‘All art really does is keep you focused on questions of humanity…….’ David Bowie
The snippet from Auden’s poem, In Memory of W.B. Yeats, that ‘poetry makes nothing happen…’ is often trotted out as evidence of poetry’s impotence. Certainly, it may not have the immediacy of a lawless street protest, a widely Trump-eted political sound-bite, hard hitting film/documentary or even a salacious headline, but poetry’s role in the world doesn’t seem to be merely a passive one.
Reuben Woolley’s I Am Not A Silent Poet features international poetry responses to war, politics, abuse and injustice. Such has been the success of this site that Reuben now finds himself overwhelmed by both submissions and plaudits and IANASP has been nominated for a Saboteur Award.
Anthony Owen, a poet whose ‘focus on forgotten people and the consequences of international and domestic conflicts’ has seen him selected as a patron for CND Peace Education UK and nominated for the Ted Hughes Prize for his collection The Nagasaki Elder.
Deborah Alma, the Emergency Poet, whose creative idea it was to garner poems from women in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement, for an anthology of the same name. This initiative has resulted in a compelling collection of women poets writing about the pain of abuse, assault and their real-life encounters with misogyny, often for the first time, with extraordinary dignity and courage. Also nominated for a Saboteur Award.
Kate Garrett Neild, mum of five, poet and editor, directed her considerable talents (and energy!) into an initiative to raise money for the Leeds Congenital Heart Fund, after her youngest child was diagnosed with a, thankfully, mild heart problem at birth. The resulting Bonnie’s Crew anthology has reached an impressive total in donations, and is still growing.
There are many more examples of poetry making things happen. Poetry to help raise awareness about endangered species, the plight of elephants and rhinos, environmental issues, refugee crises and to raise funds for every kind of charity, from protecting cats to helping the victims of earthquakes, floods and famine. On questions of humanity, poetry is definitely at the forefront – and as Auden also said, in the same poem, ‘…….it survives/A way of happening, a mouth…..’