“I already have a story that nobody knows. I am the story.”
~ Ghirmai Yohannes, Eritrean poet
In many cultures, poetry is an integral art form. In a piece called “What’s the point of poetry?”, published to the Brussels Writers Circle website in March 2022, Sarah Reader Harris writes about why poetry is so vital as a creative form of expression. The following is an excerpt from the piece.
When I used to go round the refugee centre inviting people to a poetry workshop, I would often meet with incomprehension: ‘But how will that help me get my papers?’ When people’s lives are in turmoil and they are desperately trying to navigate their way through the confusion of red tape and piece together some sort of future for themselves and their families, how can poetry possibly be relevant?
And yet I remember once going to a talk given by a woman who had been taken hostage and imprisoned and she told us what kept her going was poetry. Lines of poetry that she remembered and would repeat to herself through the endless hours of torture and deprivation. When everything else had been stripped away, she held on to these poems in her head as pearls of great price that nobody could take from her. They gave her comfort and solace and the courage to carry on.
Twelve years ago I started organising poetry workshops in Petit-Château, the biggest and oldest refugee centre in Belgium. We would start off with a poem, originally in Dari or Arabic or Tigrinya, and see if it said anything to us today. We discovered Rumi that way. And Nizar Qabbani and Reesom Haile. And many, many more. Poets are greatly respected in the Middle East and nearly every Palestinian would smile at the name of Mahmoud Darwish as if I had mentioned a friend. The poems brought us together. Sometimes we didn’t understand them. Sometimes they generated a discussion. Sometimes they touched our hearts and we recognised something of ourselves in them. Often it was just seeing the letters of our own language on a page that made us feel less alone.
To continue reading, follow this link: https://brusselswriterscircle.wordpress.com/2022/03/
Sarah Reader Harris (Scotland, Belgium)
Aziz Lamarti (Morocco, Belgium)
Mimi Kunz (Germany, Belgium)
Daisy Tsvete (Bulgaria)