Amanda Gorman’s recital at Biden’s inauguration demonstrated once again the power of poetry and its value in communicating feelings that may otherwise be difficult to express, particular around power and powerlessness, hope or hopelessness and our sense of belief in being able to effect change, or not.
This poet laureate has me inspired to finalise my housing and poetry post I have been meaning to complete for some time, but the current pandemic situation has left me exhausted and so short of time. It has however also reminded me that we need to do everything we can to continue to promote the importance of decent housing both at a time of Coved-19 and well beyond.
I have always enjoyed reading and writing poetry. In fact, it was my best subject I took at O level. Working and studying housing tends to be a ‘science’ subject and this has always perplexed me, one of the reasons I set up this website in the first place. I have previously referred to some work I did years ago on post Apartheid housing policy back in the 1990s and was moved by many poems I read at that time, talking not just of poor living conditions and homelessness, but also land rights. (see also books) One such poet is Pat Magebhula who wrote this around 1994 (from Utshani Buyakhuluma, A People’s Dialogue Report):
“…. I remain nobody
Because the body I live in
Has no home ….
…. How can I sleep when they try to fob me off with toilets
….When my ancient land rights
Are mocked ….”
Returning to the UK, there is poetry penned by those with direct lived experience of different living environments.
Evrah Rose describes herself as a ‘injustice driven poet’ and and delivers passionate spoken poetry about the strengths growing up on an estate have her.
There is also spoken poetry about the private rented housing sector. Here Deanna Rodgers appeals to landlords to better understand young renters’ needs.
There is also poetry written from the outside, looking in, and perceptions about planning and housing. John Betjeman held strong views about town planners, such as in The Town Clerk’s Views. He tells use that town planners have “plans to turn our country into hell”. He goes on, with irony, that: “variations in our scenery” should be obliterated, ensuring sameness everywhere and doing away with older buildings so that:
“Such Georgian relics should by now, I feel,
Be all rebuilt in glass and polished steel…
Hamlets which fail to pass the planners’ test
Will be demolished. We’ll rebuild the rest….
Until we’ve really got the country plann’d”
I am sure there is much more poetry about housing and the meaning of home and it would be good to capture it here (with acknowledgements). If you have any examples, I would be very pleased to hear from you.