Mental health in Mind

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.

PoetryAsHealing with MIND

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.

‘Derek Walcott’

If you would like to sample a PoetryAsHealing workshop, please fill in the form below.

PoetryAsHealing

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.

Suzy Rigg, PoetryAsHealing

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.

Picture: Courtesy of Brainy Quote PoetryAsHealing.

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.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox PoetryAsHealing

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.

Dr. Maya Angelou, PoetryAsHealing

Hear my tribute poem to Maya Angelou here

If you would like to talk about a PoetryAsHealing session for your organisation, please contact me using the form.

 

 

Windrush 48; Spirit of Windrush

I was fortunate enough to attend the service at Westminster Abbey on 22 June to mark Windrush Day. Me and about 2,000 other folk. The steel band playing in the church by Shern Hall Methodist Youth Steel band, set the scene. The harmonic twang of pan never fails to lift the spirit, and the mix of hymns and spirituals they played was a joy to listen to and even dance to as Baroness Floella Benjamin, did on her way in, with a willing member of the public! She received a hearty round of applause from the crowd, as she sashayed to her seat.

The atmosphere in the abbey was interesting: a mix of celebratory, joyful, respectful and thankful. Westminster Abbey  – seat of the British religious establishment, where graves of diplomats, politicians and British royalty are buried and royals have married –  was to host a service with a difference. I sat with Karen Roach, a pastor at St. James Church Hampton Hill, as we watched key names in British politics enter the Abbey: Prime Minister Teresa May, Home Secretary Sajid David, Baroness Floella Benjamin, Diana Abbot, Paul Boeteng.

Rev Joel Edwards gave a stirring address

The hour long service started with a solo of Jerusalem, sung by a girl with locks, followed by an enactment of Caribbeans coming to this country, some who may have perviously served in the war, detailing their thoughts and feelings as they came to Britain to help re-build the ‘Mothercountry.’

The Abbey begins to fill up

The service was led by the Very Rev Dr. john Hall, Dean of Westminster, and the Rev Joel Edwards gave an address, which intimated that the setting down of the ship had not been an entirely welcome arrival. “The children of Windrush have experienced over-representation in Britain’s prisons and mental health institutions, underachievement in education and in the job market.” He described Windrush as a spaceship and invited us to think about what where we would be in 2088, what shape would we be in then? “Settlement has meant racism, sometimes too much policing and not enough protection, and Stephen Lawrence,” he said.

Baroness Floella Benjamin, A cultural entertainment icon

I was so grateful to be there, and know that, in memory of my ‘Windrush’ ancestors (actually, my grandfather came over in 1955 on a ship called the Reina Del Pacifico), I still have much work to do.

© Suzy Rowland Rigg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SS EMPIRE WINDRUSH [Windrush Day poem]

Windrush 1948: Coming Home

 “London, is the place for me
London, this lovely city
You can go to France or America, 
India, Asia or Australia
But you must come back, to London city.”

(Calypso: Sung by Lord Kitchener)

A leap into the unknown,

hundreds of men, women, families

loyal subjects of the Queen of England

wait patiently for their boarding cards

passports to a new land, a new life –

sunny determination in their veins

spirit of slave rebellion dancing in their hearts

centuries of cutting cane without shade

pulls their backs tall,

enslavement courses their DNA

fires the desire for a better life:

 

Britain won the war

her Queen, stole Caribbean hearts.

 

 

Leaving the hot sun of home

waving goodbye to warm seas

bearing bruises of the Atlantic slave trade

borrowed names: Williams, Beckfords, Campbells,

from Trinidad, Jamaica, Bardados,

waiting on the gangplank of British warships

on request of the British government

many with a one way ticket to England

a one way ticket to cities with strange names,

 

Liverpool, Bristol, Manchester, a one-way ticket…

‘….tickets please’ ‘Tickets please!’

shouts the bus conductor

in a broad Bajan accent, with a broader smile,

he was ‘home’ a new land, a new life.

My grandfather, Wilfred N. Walker, came to England from Jamaica on the Reina Del Pacifico in 1955. My grandfather’s brother Lester, is the handsome man in the  black and white photograph, alongside his wife, Julia, who was known in the family as ‘Cookie’. The rest of his family, his wife Maud (my grandmother) and the children Colin, Aston, Valrie and my mother Dorcas, came to England on the Reina Del Mar, docking in Liverpool in 1956.

Whenever I read this poem, it always stimulates a reaction; I have seen people cry, and many of a certain age, like to join in with the song which I try to sing acappella, but sometimes emotion gets the better of me. At my last reading, at Hampton Hill Theatre, Noel Coward Suite, one woman approached me afterwards and said that she was there to see the ship arriving. A young 87, with bright green nail varnish and dyed red hair, she said that the signs outside of houses, saying ‘No Irish, no dogs, no blacks’, were not racist, but a symptom of the desperate housing situation in bombed post-war Britain.

I read this poem to remember my grandfather, who died in 2012, after receiving a telegram from the Queen for his 100th birthday. I read this poem to assert that I’m British, born and bred in Birmingham, and this is my home country, although I am often asked where am I from. I read this poem out of pride for the many positive contributions and efforts, my ancestors, and people like them have put energy into crafting, building, railway-ing, nursing, musician-ing, and generally seasoning this country to make it one of the most amazing, dynamic and forgiving places to live – in spite of the difficulties many of us still face. I see all of this as cause for celebration.

This poem is available to purchase as a commemorate A5 card, please click here to continue

© Suzy Rowland Rigg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Cafe at Hampton Hill Playhouse

© Suzy Rowland

I took this photo in 2014 when this modern theatre building in Hampton Hill was called the ‘Playhouse’. Little did I know when I took the photo that I would be treading the boards there in the future,  sharing spoken word poetry. Having a theatre so close to home is a huge asset. As an avid theatre goer, it’s an honour to excellent quality theatre without going into the West End. But to tread the boards there myself – in the Noel Coward studio – how thrilling!

The Poetry Cafe is the first event for the newly established Arts Richmond Poetry Hub, a collaboration with Arts Richmond, an organisation I’m involved with. It’s great to have a spotlight on poetry in the borough arts scene, within the wider arts context. I’m excited about the future of the Poetry Hub and the opportunities it will provide for poets in and around Richmond.

I’ve written before about the leap between writing poetry for the reader via the page (or ipad?) and writing to deliver directly to the audience. No filter. No interpretation time; it either works instantly or it doesn’t. I think anyone who is paying money to be entertained, should get their money’s worth. This is why I’m investing in a public speaking course, as well as rehearsing with the other poets, very hard.  I’m thinking about every detail to ensure I touch every single person through my delivery. It will be a challenge but one that I feel as a poet, I must rise to!

Poetry Cafe at Hampton Hill Theatre

What are your tips for poetry (or any) performance? How do you deal with nerves? I’d love you to get in touch and let me know!

Until then, I will break a leg…

© I give you words, like I give you gold – Suzy Rowland

Spoken Word at Teddington Theatre Club [Tickets SOLD OUT]

Hot on the heels of Khembe’s Return to Your Roots, Suzy Rowland will be reading a few of my poems the local ‘playhouse’ Teddington Theatre Club on Friday 15th June. For full details and tickets, please click on the Facebook link or the Write Out Loud links below:

https://www.facebook.com/events/179473109533099/ WriteOutLoud event: https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/eventview.php?eventID=14847

 

Rehearsing for Poetry Cafe, Director Anne Warrington of Poetry Performance.

I will be on stage with three other published poets including Greg Freeman, from Woking’s Write out Loud, in a Poetry Cafe style staging. It should be a great evening. After my readings in front of an excitable home crowd in Birmingham, it will be great reading for my local crowd from the Teddington, Hampton Hill, Hampton, Richmond and Kingston areas. South West London massive in the house 🙂

Guests will be treated to gems from Songs of My Soul as well as some of my new compositions, covering social issues, culture and black history. We’re in full rehearsal mode at the moment, it’s very exciting! There were even a few tears at the rehearsal, which I think is a sign of some powerful reading.

Would be great to see you there!

Suzy x

Melanin Mind & Soul Reviews

 

Poetry Performance
Songs of My Soul author reads her new poem: It’s dark outside

It’s always lovely to be featured on another platform. I will be treading a different stage next month, performing at Khembe’s Return to Your Roots event in Birmingham. Khembe is a hardworking, inspirational and hugely talented lady. The tenacity and passion with which she’s built the Return to Your Roots brand is a masterclass in entrepreneurship.

Blogger Melanin Mind & Soul has penned this piece about my poetry book and my forthcoming performance at Khembe’s Return to Your Roots Festival in Birmingham. http://www.melaninmindsoul.com/songs-of-my-soul-suzy-rigg/

My usual ‘stage’ is upstairs once a month in a pub in SW London. Every week is different – the performers, the energy levels, the audience. Some weeks are emotional, such as last week, when one of the poets read a piece dedicated to the brother he’d lost four years ago to a brain tumour. We got lost in his words, until he began to laugh. A nervous giggle, accompanied by vigorous face-scratching. He was overcome with emotion and unable to carry on reading. Collectively we all wanted to rush up and carry on reading for him, but were rooted to our seats as strong feelings of grief seemed to take over all of us. That’s the power of poetry.

It would be great to meet some poetry fans in Birmingham, do try and get to Return to Your Roots, not just ‘cos I’m gonna be there but because you will leave feeling nourished, inspired, connected and at peace with yourself and who you are – whoever you are!

Looking for poetic and spiritual calm and guidance?

Find your song…

 

Return to your Roots 2018

Return to your Roots? If you haven’t experienced it, you better look sharp and get your tickets as it’s only four weeks away! Return to your Roots is delicious mix of natural hair workshops, with the fan-tab-u-lous Mz. Lady Lox from Atlanta, featured in the video, well-being workshops, including a sessions on vegan food, healthy eating for a healthy prostate, and a glittering array of stalls selling African-inspired jewellery, accessories, cloth, educational books and much more.

Return to your Roots Festival was established by hair queen Khembe Clarke, a natural hair artist with decades of braids, locs and protective styles know-how to her credit. She saw black women turning away from chemicalized hair in droves and decided to share her wealth of knowledge of how to manage natural hair successfully, without the need for harsh chemicals: Return to your Roots was born!  Since then, Khembe has expanded the theme of the festival to include culture and well-being.

I’m thrilled to let you know that I will be sharing my poetry at this year’s Return to Your Roots Festival and have a stall with copies of Songs of My Soul for sale. Come and say ‘hi’.

Return to your Roots –  embracing natural hair, beauty & wellness 

5th & 6th May – Location:

The H Suite, 100 Icknield Port Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B16 0AA

For an inspirational couple of days, get your tickets now:

www.roots2018.eventbrite.co.uk

Interview with Suzy Rowland

Suzy enchants the assembled!

Q. Tell us a bit about your background

A. I was born and brought up in the Midlands, with my mother, a teacher. She was also an eternal student and loved to read – she studied English literature for her first degree and there was lots of Chaucer, Shakespeare, William Blake and or course Shakespeare lying around. She whetted my younger poetic appetite by encouraging me to read Christina Rossetti who I loved. We identified strongly with our Caribbean heritage and loved John Agard, Maya Angelou, Benjamin Zephaniah – all of whom we saw! Before I went to University, I worked at my local radio station Radio WM and also for the Caribbean Times as a junior reporter – the writing bug started early!

Q. Tell us about about how you came to write Songs of My Soul

A. It’s a culmination of a few year’s work – I had so written so much material it seemed a pity to leave it all in folders on my computer or dotted around on various blog posts. I really wanted to put it all together as a collection and due to personal circumstances, I had the time to do this, and most importantly the will. Shaping the book was a really cathartic and creative experience; the book is themed into three sections – Discovery, Holy Fire and Resurrection-  which I think enables readers to dip in and out of according to their mood.

Songs of My Soul launch – interview with Suzy Rowland

Q. What is Songs of My Soul about?

A. It’s a personal reflection on life with universal themes – parenting, love, passion, grief, loss. These are themes that everyone can relate to – there is a ‘song’ in the book for everyone. The reaction has been so positive – it’s brilliant to create a body of work that potentially everyone can relate to.

Q. You painted the cover of Songs of My Soul – can we expect any more paintings from you?

A. I’m a writer first and foremost and although I loved the painting experience, words are my first love. I did have a vey clear picture of what I wanted the cover to look like, a representation of a spiritual, calming place and universal landscape we can all relate to. I love the colours of dawn, when the world is just waking up so I tried to capture this on the canvas.

Q. So, the book is published now, what’s next for you?

A. I would like to make a donation to the National Autistic Society with proceeds from the book sales, it’s a charity that’s very important to me. I have a figure in mind and once I get there I will let people know as this will have been a real joint effort. There has been such positive interest in the book, that I will continue being a poet. Observing life and people and capturing it – I have also written a few short stories and will be developing these. I will continue to develop my craft, I’m a bit like my mother in that way – there is always something new to learn, another experience to write about. I’m very excited about sharing my words – I believe it’s what I was put on this planet to do.

Songs of My Soul launch

After six weeks of planning and a life time of cosmic ordering (remember that?) the date for Songs Of My Soul book launch arrived. I was delighted with the venue, the gorgeous OSO Arts Centre in Barnes. I was nervous, of course, that no-one would show up, but I also felt that it wasn’t about numbers, it was about the VIBE. And the vibe was amazing; relaxed yet professional, joyous, yet as poignant as the verses demanded. Here are a few pictures which I hope capture the mood, as for occasions like these, words can sometimes be superfluous.

POETESS SUZY TAKES THE MIKE
SONGS OF MY SOUL SIGNING
TERI ANNE SCOBLE PORTRAIT ARTIST AND GUEST SPEAKER
ESTEEMED GUESTS LISTEN AND ENJOY
ESTEEMED GUESTS LISTEN: SUZY READS FROM ‘SONGS