Jul 8 17

Wise Words


There are numerous festivals across the UK celebrating literature and poetry in all its forms, and the best known in the South East is Wise Words. Organised on a shoe string budget and a strong smile, Beth Cuenco and Workers of Art programme, plan, cajole and magic the festival into being each year – often attracting some of the best known names in contemporary poetry from across the world.

This year I visited with Anthony Anaxagorou to give a performance taken from the first draft of Songs My Enemy Taught Me, and discuss the concept behind the book. It was a packed event, and a rare opportunity for to be able to speak about my work and to answer any questions abut the notion of poetry reportage. Some of the women from that event came to the masterclasses, and one in particular had felt that she might be prevented from attending as she needed to bring her child with her ( or arrange expensive child care). This is something that needs to be urgently addressed across all the arts in the UK; when I began on the scene we made it a founding principle that all women should be able to attend events or workshops – with their child/children. We set up creches at gigs and in the theatres, or encouraged the children to be a part of the audience or workshop group. Somehow we have forgotten mothers, yet again.

The Wise Words masterclass group consisted of women affected by domestic violence, university students, mature middle class women and a former Wise Words Slam winner. It was a good cross section of the Canterbury demographic – from the elite and educated to the silent working classes. The writing was extraordinary.

There are a couple of examples of the poems here – and more to be uploaded once they have been emailed to me. As I don’t own the poems I am dependent in terms of this blog on the participants letting me take poems away or forwarding them on to me.


Zoe Archer

Anguish revealed beneath furrowed brows and white knuckles

That clutch the frames of

Loved ones. Lost ones. The Missing.

Their images contained within carved wooden frames.

Two dimensional caskets.

Living room shrines.

The painful truth is hard to bear

They disappeared. But where?

Questions are futile

But continue to be asked

By those who stand defiant, with white knuckles, and bleeding hearts.

Beth Rose

he fell in love with her

the moment her first saw her

hand cupping clenched palm

five fingers, five toes

he didn’t mean to let go

that his hand would become just another touch

his face would become a faded photograph

propped on a light stand beside her bed

he never heard the first word she said

a man that called himself a father]but never had the daughter to call how own


he never knew his long nights would be spent wanting her home

what was once a family

now a paper chain family held in both hands

no faces

he couldn’t bear to see their expressions looking back at him

just a cardboard cut out

perfected cut out lines

like he always wished it would be

he wishes he could say sorry

that he could thank the man who took her as his won

and love her as his own

when he could not

but he still hold his paper chain family

and he will never let go.



they dipped their beaks into wells of women

submerged, where they shouldn’t go

their predatory eyes engulfing them

sharp. bleak.

the hungry hunters

peck until they are bored

the vultures of the streets

Beth and Zoe