In all our sanctuaries we sit at risk

Rafts in the Flood


The lords of misrule continue to flood our minds and lives with their disgraceful doings. But I can speak here of two small developments which, for me at least, are cheering and act in a way as rafts.

One concerns a new website, designed by Joseph Wolf :

Here is an image taken from the site. It illustrates one of the five collections available there – this one called “Poems for…one world” and consisting of over 100 poems, most of them bilingual, with fifty different languages represented. (Poems for…one worldThe poet David Hart once said of the collection that it is “a way of opening people’s lives to each other”).

The latest issue of an international quarterly magazine called Resurgence features “Poems for…the wall,” and I hope will draw some new people’s attention to the project as a whole, in its striking new colours. Here is a link to the piece.

The project supplies poems free of charge for public display. They come formatted as small posters. When I began it 20 years ago, I called the project “Poems for the Waiting Room.” This is because the original concept was based on the healthcare waiting room, that public space where all of us will find ourselves at some point in our lives, often in times of transition, question and stress. The waiting room can be a lonely place and you can feel quite nameless there, just a body and a symptom. And often we sit nameless and in limbo for quite a while, waiting for our name to be called. Or will it just be : “Next, Please !?” Or just “Next !?”

So let’s put some poetry in this place where everyone gathers. It doesn’t have to be arty. And it’s no substitute for the doctor. It just needs to speak to people and call them by their names.

Then, in recognition of the fact that healthcare waiting rooms offer temporary shelter to, and bring together, people from all backgrounds, sharing perforce their common human frailty, I began (with help) to select bilingual poems. And soon schools got to hear about these and quickly became the project’s main “clients,” so the title had to change. No longer “Poems for the Waiting Room” – simply “Poems for…”

Poems for…any where, any thing. Just poems out here in the open, speaking to people, calling them by their names.

But in some circumstances and settings, that title “Poems for…” could actually sound rather bland and merely empty. Poems for what ? Poems for what not. Poems for a dot and then another dot…

So in 2017 our title has changed again and I think “Poems for…the wall” is a good development.

And let us refer in passing to what a London counselling service called Nafsiyat has done with “Poems for…the wall” this year. Nafsiyat offers counselling to a wide range of people of different mother-tongues. The staff there have bought a large television screen and put it against their waiting room wall. And they have put together a slideshow of the “Poems for…the wall” bilingual poems, carefully selected to reflect the languages spoken by the people likely to sit there. And the poems appear on their new screen in slow rotation, while those people wait for their appointments.

Other poem-poster collections available from “Poems for…the wall” site are : “Poems for…waiting” ; “Poems for…all ages” ; “Poems for…self at sea (on mental ill-health) ; and “Poems for…bridges to learning disability.”

We keep working on the new website and know it can be even better, if only in the odd detail here and there. But at the same time I am confident that it already tells the story of the project quite vividly, as well as providing comprehensive and up-to-date information, as well as making the poems we have available easy of access. So no need to say more here about “Poems for…the wall.”

Instead, let move onto the other development in my personal bit of world, the second “raft” I referred to earlier. It is called “Of Animals and Other Meetings” and is a book of my own poems completed (at last) this year and keen for customers. It is being sold online by Blurb Books. Click here for the link to the hardback version, which costs £15.00 + Vat.

And click here for the link to the paperback version, which costs £8.50 + VAT.

And have a look below at the cover :


The book is “vanity published,” you might say. But in many essentials, I think you would nowadays be wrong to use that rather derogatory phrase. It no longer applies. The role of the publisher has become increasingly redundant. Further, compiling, designing, formatting and proof-reading and finally self-publishing “Of Animals” – which now can be done without specialist expertise, and is actually quite easy – has been an invigorating and exciting addition to the creative process. Like turning a pot from the clay up, from the very clay-pit, you might say – not just inscribing it in its final stages. I have taken real joy in working with an agency called Portugal Prints to produce it and I feel much beholden to them.

Portugal Prints is a mental health arts project and I have known them for years. They are run by Wandsworth and Westminster Mind. Members of the Portugal Prints community have not only helped in the design and formatting of the book proofs, but responded to the poems with drawings and paintings of extraordinary quality. I find them quite wonderful. The finished article is as much their statement as mine. If the book makes any money, one half of the proceeds will go to Mind, the other to a charity I run, called Hyphen-21.

“Of Animals and Other Meetings” is dedicated to my late aunt Pat Boyden. The first version of the first poem in this book (“White Owl by Daylight”) was written almost fifty years ago, in the same house as that in which Pat died this Spring, aged 96 verging on 97. I remember proudly reading the poem to her in the sitting room, by the window, near the fire. I was 21 at that time.

Finally, here is a poem from the collection :




We laid him on his side

shining in the dim light,

his vast head tipped

towards the crown of the slope,

the curved fury of his thighs                                 

flattening the rough gorse of the combe.

And we left him there as a memory

of the glory of it all,

the thunder and joy

of the mornings on the downs

when the rhythm was all one

and my eyes saw only what his eyes saw

and our ears heard nothing

but the onward ecstacy of his hooves.


Rogan Wolf, September 2011