Today was a nerve wracking moment. I brought a group of the poems back to the group at LDHAS, for them to see. People read through the work, thinking about it, staying quiet. Then one asked if I wouldn’t mind reading out a poem that her partner had written.
I started to read it to her alone, but as I did people drew towards us. It became a mini performance, with an audience of four or five. At the end of it there was smiles. Read it again she said. And then afterwards she shook her head and said affectionately, he’s such a dickhead isn’t he?
I read another piece, and another. They were put into peoples’ pockets, folded away, to be kept or passed on to others. A few minutes later, she came back to me with her friend. I think I’d like to have a go she said. She seem nervous, twiddling her fingers and breaking eye contact in between her questions.
How long will it take? Do I have to write anything down? What about my spelling? What happens to it afterwards?
And so we sat down and she told me her story. I’m not going to share it here, but as she spoke her eyes began to well with tears. And when I paused to ask if it was okay, she shook her head fiercely and said it’s a relief. She kept going, the words very quietly spoken and brimming with sadness. And suddenly I found that I too was in tears. Sometimes that’s the only thing to say.
By Philip Davenport. LDHAS, February 2022
Refuge from the Ravens is supported by the Heritage Fund. In 1798, Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge sparked a literary revolution — poems in everyday language, telling of people on the margins of society. 200 years later, homelessness and social inequality are still with us and even on the rise. This project invited people with lived experience of homelessness and other vulnerable people to meet Wordsworth across time, replying in poetry, art and song in a Lyrical Ballads for the 21st Century.