you to sell copies when you’re finished writing it. It’s time to work our socials, and stop hiding out at home or in Costa. My PR self is telling my writer self to GET OUT THERE! My pledge:
– do more social media – keep it real – do more Facebook live – blog regularly – blog/gram/tweet on the go (so it doesn’t feel it’s a job) – write about writing and poetry, my core themes & ENJOY it.
If it gets too much, I will call in an expert. I’d love to hear how you get on, and if you don’t already, please connect/follow/like me…
I woke up this morning and a bomb exploded in my head causing pink and white confetti to rain down. A confetti of ideas feels wonderful, dizzying, like there is too much to do and not enough life in which to do it. I have been dubbed a ‘butterfly’ as I flit from thing to thing, supping excitement here, making friends there, leaving a puff of colour and activity in my wake.
It occurred to me only a few days ago, that I might have ADHD. My husband looked as me as if to say, “you’ve only just worked that out?” I was an incessant chatterer at school and still cannot sit through a film with commenting, asking questions out loud and answering them myself if I’m on my own. I went to see ‘A Star is Born’ – AMAZING FILM – with my daughter and turned to her to ask her to pause it for a minute as I wanted to say something. I laughed out loud realising we were in the cinema with no pause button, then started fiddling with the reclining seat to get comfortable. With my husband at one of those quiet and reverential guitar gigs, I was overcome with hunger and tried to open the packet of crisps in my bag as quietly as possible. And failed.
I’m a classic bag rummager/make-up in strange places applier/list maker/
It’s either a whisper or a shout. Mental health is like general health – good most of the time with periods where it’s not good at all and others when we feel fine. For some, the bad periods overlap and we need intervention to cope with daily life. For others, the dips and highs are cyclical and need to be ridden or endured until the episode has passed.
The challenge is we don’t always know when we’re going to dip or fly and we don’t always make it obvious to our families and friends. Social media can amplify negative thought patterns, hormone levels, creating sudden shifts into darkness.
On World Mental Health Day,I acknowledge that both of my children have life-long mental health and neurological challenges, but in spite of these challenges they both have the potential to live happy and fulfilling lives. Part of attaining that goal is talking to them, sharing what I’ve learned about their conditions and how best to support them. I’ve also learned how to better manage and self-regulate my own mental health.
The ‘happyinschool’ project encapsulates how passionate I feel about supporting parents of children whose mental health is compromised, whatever the reason. We have been so fortunate as a family to access the kindness of friends as well as expert clinical, psychological and psychiatric support and advice when it was needed.
In either a whisper or a shout, if you need to talk, it’s good to know that someone is listening.
I’ve been working on a non-fiction book for the last few years, bringing together my experience of being an autism mum, an educationalist by osmosis and a firm believer in the transformative power of education.
Like many writers, we can be so much in our heads, it can be tricky to articulate clearly. So I took a public speaking course… how did I do?