UNESCO World Poetry Day, Mother’s Day & Coronavirus

As seen on The Best of Birmingham.

The coronavirus has sunk its fangs into the UK’s skin and Boris Johnson has ordered thousands of pubs, restaurants, cafes, gyms, theatres and cinemas to close.  This is a historic moment and the day the UK changed forever.

Millions have heeded the Prime Minister’s advice to do their bit to halt the wretched pandemic.

Of course, there are consequences.  There is never a good time for a pernicious pathogen to strike with the speed of a cobra and inject its poison into our lifeblood, but it just so happened to be on World Poetry Day and Mothering Sunday Weekend.

These dates in the diary may seem small consideration compared to the way we behave during this epidemic that will decide the fate of millions.  The Prime Minister has told the nation to stay home alone to save lives as it is believed that more than 150,000 people are already infected. This comes at the same time that the Prime Minister has issued a grave warning that people should “stay away” from their mothers on Mothering Sunday because visiting them could kill them:

“The single best present that we can give is to spare them the risk of catching a dangerous disease” he said.

There have been ample warnings about the looming threat to the NHS and the need for everyone to engage in social distancing.  We can all see the clouds and we all know there is a storm coming as we have seen in Italy where reporters claim that all you hear are sirens and church bells tolling for the dead.

The coronavirus is not just a health calamity but economic annihilation for businesses across the UK who are collapsing as income plummets.  Thousands of jobs across this region have already been lost and more are on the abyss.

Self-employed creatives like musicians, spoken word artists, and those otherwise engaged in the performing arts, are without an income.  The Prime Minister has said the tide could turn within 3 months but that sounds widely optimistic.  There are reports that social distancing may last a year.  Our whole way of life is in peril.

What about our mothers?  We have all heard the stories of selfish shoppers stripping supermarket shelves of essential items leaving NHS workers and the elderly vulnerable.

Last month’s button badge of “Be Kind” has been replaced by “I’m All Right Jack”.

Italy is in Hell and will this be our region’s fate within weeks?  Our mothers need us more than ever but tens of thousands of them are in self isolation with no happy gatherings, with flowers, no clan reunions with hugs and kisses all around, and no Mothering Sunday lunches in pub or restaurants.  All is cancelled except the love we feel for the woman we all depended upon when we were small.

A mother’s love is unconditional and however old we are – wherever we roam – it is inextinguishable.  Our mothers are the ones who are always our rock, but our elderly mothers are now the vulnerable ones because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Across this region are images of empty streets; boarded up pubs and restaurants; empty cinemas and theatres.  Facebook is awash with messages to stay home, self-isolate and be strong. There are messages to our front-line NHS workers in the battle after working long, emotional shifts and righteous indignation over selfish shoppers who strip supermarket shelves.

There are countless anecdotes on social media about empty food banks and the hoarding of toilet rolls and sanitary pads.

The bite of the coronavirus has given us a shocking taste of our own mortality as its poison seeps into our consciousness and we fear for the lives of our families and elderly relatives.

On Mother’s Day we feel the absence of our own mothers and we all feel the pain of separation.

For some of us, our mothers are no longer upon this earth and we remember the days before we even knew that dreaded word “coronavirus”. Ironically UNESCO’s World Poetry Day fell one day short of Mother’s Day.  In self isolation thousands sent their mothers messages not only that they loved them but also why.  Creatives in the music, performing arts or spoken word industries also celebrated World Poetry Day in virtual reality theatres, clubs, and performance venues.

One should never underestimate the resilience of the human spirit.  Poetry is part of our species’ DNA and affirms our common humanity. We all share the same feelings and needs everywhere in the world.  Poetry is the mainstay of oral tradition and has been with us since time began communicating the innermost values of diverse cultures.

Poetry captures the creative spirit of the human mind. It also encourages a return to the oral tradition of spoken word, to restore the connection between poetry and other performing arts such as theatre, music and art and support small publishers.  The Wold Poetry Day also creates an attractive portrayal of poetry in the media so our communities can asset their identity.

Former Walsall Poet Laureate Ian Henery launched his second collection of poetry, Black Country Blues, 5 years ago at Walsall Central Library and the New Art Gallery in Walsall with Walsall Poetry Society, the Mayor & Mayoress of Walsall and Walsall Writers Circle.  All proceeds from the book went to cancer care charities.  Artwork on the book was by Kristina V Griffiths and Steve Toulouse and publication was by Thynks Publications.

On Mother’s Day here is a poem for mothers everywhere:

My Mother’s Lullaby

My childhood years so far away,

Lost in time, spent in happy play

Now seem like a mythology

When my mother once sang to me.

To a child, there is much to fear

But brave if my mother was near:

These times come back in memory

When my mother once sang to me.

Lullabies soothed, I came to know

A mother’s love, so long ago,

Tender loving care on her knee

When my mother once sang to me.

Another age – time has passed by,

Days one forever, this I sigh

Now found only in reverie

When my mother once sang to me.

The coronavirus pandemic challenges us about what it means to be human.  We can no longer shake hands or hug in greeting. We are expected to observe social isolation for at least a year.

However, across social media there is a wave of altruism and compassion as human beings look for ways to support others in social isolation, hardship, and distress.

“Now more than at any time in our history we will be judged by our capacity for compassion” said Chancellor Rishi Sunak.  “When this is over, and it will be over, we want to look back on this moment and remember the many small acts of kindness, done by us, and to us.”

Let’s not forget poetry and our mothers.

Written by Ian Henery and edited by his daughter, Laura.

Van Gogh Inspired Poetry Set to Music

Inspired by van Gogh’s drawing Sorrow, 1882 Ian wrote a series of three poems; his triptych portrays the strained love story between van Gogh and his muse. In this drawing, shown left, van Gogh depicts Sien (Clasina Maria Hoornik).

SorrowIan’s first poem I Miss You is written from Sien’s point of view, while the second poem titled Missing You is written from van Gogh’s point of view. The third poem Missing Siena is written from van Gogh’s view point as he contemplates moving to a new town. Ian’s entire collection of van Gogh inspired poetry is available on the Van Gogh Gallery website: https://www.vangoghgallery.com/misc/ian-henery-poetry.html

 

I Miss You

As the grass awaits the wind
Or the morning sky awaits the sun.
Although I look for you
In every doorway,
I find only darkness
In my heart.

I miss you
As the flowers await the rain
Or the evening sky the stars.
Although I look for you
In every cafe,
I find only emptiness
In my soul.

I miss you
As lungs miss oxygen,
A beating heart blood
And tired eyes sleep.
I miss you, I miss you
And loneliness lingers on:
I miss you.

 

Nina Crecia, a composer from California State University Fullerton came across Ian’s poetry whilst working as an international host on a river cruise in France. She had read ‘The Little Prince’ to guests to give them a cultural education as they docked in Lyon which was so well received that her boss asked her to create a cultural reading hour for each city they docked in.

Crecia writes

“For Arles, of course, van Gogh was the most prominent artist, but writings of him were scarce. Which is how I found your poetry for his painting “Sorrow.” And that became my reading presentation for Arles. Having actually been in Arles and having experienced the special light that it has, which painters have mentioned throughout all ages, I used that as inspiration for the harmonic language of the piece I wrote with your poem.”

 

Crecia set Ian’s poem I Miss You to music for an accompanied choir. In the video below is the performance of the vocal ensemble she put together for her senior composition recital in December.

 

 

About the composer: 

Nina Crecia
B.M. Composition, California State University Fullerton
Lead Student Assistant | Department of Modern Languages & Literatures, CSUF
Prospective Student Coordinator Assistant | School of Music, CSUF

To see more from Nina Crecia, she can be found on her youtube channel and instagram account (@ncrecia).

 

Poets Against Racism: Saturday 2nd February 2019

poets against racism

Arena Theatre

Sat 2nd Feb 2019

5pm  – 7pM

Free Entry

 

Poets Against Racism (PAR) are a collective bringing together Midlands-based poets, spoken word artists and rappers to perform under one banner in response to the recent rise in street level racism and hate crime. Explore the role poetry as a performance art can play in challenging racism and spreading positive words from diverse communities in the Midlands.

The event will open with a short discussion open to the floor followed by live poetry performances by PAR founder Manjit Sahota and local poetry guests.

Amongst these, I will be previewing my work for China West Midlands 2020 based on the sacrifices and experiences of Chinese people in the U.K.  The trilogy is entitled ‘Home’ starting with the Chinese Labour Corps in the First World War, then the 1950s and the third story set in contemporary Britain.  The trilogy explores ideas of family, sacrifices, place and time from Chinese & British perspectives in the socio-economic context of three significant periods in recent history.

 

IMG-20190109-WA0006

Ian Henery Poet from Sunrise to Sunset

oldbury writer

The Ballard of Uncle Bill

By Ian D. Henery

Written for Walsall’s community play

Uncle Bill is a story of a Walsall Man and winner because of the ballard of Uncle Bill. Uncle Bill is a story of a Walsall man who left his home town in 1935 to go to one of the outposts of the British Empire. He joined the Singaporean Volunteers Regiment, a real life Regiment who served with distinction with the Australians on Jranji Beach to thwart the Japanese invasion in Febraury 1942 and thereafter with th Malays along the Jurong – Kranji Line he surrendered to the Japanese and became a prisoner of war. The graves of the Singaporean Volunteers Regiment are in the Kranji Memorial in Singapore whihc is also where, poignantly, Presidents of Signapore are Buried.

The plight of the Westerners in Asia during World War 2 has obscured the views of local people. The adir of Japanese behaviour was on the Thailand – Burma Railway in 1944. Western accounts as tot he suffering of British, Americans and Australians state around 14,000 died. In fact, 10 – perhaps 20 – times as many Burmese, Indians, Chinese and Malays were to perish. Of the 78,204 sent from Malaya, a staggering 29,638 died. The source of this information is the acclaimed book, “Forgotten Armies: the fall of British Asia 1941 – 1945” by Christopher Bayley and Tom Harper, Published by Allen Lane.