Poems for Walsall For All

Taken from Walsall for All click here to view

In times of challenge, art, in all its many forms, often helps to clarify our feelings and provide hope. We asked former Mayor of Walsall’s Poet Laureate, Ian Henery, to write a series of poems on the theme of social distancing.

Ian has since shared these poems on a global platform called Speak Your Peace, a five week global expressive arts series based entirely online and hosted by iLikeZach in New York in partnership with the Stafford Space Station.

Today, as we begin the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions, social distancing is as important as ever. We would like to thank Ian for his moving contributions.

If you’d like to find out more about Ian and his work then please visit his website.

 

 

Stay Alert, Control The Virus & Save Lives (Rondeau)

Six feet apart and wash your hands

A virus sweeps across our land.

Stay alert, save lives, wear a mask;

Control the virus, all we ask

This our credo and our command.

We can beat this but not in bands

On sea-side shores, on sunny sands

Removed from where day-trippers basked

Six feet apart.

COVID-19 we can withstand:

Stay alert, save lives, understand?

Controlling the virus, our task,

Released from its demonic cask

And – together- we’ll make a stand

Six feet apart.

 

The Language of Social Distancing – COVID-19 (Sonnet)

Six feet apart and not six feet under,

Grieving families with hands on window panes

Quarantined, masked grandchildren in the rain.

Coronavirus has torn asunder,

Waves with the rush of tsunami thunder

Engulfing constellations of sorrow;

The curl of surf, trembling foam of woe –

Pandemic, the news-drunk virus plundered.

Unite! Come together – but stay apart,

Social distancing – wash hands and wear masks,

It’s the language of love, it’s all we ask

As the coronavirus scales ramparts.

Communicate by voice, eyes and heart,

Life can’t be measured by inches and feet

But love and respect, kind deeds, words so sweet

Let’s begin again and our lives restart.

 

I Love You – From 15 Million Miles & 6 Feet Away (Villanelle)

My love is in social isolation,

Six feet apart, masked, gloved hands, forced to hide

COVID-19’s viral decimation.

Virtual hugs are no consolation,

Our gloved hands reach outside, never inside;

My love is in social isolation.

A galaxy away, aberration:

Screen time, blue light of phone, tears that have cried,

COVID-19’s viral decimation.

Language of love is in devastation:

Two worlds and computer screens, love denied,

My love is in social isolation.

Gloved hands hold love, viral incubation,

Daily statistics of those who have died,

COVID-19’s viral decimation.

The stars go out in our constellation,

Love cannot cross over the great divide:

My love is in social isolation,

COVID-19’s viral decimation.

 

Walsall Poem (COVID-19)

If the pandemic begins to worsen

Keep it together – but six feet apart;

Social distancing – length of a tall person,

Communication by eyes, voice and heart.

We need poetry now more than ever,

It’s limited social interaction;

Social distancing – let’s stay together

On digital platforms, an attraction.

Our hands are cracked, we’ve used up all the soap

Walsall behind bars, quarantine, lockdown;

Social distancing – poetry is hope

We need lots of that in our Walsall town.

Former Walsall Poet Laureate on social distancing

A former Poet Laureate from Walsall has been commissioned to write a series of poems for Walsall for All about social distancing and COVID-19.

Ian Henery was appointed Walsall’s first-ever Mayor of Walsall’s Poet Laureate by Councillor Garry Perry on National Poetry Day in 2011 and served under Councillors Dennis Anson and Mohammad Nazir until 2014.

Ian is the author of 5 collections of poetry, all of which have sold out, a playwright under commission with a trilogy for  China West Midlands 2020 and a workshop facilitator.  He performs on stage with the poetry collective Poets Against Racism and last year performed around the region at 5 music and arts festivals.

“These poems were written at a time when Ramadan was under way” explained Ian “and set to be observed by millions of Muslim people.  The coronavirus pandemic greatly affected the rituals which were modified to fit physical distancing measures in place all over the globe.  I was greatly  inspired by what Muslim people were doing at this difficult time.”

Matt Hancock praised the Muslim community for making changes in how they marked Ramadan during the lockdown.

“The world needs to come together to keep safe” said Ian “but, ironically, coming together means staying apart to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by social distancing.  In a time of limited social interaction we can see the power of words.  It’s a difficult time for everyone and we need poetry more than ever quite simply to bring people together – but six feet apart and not six feet under”.

Ian shared these poems on a global platform called Speak Your Peace.  It was a 5 week global expressive arts series based entirely online.  The event was hosted by iLikeZach in New York in partnership with the Stafford Space Station.

“For 1 hour each week expressive individuals were invited to join a Zoom session online curated by Zach to share their poems, art and music” said Ian.  “The core purpose was simple – to demonstrate that amidst the fear, uncertainty and separation that we are all currently processing – the human capacity to express experience through art forms will always prevail over the limits of our circumstance.”

Ian was joined by the Staffordshire Poet Laureate and the former Worcestershire Poet Laureate.  The poems for Walsall for All were well received.  Ian also read the poems at other virtual open mic performances in Birmingham, the Black Country and Brighton.   Hope Radio, which broadcasts on 87.9FM, wants to do a feature on these poems for Walsall for All and the general relaxing of lockdown routines in Walsall.

The vision of Walsall for All is to create an integrated and inclusive community where people from all backgrounds come together and celebrate what they have in common.

 

The Language of Social Distancing – COVID-19 (Sonnet)

Six feet apart and not six feet under,

Grieving families with hands on window panes

Quarantined, masked grandchildren in the rain.

Coronavirus has torn asunder,

Waves with the rush of tsunami thunder

Engulfing constellations of sorrow;

The curl of surf, trembling foam of woe –

Pandemic, the news-drunk virus plundered.

Unite! Come together – but stay apart,

Social distancing – wash hands and wear masks,

It’s the language of love, it’s all we ask

As the coronavirus scales ramparts.

Communicate by voice, eyes and heart,

Life can’t be measured by inches and feet

But love and respect, kind deeds, words so sweet

Let’s begin again and our lives restart.

 

I Love You – From 15 Million Miles & 6 Feet Away (Villanelle)

My love is in social isolation,

Six feet apart, masked, gloved hands, forced to hide

COVID-19’s viral decimation.

Virtual hugs are no consolation,

Our gloved hands reach outside, never inside;

My love is in social isolation.

A galaxy away, aberration:

Screen time, blue light of phone, tears that have cried,

COVID-19’s viral decimation.

Language of love is in devastation:

Two worlds and computer screens, love denied,

My love is in social isolation.

Gloved hands hold love, viral incubation,

Daily statistics of those who have died,

COVID-19’s viral decimation.

The stars go out in our constellation,

Love cannot cross over the great divide:

My love is in social isolation,

COVID-19’s viral decimation.

 

Walsall Poem (COVID-19)

If the pandemic begins to worsen

Keep it together – but six feet apart;

Social distancing – length of a tall person,

Communication by eyes, voice and heart.

We need poetry now more than ever,

It’s limited social interaction;

Social distancing – let’s stay together

On digital platforms, an attraction.

Our hands are cracked, we’ve used up all the soap

Walsall behind bars, quarantine, lockdown;

Social distancing – poetry is hope

We need lots of that in our Walsall town.

– Poems By Ian Henery.

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.