Hold up your eyes for I am the sun!
the creator of all existence.
hold open your heart for I am the sun
the maker of loving creation
healing, lighting vibrating your soul
enlightening your thoughts, making you whole
hold open your heart for I am the sun
pulsing your heartbeat, shimmering your skin
lighting daylight from the darkness within
casting shadows away
bursting forth new life, new hope, new day
hope open your eyes, for I am the sun!
I hope you don’t feel shy or awkward about me writing to you in this way but this is just a small acknowledgement of your commitment to fatherhood. I don’t know what your personal circumstances are, so all I can comment on is what I see most Thursday evenings when my son goes to scouts. You’re there for one hour with your son, I assume, not long enough do anything too hectic, but time enough to sit still, read, write, chat and vibe.
Even though I’m usually deeply engrossed in whatever, I’m aware of you and your son enjoying some quality father/son time. Actually, and I hope you don’t think me rude, but you are rather difficult to ignore. A six-foot black guy, in a leafy suburb is always going to attract attention, let alone one with a raucous laugh, a cute son and – here’s the shocker – an apparently dynamic and engaging relationship with your son! This crashes through the received wisdom of neglectful black fathers, known to the mamas as DBDs. Yup, there are plenty of those, but you and many others like you are breaking the mould.
You both love computer games and you play animatedly and noisily against each other, with the grace and rivalry of old friends. Your attention is fully focused on your shared activity, no computer work or mobile ‘phone calls to distract you. When I get to Starbucks, either alone or with my daughter, you are already there, and we usually leave before you.
We have experienced plenty of fatherly absence in our family unit which has affected me and my children in different ways, but seeing a father who shows up and is present, and seems to enjoy the relationship, is all too rare a sight. However short or long the time is that you spend with your son, and whatever else may be going on in your lives, you have established a routine and consistency around your father/ son time. You’re not on the phone and he’s not playing a solitary game.
As founder of happyinschoolproject, I‘m acutely aware of the impact that boys’ behaviour can have in school. They can appear challenging, defiant, rude, aggressive and in some cases violent. Some of these boys are missing a father, a role model, a constant, a wall to push against. Many single mothers do a great job against considerable odds, but it’s impossible to be a man and a woman. Believe me, I’ve tried it! The statistics of fatherless households, particularly in the black community, are depressing, seeing your commitment gives us hope. For that, we high five you!
Whatever happens in your lives, and however difficult the realities might be – I hope you will remain constant to each other.
Yours, with gratitude from all of the fatherless children, and their mothers, S
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…