Report by Martin Russo
Enfield’s Poem-A-Thon successfully raised funds at the Dugdale Centre, for the Enfield Refugee Welcome, the first Community Sponsorship group in the country to offer an opportunity of a new life to a family of refugees through the vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme. Packed full of poets and an appreciative audience, the event had already surpassed its target of £9000 before it had even finished and cakes helped to fuel both poets and the audience.
Poet and organiser of the Poem-A-Thon, Maggie Butt said: "Poetry is important because it gets to the heart of what it means to be human, and reminds us of what we share in common across the apparent barriers of race, age, gender, faith and language. So a poem originally written hundreds of years ago or thousands of miles away, can make me say: 'Yes, that’s what it feels like! Yes, that’s how it is for me. Yes, that helps me see more clearly.'
"Poetry connects through metaphor and the music of words, into a deeper place in us. It unlocks doors in our understanding.
"It can also help by connecting and reminding us of what’s important, by taking a small stand - as has been said many times before - by lighting a candle in the darkness. It also helps the people who write it, by allowing them to make sense of the world, to shape their own thoughts and feelings in a creative act.
"It’s been said that poetry is as good as medication for some mental health conditions. In her work with Highfield Primary School Cheryl Moskowitz has proved the power of poetry to enable children to express themselves and connect with each other.
"Poetry can help people as in an event like the Poem-A-Thon where the poetry community has joined with the community of Enfield to create a magical day which has raised money to give a new life to refugee children."
What prompted the idea to fundraise for refugees? She said: “When I heard that Enfield Refugee Welcome was the first community sponsorship group in the country to get permission from the Home Office to resettle a refugee family under the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Act, I was so proud that my home borough was the place that this was happening. It sometimes feels so hard to do anything to help, when we see the enormity of the problem, but here were ordinary people taking matters into their own hands, and making a real difference to lives. I remembered that the poet Jacqueline Saphra had held a Poem-a-thon two years ago for Medicine Sans Frontieres, and I decided to see if we could hold one of our own in Enfield.”
You might have thought, the numbers would dwindle, or that only a few people had decided to turn up on a Sunday morning, staying for a short while, but it was packed all day. It was held in Enfield’s small museum inside the Dugdale centre. The current board games archive from former resident manufacturer the ‘Spears’ company, along with other toys, sat, like the audience, transfixed at each stanza and word that filled the room with a flickering of observations on life.
Ambition and vibrancy stood out amongst the new and established poets, delivering a rhythmic twang and sense of place, experience and feeling. Each poetic voice filled the hot room with a sense of conviction, promise and confidence. Plucking out ideas and freely sharing them to an attentive, hungry and intrigued audience, sitting and listening.
John Hegley opened the poem-a-thon, closely followed by Enfield Poets lead Anthony Fisher, followed by Valerie Darville, Irene Richards, Sonia Jerema, Mary Duggan and children from the Highfield Primary School. See the full list of poets. It was fittingly finished off by Hungarian born poet, arriving as a refugee in the UK aged 8, George Szirtes.
Perhaps poetry does unlock doors, help people connect and motivate communities to act. Perhaps, the art of poetry is offering an alternative support for us all?
The Twitter feed account, @poem_a_thon, offered a taster of the poetry that reads:
Lisa Kelly reading on behalf Christine Web, the journeyman "tapping the wood curls out of his turn ups" #poemathon
#poemathon @marrydugg of foreign storms, "translated the whiplash into the istrian tounge"
Fiona Moore on a dog in Athens "ur dog to our ur selves... He stands fore square with his masked anarchist gang" #poemathon
Peter Phillips on the insidious, in its many forms, "our roots are deeper than you can dig" #poemathon
You can get a sense of the day with this live twitter feed: