Exciting News & PoetsIN
Long time no post. I’ve been absolutely slammed but while I have a minute or two, I thought I’d check in and let you know what I’ve been up to and let you all know about some exciting opportunities.
Some of you will remember the Letters from Prison Portal here, where Paul and I would visit prison, teach writing workshops, and post their pieces here. This is where PoetsIN was born. Paul and I realised that writing was a form of therapy and the prisoners were reporting astounding results.
After parting ways with Prose, we tailored our groups further with an emphasis on rehabilitation, mental illness, and suicide prevention. We began to measure the outcomes of each session, and over a set period of time had evidence that what we do worked with 99% of the service users. To put this into perspective, CBT in the UK via the NHS works in 48% of the cases they work with. If CBT doesn’t work, the service user is given no other therapy. Talking therapy such as counselling is no longer provided on the NHS because that was only successful 29% of the time, which is way below the threshold of success the NHS will work with.
With our 99% success rate we went to the UK Charity Commission. Wrote our governing document, recruited 5 trustees, filled in a ridiculously long application form to register as a charity, and submitted it. Then we waited.
Whilst we sat thinking of all the things we could’ve included in our application but didn’t, and worrying about all the things we may have done wrong, we carried on with our groups. Expanding them and trialling new techniques and measures of capturing data to ensure maximum impact. We got such good feedback from the prison directors that we were offered a grant from a trust for $50k - before we were even a charity - which is unheard of. Visit www.poetsin.com/testimonials to see what people have been saying about what we do.
Four months passed and we finally received our answer. We’d done it! We were a charity.
Since then we have won three awards. We were named Mental Health Heroes 2017 alongside Talia Bennington, Mental health workshop provider of the year 2018, and Nonprofit of the Year 2018. We have also employed some faces you may recognise. The lovely Karen, who used to design Prose images, the badass Lish, and we’ve just hired a wonderful fundraiser, Pippa. MilesNowhere and Amanda Cary have also joined the family and have been vital to PoetsIN, and my own personal sanity.
We are now a week away from launching online writing therapy groups that people can access from wherever they’re located, along with in-community groups external to prisons across certain parts of the UK to begin with.
We also have a growing Facebook Group (www.facebook.com/groups/poetsin) that is full of old faces from here and new faces from beyond, along with a website that has mental health and writing blogs galore.
We’ve opened our own publishing company, PoetsIN Publishing, that offers the best royalties EVER and any royalties taken by PoetsIN Publishing are all ploughed back into the charity to reach more people who need our help. The best thing about the publishing company is that we want to publish poetry. Many traditional publishers don’t. We do. We are publishing print and eBooks, and have already accepted submissions that will be released this year.
We have a current challenge running for an anthology. Our first anthology open submission call was a huge success and will be published within the next month - we’re just putting the final touches to it. The current submission call is on the topic of addiction, and you are all more than welcome to submit! The more the merrier. Visit this link to submit https://buff.ly/2EdHxwe
Those of you in the UK should come down to our huge all day fundraising event in Camden, London 28th July. It is being held at the iconic Nambucca venue that has housed Oasis, Blur, and many more. We have a full day of amazing lineups from spoken word poets, comedians, and acoustic and indie music. All acts are donating their talents and time to us for free along with many companies who have donated prizes that we will raffle and auction off at the event. We also have a Skydive coming up in September, more details about that can be found on our social networks.
There have been people that doubted Paul and I - along with our mission - but our determination, skills, and experience have served us well, built our confidence, and given a much-needed lifeline to those that truly needed keeping safe.
Setting up a charity is far harder than setting up a business, and if we can do that, you guys can do anything. One word, one poem, one story at a time.
Paul and I both hope you’ll join us elsewhere on the interwebs but in the meantime, write on!
#PoetsIN #PoetsINPrison #Charity #NPO #Publishing #WritingContests #GetPublished #Poetry #InsideOut
Past Not Yet Forgotten. Chapter one.
The morning sun begins beaming through the front window, as the bell above the door is heard. A gentlemen in his sixties, suited to booted with a black feathered fedora enters, closing the door behind him. He looks around observing the sports decor of the shop to which he sees no one.
He spoke, " Hello, the sign on the door says open, i was hoping for a shave" his voice resonating off the tile floor.
" I'll be right with you" came a voice from the back room. The gentleman rests his arms behind his back turning to gaze upon the wall opposite of the mirrors and chairs. Hanging in various wooden frames were the pictures of famous actors and athletes, some signed some not.
A few moments later a man steps out from the dim lit back room, straight razor in his right hand. His left hand held one side of a two foot long brown leather strap, the other end connected to his belt. Looking over the gentlemen, " A shave was it?" he asks. Closing the razor, setting it on his work station, also letting the strap fall next to his left leg. "Allow me to get your coat sir, please sit and make yourself comfortable." he said as he helped slide the coat off the mans shoulders, turning around to hang it upon the rack.
The gentleman plops into the older style red cusioned metal polished barber chair, slouching into a relaxed position.
The barber lines the mans neck with sanex tape, before covering his front with the white cape. His foot poses on a lever behind the chair, pressing it down a few times to lean the gentlemen back. The barber then pauses looming at the back room for a few moments then continues. In front of the mirror he grabs a hot towel out of the steam box, wrapping it around the stubble of the gentlemens face. He then leans towards the chestnut box which house his razors, he picks up the one he had set on the counter. Grabbing the strap hanging from his waist, he stretches it out and begins to sharpen the blade. Gazing down, the barber speaks "You arrived at the perfect time sir, i had just finished prepping for my day and my first appointment isnt for an hour or so." Removing the towel from his face the gentlemen recalls "While visiting a good friend of mine George Démere, he passed on fine words that Gideon Smyth gives the closest, smoothest shave in this here county; so here i am!"
Smiling Gideon responds "Well then i shall let you be the judge of that, it will be my absolute pleasure." Ten minutes pass by Gideon has finished, placing a cold compress against the mans face.
"Now then my good sir which cologne will complement you?" asked Gideon. Opening a frosted glass cabinet where many evenly spaced bottles are shelved. The glass bottles read
Bois Du Portugal,
Tribu, Zizanie, Mitsouko, Crown Fougere and Caswell-Massey Number Six. All early 1900s classics. The gentleman picks Number Six, dabs it on his wrists then applies it to his neck and collar. "Closest and smoothest indeed" cheers the gentlemen as he lifts his coat from the rack putting it on and buttoning the front. The man then turns to Gideon asking "By the way my name is Walter Snow; what's the charge for this fine work Mr Smyth?" " The cost is $10 Dollars, but since Ol George sent you its only five Dollars today" remarked Gideon. Walter hands him a five, he thanks the barber again and proceeds out the door. Seeing Walter out the door he waits a moment looking out the glass door, left and then right. Gideon locks the door, flipping the sign to closed before drawing down the blinds on the door and front window. Letting out a grunt of annoyance he walks to his station lifting the razor from the counter, he proceeds back to the room in the rear. Striding through the doorway, closing and locking the door behind him. Gideon walks to a curtain hanging from the ceiling encircling the middle of the room. Drawing it back and stepping in he is waist height next a metal surgical table with a lip that has a four inch depth. He puts on a pair of gloves from a box on the table. A coma sedated woman in her mid twenties lay there stripped bare only covered by a white sheet. Her head freshly cut down to a stubble, Autumn colored hair sealed in a mason jar by her shoulder. Gideons fingers stroke her left cheek, his voice changes into a deep baritone as he speaks to her unconscious body. "You thought that daddy would make it all better didn't you?" Gideon chuckles. He continues " You, your family, and your friends are all the roots of the hell that terrorized many peoples youth ." He pauses pulling the sheet down past the curve of her thighs, trailing his finger tips down and around her warm skin.
" Your friends and you teasing and taunting with your bodies using every boy who'd chase you around. I know what you're thinking Amelia Snow, why just you? Rest easy your friends and family will have there turn on this table. Best part is im not gonna let you rot away and go to waste in some woods. As well as being a very skilled barber, there are some leisures of also owning a pig farm."
Man eats shark, Albacore, Pike, Halibut, who eats tuna and trout, that consumes salmon, pollock as well as oysters all eating krill which feeds on the microplastics that breaks apart from all the plastic we have fed our earth. Enjoy your next meal!
It didn’t occur to me at the time that it was unusual to communicate without words. I used words with Mum and Dad, but when I was with Nan and Granddad, we thought with one another.
They were deep country folk. They lived way out in the bush, raising cattle and carving away a humble living. A land near forgotten, their farm appeared on no map, and it was hours from the nearest town. Such is the way in outback Australia. It wasn’t until I was much older that I considered that they were this far away from civilisation on purpose.
Few words passed between them when I came to stay. I would watch Granddad repair the wire fences, and Nan while she cooked and maintained the house and garden. They could be kilometres apart but still hear one another, though they were still laconic, even in their minds.
My Granddad was a tall man, with large rough hands, and he always wore a checked shirt and a wide brimmed hat. His skin was dark from years in the harsh sun, and deep wrinkles like the cracks in the red earth he strode upon. Yet despite his age, he possessed the strength of two men, easily lifting great wooden posts and hammering them into the hard soil.
Nan could speak to the animals and they would come and tell her things. The Kookaburras would sing to her in the morning, and the Kangaroos would jump and dance and show off their barrel chests and thick tails. Even flies which would normally swarm and hold your sweaty form in shadow, were repelled as if by some invisible force field. I asked once what the animals talk to her about. She held me close and responded in thought “The coming of day, the passing in to night, and little secrets, my darling.”
I was five when I received my first invitation. It was like a gentle hum that wisped down from the clouds and carried on the wind. It was melodic, peaceful and it sent ticklish prickles down the back of my neck. I looked out at Nan and Granddad, one in the paddock and the other in the garden, and saw them look to the sky where the clouds had rippled into waves, and slowly begin to clear. I could sense an agreement between the two of them, and then they went back to work.
After dinner that night, I didn’t sit next to the fire which was my ritual. Instead, Nan put my jacket on, Granddad fastened his wide brimmed hat, and I walked between the two, a hand for each of them, through the paddock towards the setting sun.
We walked for a long time. The last of the rich golden light danced on the sunburnt earth intensifying the deep orange rust shattered sparely with green. Even as the sun dipped into slumber, we continued to walk.
The sky was splattered with stars when I heard the low deep throbbing hum of the didgeridoos and clapping sticks. “Almost there, my darling” Nan thought. I trudged my way up a dirt mound and peered over and below to see dozens of dark men and women covered in paint. Their faces, their hair, their entire bodies painted in rich yellows, earth reds and starlight white. Guided only by the luminous moon, they danced in circles, dust clouds hovering like mist where they kicked up dirt.
An old woman approached us with a wooden bowl in hand. No words were exchanged. She stood in front of Granddad, dipped her hand in the bowl, and caressed his forehead with white paint. Then his cheeks, and his nose. He took off his wide brimmed hat, and the old woman ran her hands through his hair. She stepped over to Nan and performed the same ritual, painting with precision and purpose.
The old woman then looked to me, her face placid and wise. She knelt down in front of me, and lifted my chin, observing my face critically. She spoke for the first time in a language I didn’t understand. To my surprise, Nan responded in the same language. Though I didn’t understand what was said, I sensed the feeling. Confirmation. The old lady looked deep into my eyes, seeing past me, through me, to what was behind my eyes. She found what she was looking for. The corner of her mouth lifted in a smirk. She dipped her hand in the bowl and anointed my hair and face with white paint. It felt cool and sticky on my skin.
The three of us entered into the circle that enclosed the group. Their dancing mesmerised me. They swayed and stamped and clapped their hands. They shifted on their heels and toes, dragging themselves across the dirt and sand, arms outstretched above, below or to the side. As I watched them contort their bodies to the rhythm of the music, I briefly caught a flash of the essence of the animals they imitated break free and pierce reality. The graceful emu, the unstoppable kangaroo, the fearsome snake. But something else caught my eye. A glimpse of something I’d never seen before. As tall as two men, its skin almost see through…
One of the dancing men stopped and pointed to the sky. In the second it took me to look up and back, the thing was gone. I held on to Nan and Granddad a bit tighter. The music ceased and one by one, they found a spot on the ground, laid on their backs and looked to the sky. Nan and Grandad moved in with the group and laid me down between them. I looked at the ocean in the sky taking in the infinity of glistening stars.
One star in particular caught my attention. It shimmered in such a way that it appeared to be moving. And then it dropped, as if caught by gravity’s grip. A moment later, another star plummeted toward Earth. And then another. Dozens more cascaded from the depths of space lighting the way for the hundreds of stars that followed, unplucking themselves from the sky, evicted like fruit from the celestial tree that holds the universe together.
My heart pounded but I couldn’t move. I was trapped in my body. I tried to move my arms, my legs, even blink my eyes. I tried to scream, to cry out, but all attempts failed. I could do nothing but stare as the stars came tumbling down to earth.
As they came closer, I noticed they were different colours. Some glowing bright and sharp, and others soft pastel, in blues and turquoise, pinks, yellows, oranges and mauves. These couldn’t be stars, they were something else entirely.
And then they stopped above us. Some so close that if I could only stand, I could jump up and touch them. I could feel the warmth it exuded, and the sound they made was a familiar deep bone vibrating throb. These orbs sounded like didgeridoo’s. They droned in waves, each at different frequencies, blasting through me in to the depths of the earth.
Then slowly, they lifted higher and began to twirl and chase each other around in ellipses, hypnotising me with their shapes and colours. They swirled and swayed expanding larger and larger pulling at me to follow. I could feel myself leaving my body, lifting higher into the air, weightless and free. I could hear speaking, in a rich language that rang deep and true like the sound of the didgeridoo. I felt like I was held within the palm of a hand. The inner cogs and switches that guided my existence were being adjusted and re-worked. The language I was hearing began to make sense.
‘….should be able to understand’ said a voice.
I strained desperately to hear, but my mind was fogging quickly.
‘That will do for now. Too much at a time and he might…’ was all I heard before I drifted to sleep.
When I next came to, I was looking down on the ground, over the shoulder of my grandfather, who held me close in his powerful hands. The stars were returned home and the painted people were gone. Nan followed closely behind, watching the ground as she walked. She looked different than before. She walked with deftness, as if she had the energy of her youth returned to her. The rhythm of Granddad’s walking rocked me gently back into rest. As my eyes became heavy and I succumbed softly into sleep, Nan sang tenderly in the odd language I heard in the sky.
We’re in the air that you breathe
The stars in the night
The whispers in wind
Elusive to sight
But you’re the invited
One of a few
There’s work to be done
And we’ve chosen you
Disappointment a wound that has No ointment. Stacked tall and towered, emotions wet like you showered. Fully clothed dripping wet, fragile state when your upset. A day in disappointment is a week in sorrow, searching for happiness that you can borrow. Tomorrow, will it be a better day, or are you stagnant where you lay?
A whispering tune of a mission that plays if you listen,
to the dream skies in your eyes, upon looking up, will glisten.
Breathing is more than what nostrils are smelling, a breath even greater, than lungs repeatedly swelling.
A true breath, the one that bends your mind, expanding ones comfort til confusions refined.
Not what ya tink it be...
″ They say dead men tell no tales" he mutters in a deep weathered accent, as he lifts himself out of the old wooden chair. He rum walks to the window on the port stern of his tattered old ship. Pushing open the window he turns back at you, resting his back against the sil. ” Tad old sayin be fer da fools not yet met old Hob, or worst ta dark abyss dat neva let ya see light of day” his voice pained as he returns to look out over the sea. "What ya see before ya, me ship, sails, keel every ting dat let a man be free."Lowering his head, his face fades underneath
his large black leather tricorn hat with a sleek silver feather falling to the back. A red glow begins to illuminate from his face behind the hat. You close your eyes, hoping when you open them you’ll be gone. He whips your head back against the chair, your eyes bursting open to see him inches from your face, his eyes burning with blood red fire. His voice rattles you with a demonic roar, " m I borin ya der ya bilge rat? den we shall make damn sure ye eyes be opened now.” Suddenly your both on the deck, his hands on the wheel, you frozen in your place. A blinding orange light radiates from under the ship, as you feel the ship plunge into weightless free fall. You try to scream, releasing your lips but not a sound is heard. Instead you hear him hooting and hollering, like a cowboy in the west. Whipping around his head towards he’s beside you in a flash. Putting an arm around you his eyes still burning. " I know yer tots, I be tryin to tell ya dat dis ship may have all it need. Ya tink tis me dat be bound by to da ship?” He bellows the laugh of a hundred men " Dis ship be bound to me.....jus like da souls I bring aboard” His hand erupts in size and wraps around your chest ripping you from where you stood. Yanking you in the air he screeches in a deafening yell "Your life be gone and your soul be mine” Slamming your body to the deck, you awake to a thunderous boom, and a clash of lighting flashing through your bedroom window from the storm outside. Gasping for air, feeling around to be sure your home safe in your bed. Looking up at your tv it’s a static white fuzz, (Dead men tell no tales) Gasping you ponder if it was a dream; chuckling into a laugh cause you nodded off to the Pirates marathon playing on the screen.
The neighborhood kids, always, avoid that tree, it's on an empty lot yet they walk across the street.
Whispering to each other as they gaze at the bark, stories about the old treehouse all equally dark.
Truth about this tree lot is a common story to be told, a young teen's emotions he was forced to withhold.
Tormented since young, he's bigger than most in his school, relentlessly cast out by the ones who are " Cool".
Everyday was the same bruises and name calling to be dealt; not even his parents would listen to the pain he always felt.
One night he decided he would no longer be beat, so he climbed into that treehouse and cried himself to sleep.
The next morning the neighborhood went about their day, as he sat in that tree deciding his stay.
Pulling a pistol out his bag feeling that no one will care, pressing it to his brain with a crying stare, knowing not a person was even aware.
A pop sound rings through the neighborhood street, people gazing about and scrambling to their feet.
Chatting about who would shoot a gun and be dumb; when it was the chilling reality that left them all numb.
A death so gripping most couldn't concede, until the cops found the note he left to read.
His shadowed perspective of life he felt forced to leave, because in other and himself he did not believe...
If you can be a voice or have an ear to be lent, then grab them close and lend your heart for a vent.
The dead walk out of the sea, boots planted hands saluting faithfully. Presenting themselves not to bring gore to the shore, yet to show the actual casualties of war. All branched forces lost to the deep, while families everywhere silently weep. All services members drop their hands to their side, and heel toe around to show their backside. "Forward March" shouted by the souls as they all disappear back to the shouls.
Shae Sumdaze - I salute you
TRUESTORY -- I saw a craigslist ad in my area, "Photography or Artist wanted - w4w" and it caught my eye so I clicked in to read, my eyes given a picture first-- her picture.
"Quite the professional looking woman" was my first thought, brows up and smirky smile on my face because there was something about her that inspired me and I couldn't figure it out. Reading helped, it filled in the blanks and made me follow the impulse to message her.
As much as I wanted to be the photographer and artist she was looking for, my excitement overshot my availability and our back-and-forths fizzled out. At some point, reduced to an obscure friendship on facebook. I felt a little like a failure and then one way, I see a post of hers on my facebook feed and I read, and I can't stop reading. Little did I bloody know it would be she who motivated and inspired me, not the otherway around.
22 days ago she posted here on Prose, after I insisted it was the best place to share your writing with a community of other writers, people who can relate. It took me 22 days to get around to reading it and holysmack! was it worth the pause to go check out.
https://theprose.com/post/155326/weighted -- by Shae Sumdaze
I don't want to spoil the brilliant prose of hers, but I will explain why I put this in the LGBT portal. Shae is a transgender woman who spent most of her life as a man, knowing she was a woman no outside eyes could see because of the Y chromosome that made her body genetically and anatomically male. Relitively recently, she's taken the plunge, so to speak, to punch fear in the face and be the woman she's known she was her whole life, and discover the woman she's yet to become.
I post this in the LGBT portal because if you are in community personally, or know a family, friend, co-worker, and even if you're simply a compassionate heart who supports the fight for their rights and understanding in their struggles, I'm asking you to take a moment and read what she has to say, and encourage her to keep writing. Right here on Prose, where writing as beautifully written as hers, belongs. :-p
Thank everyone who pit-stops by this post even for a skimover!
|| Remmy Ar'emen ||