Skip to main content

Review - Refugees Welcome: poems in a time of crisis



Refugees Welcome – poems in a time of crisis. Edited by Oliver Jones. Eyewear: 20/20 special edition (2015) www.eyewearpublishing.com.

“We like the idea of the South. / Until it knocks on our door.” (Rishi Dastidar) This is the first stanza of the first poem in this small and powerful anthology.

Poems take risks, make generalizations, in order to get to the defining element of psycho/social reality. Politics assumes it speaks on behalf of the nation it claims to serve. But who does it really serve? That is the question for the poem.

Who is served when we take in refugees or immigrants? While we tend to think of them as the other, the other knows we are the privileged, who can, in the comfort of our living rooms or office debate the issue as though it is an abstract, rather than life or death.

Thomas McColl imagines the dreams of those who have nothing else to claim … “eyelids turned into wings … above and across the barbed wire”. The vulnerability of life without walls and insurance policies is captured in Kate Noakes observation between “Black black rocks / oily with dawn / an early lamb”, reminding us how fragile our bodies are when most of us work so hard to surround ourselves with symbols of security. But refugees, war, prejudice and corporate power enter the village like “A limp rag doll, washed up on the kitchen table” (Angela T. Carr).

Sophia-Louise Hyde asks us to mind the gap between “#indifferent” and “#hope”. Devices like social media almost parenthesize civilization as we live it from day to day. Media says if it bleeds it leads but the instrument doesn’t weep, and we do even though we try not to admit it.

“Our humanity diminished” writes Adele Fraser, where “the sea, cold, unconscious, welcomed where we did not.” Civilization is much more than the economy, it is about being human and living from a human consciousness. The poet reminds us that we are entering into madness when we fail to remember who we are. Metaphor is a short cut to do that. “There is a place where the wing tears.” writes Margo Berdeshevsky. Civilization has enabled us to fly and to believe it is our individual egos that created that.

Much of corporate media feeds into the myth that we are superior because of what we have and to leave out the part of how we arrived here. George Symonds closes his poem with “Papers, papers, everywhere / And not a word believed.” So if our own creations are no longer believed what is left? Compassion?

Sally Flint confesses to have “held children who died when taken / by illness who no medic could save. / But someone could have helped” Aylen Kurdi, the 3 year old toddler found washed up by the tide.

It’s not enough to know that the instruments of power have destroyed civilizations many times before. We need to ask how those instruments work to make us less human, to oppress the spirit for the glorification of power over life. We need to see our own children in the ones who have been sacrificed for constructed goals. We need to stop making excuses for ourselves. While preaching closes the mind and the book, the image persists.

In this book there are forty pages of images that will waft into your mind and heart, to consider the link between the value of your life, and where that value comes from.

Other poets in this book are Zena Hashem Beck, Andrew Oldham, Ellen Davies, Antony Owen, Jim C Mackintosh, Rosemary Appleton, Emma Lee, Monica Corish, Janet Vickers, Kathleen Bell, Frank Dullaghan, and Colleen Sensier.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

About Humanity

"A chosen people is the opposite of a master race, first, because it is not a race but a covenant; second because it exists to serve God, not to master others. A master race worships itself, a chosen people worships something beyond itself. A master race believes it has rights; a chosen people knows only that it has responsibilities." Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Not in God's Name, Schocken, New York. 2015.

As someone who does not identify as a chosen people or part of a master race, I ruminate about how to respond to the world, particularly that part of the world I cannot endorse. So I am comforted by the people who have taken on ministry and who feel responsible enough to care for community.

How do I act on a feeling of responsibility without assuming that I know what other people should do, or what we should do? It's very easy to slip into a political preaching that suggests I know, or that my being a good example means that others should follow it. Or worse yet, create…

Creating Chaos

A very important article in The Guardian analyses the rise of hyper-masculinity and the phenomenon of Angry White Men.  "Sociologist Michael Kimmel is one of the world’s foremost experts on the phenomenon. - His recent research has looked at topics including spree killers (who are overwhelmingly male and white), as well as the relationship between masculinity and political extremism."

In the article there is a report on a study on testosterone where 5 monkeys are observed. The one who rises to the top beats up number 2 and number 2 beats up number 3 - and so it goes down to number 5. 

"So the experiment is: he takes monkey three out of the cage and he shoots him up with testosterone, off the scale, and puts him back in. What do you think happens? When I tell this story my students always guess that he immediately becomes number-one monkey. But that’s not true. What happens is that when he goes back in the cage he still avoids monkeys number one and two – but he beats the …

Albert Camus: Our task