World Poetry Day: Love of verse from poets of different identities

From an Iraqi poet and a PTSD sufferer, to a mother and a poetry blogger tell about why poetry matters.

(Image Credit: Thought Catalog on Unsplash)

Poetry enthusiasts in Cardiff will welcome a new and upgraded celebration of the literary work – online, international and free.

Seren Cardiff Poetry Festival will bring together poets from around the world in a digital sharing session about poetry.

“I want to tell people not to be afraid of poetry,” said Amy Wack, the director of the festival.

Poems are usually not the first choice of reading for most people, compared to other literary genres that are more accessible, such as novels.

However, poetry is just like songwriting in a very condensed, intense and synced form, and people have to throw out the rules simultaneously, according to Amy.

“It’s a bit like people sitting around the campfire telling stories of people and singing. It’s always going to happen,” said she.

“The poetry is not an exam,” said she. “It’s central to the human soul. So people can express themselves and reach out to other people.”

In the run-up to World Poetry Day 2021,we invite Cardiff writers from different cultural and social backgrounds to tell us: why poetry matters?

Abeer Ameer, the author of ‘Inhale/Exile’

A poet from an Iraqi family who lives in Cardiff, Wales. (Image Credit: Abeer Ameer)

“My extended family is Iraqi and lots of things have happened in Iraq.I wanted to share the different stories of the people that I had heard either growing up or when I been there, because they wouldn’t come across them otherwise. Those things kind of changed and affected my outlook.

“ A lot of the poems are actually stories, but they’re in poetry form. There are some expressions in poetry, that really make you see things in a different way. And that’s always valuable when you see things in a different light.

”Sometimes poetry is a means of coping with difficulty, which helps me make sense of things. Other times, it’s a way of expressing myself to others so that others may be can understand something. And you share that, then that can change other people’s perceptions and opinions in a way, but something else won’t be able to do that.

“So for me, that’s quite important that you know you’re bringing more understanding between people.”

Abeer Ameer reads ‘Yet, He Remembers Baghdad – After Edward Thomas’

Kate North, the author of ‘The Way Out’

A writer engaged in poetry, fiction and other stuff also. (Image credit: Kate North)

“Poetry has been used to hand down cultural memory, history between generations since the Epic of Gilgamesh. The Book of Genesis is an attempt to explain or at least establish an understanding of the world’s origins, and it is written in verse.

“I write about the world around me. Things I find fascinating or funny and things that make me happy or angry. I also have two small people who now inform the world in which I live, so naturally, there is more for me to write about. 

” I really like TS Eliot’s thoughts about poetry being a chemical reaction. The poet has emotions and impressions of the world that come together to create something new, in and of themselves. The result is the poem. Poetry is visceral which is vital.

“Poems often express the powerful and the emotional or articulate, difficult concepts and truths. In moments of crisis or at significant communal events like weddings and funerals, people instinctively reach for it. Poetry is on tombstones and in greetings cards. It’s everywhere when you look for it.”

Zoë Brigley, the author of ‘Hand&Skull’

A poet works in The Ohio State University, but originally from Wales. (Image credit: Kate Sweeney)

“I started writing poetry when I was about 4 years old. My mother was an English teacher, and I think she first started me writing because my parents were divorcing at the time, and she wanted to give me a way of processing my feelings. It has been a huge gift to me ever since, though I also think of poetry now as an act of service. I always ask myself when I am writing, will this help and hurt anyone? 

“It would be no exaggeration to say that poetry has saved my life, changed my life course completely. After my experiences of intimate partner violence, I had some PTSD symptoms, and one of the things that has helped me process that is writing. I can’t recommend it enough for anyone going through hard times, especially during this pandemic. It makes such a difference when you are going through a hard time to have somewhere to put your feelings. 

“Poetry is a special way of speaking which captures moments of intense experience – love, sadness, anger, joy, or even laughter. It is an intense experience compressed by form and then combined with the music of rhythm and song, especially in Wales where we have a long and proud bardic tradition.”We appreciate poetry in Wales because it is part of our culture, and in difficult times, it is always something we can fall back on. ”

Rachel Carney, the author of ‘It’s Bonfire Night again’

Poet and Book blogger, Creative Writing tutor at Cardiff University. (Image Credit: Rachel Carney)

“I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated by poetry and stories. My family all love reading. I read and wrote a lot as I was growing up. I studied creative writing at Aberystwyth University, and then I was lucky enough to volunteer at The Wordsworth Trust, where I helped to run poetry performance events. That love of poetry, not just written but also performed, has never gone away.

“I’m inspired by all sorts of things: visual art, nature, people, conversations, reading or listening to poems and stories. I love playing with form. I returned to poetry a few years ago, after going through a really difficult time. I started a blog. Blogging, and reviewing other people’s books, gave me the courage to begin writing again, and I haven’t looked back since.

“Poetry is innate within all of us. Many of us learn the joy of language as babies, listening to nursery rhymes, enjoying the rhythm and sound of words before we even know what they mean. School makes poetry seem difficult, when we’re asked to analyse it, but it’s not meant to be difficult, just playful and multi-layered. Poems can mean very different things to different people, and that’s one of the things I love about it. It’s about playing with language, recapturing that joy, experimenting and making sense in new and unexpected ways. 

“The world would be a dull place without poetry. For me, poetry is a way to be free, to play with language, to communicate things that are impossible to communicate through other forms. Everyone benefits from creativity, and poetry is part of that.”