Normally I write a lot, but not this week; I’ve been more too distracted by the fact London, the city I was born in and have lived in for close to two decades, has morphed into something I don’t recognise. The shit has hit the fan, and the only thing I’ve put to paper revolves around my disbelief/anger/sadness at the riots currently sweeping the UK.
The situation has got me thinking though – How much of a responsibility do writers, especially poets, have during times like this? On the one hand, poetry is a fantastic way of seeing things in a different or clearer light. All the political pieces I’ve written stem from failed attempts to explain something I believe in; thanks to poetry, I can write something comparing human rights to ice-cream to get a point across. But does that really help anything?
I’m 19 and the number of people my age I know who can’t name one poet is ridiculous. Getting into spoken word was a happy accident – I’ve always written things, but said I didn’t like poetry until a fluke application lead to me coming third at the Roundhouse’s brilliant Summer Slam two years ago. The most depressing piece of information I’ve heard throughout this whole thing is the name of the only non-destroyed shop on Clapham High St: Waterstones. If even looters won’t take books, what hope have we got of them reading the things we write?
I think the question comes down to whom we are writing for, but the list is a long one. Government officials or the rioters themselves? Young people or their parents? The media? The police? Everyone? I don’t know. What I do know is that we have to try to get our voices heard. Cliché it might be, but art has always been a response to the happenings of the world, good and especially bad. Words are a powerful thing, and their potential to cause change should not be underestimated.
Bridget Minamore is a poet: she is a member of the Rubix Collective of poets, and finished 3rd in the 2009 Roundhouse Poetry Slam. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bridgetminamore, and read more of her thoughts at http://bridgetminamore.tumblr.com/.