‘Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness.’ – Alice Walker
In an era where enemies of free expression, progressive politics, and justice have been strengthened, legitimised and centred in mainstream discourse and consciousness it is more necessary than ever for artists to keep creating and for writers to keep writing. The lifeblood of rebellion and revolution that Walker speaks of is the necessary elixir of life; it is the beating heart of those who are committed to struggling for a better, braver world for all; it is the seed of hope we cling to in times of darkness and despair. Poetry is an instrument for change in difficult, challenging and uncertain times and the poet’s voice, if used well, can be a powerful voice of resistance and reason.
Poetry is a genre frequently chosen by resistance writers in the West as well as the Global South – it is a mode of expression without limitation, with infinite possibilities, pregnant with complexity. Poetry, firmly part of the musical tradition, offers the practical advantages of being accessible, easier to copy and commit to memory than prose; easier to distribute, chant and perform publicly than either fiction or memoirs. Through poetry we resist by transmitting oral histories, we re-define the very possibilities of language, form, and style, we exorcise our deepest darkest fears and reveal repressed truths be them universal or personal. It is no coincidence that along with journalists, playwrights, musicians, and other creatives and spokespeople, poets have often found themselves targeted by the state when the state becomes totalitarian.
Knowing the power and weight of words I embarked upon a career as a poet three years ago. In May 2016 I published my debut collection of poetry, Elephant, in which I addressed the many elephants in the room – racism, sexism, misogynoir, classism, police brutality and deaths in custody to name just a few. I have been fortunate to access this mode of creativity as another method through which to centre marginalised voices that are often on society’s periphery, ignored by the mainstream. I’m thrilled that the next step in my work involves forming a partnership with Housmans Radical Book Shop, an ally and home to the very voices I am committed to centring and highlighting.
It is with great pleasure that I announce as of March 2017 I am the store’s inaugural Poet-in-Residence. Over the next eight months I will be developing a programme of engaging events and workshops, encouraging a new wave of people to visit the book shop, engage with the amazing books and zines on sale and find a home within Housmans walls of resistance. Starting with a launch on Thursday 16th March, over the next few months you can expect workshops on resistance writing; re-inventing poetry traditions, and meditations on notions of belonging and home; as well as an event marking the first anniversary of the release of Elephant in May. The initiative is new and we hope this will be the beginning of something ongoing at Housmans – it is a true testimony to the open-mindedness of the team that they would take an idea by an independent artist and run with it in the way they have. I am looking forward to a very fruitful and timely partnership with Housmans on our new residency programme and I am really looking forward to interacting with a new audience over the next eight months, developing my creative skillset, and working towards meaningful change through the power of the written and spoken word.
Keep an eye out on Housmans social media (@HousmansBooks) and mine (@Sianaarrgh) for real time updates. You can also find out more about me and my work at www.sianabangura.com