Spring Poetry: Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham

After all that needs to be said has been said through presentations and discussions at our events, there is always still room for poetry.

We invited three poets to provide their own creative take on things at each of our events this year. Here are the poems they wrote and performed on the day. Enjoy.

The Body is Forgiving by Rebecca Tantony

The growth of this building speaks.
Its hair holds the memory of history,
churches made from tobacco strands, 
hospitals built from hard work hands.
The growth of this building isn't measured 
by heaven scraping height,
but by how it is still standing noble. 

Sat here in this building, we are gathered 
in a once ruin. A wreck, cluttered in the crumble 
of an empire. The pump of cultural regeneration, 
the beating thud of integration, here, we are stood 
in the heart of a city 
that is churning out its body for us.

In the elbow of this city we buy property.
Houses painted in a shock of colours
with the pennies from paintings
sold to pissed up punters.

With the fingers of this city we scrawl 
our names in protest,
alongside Bowie, Bjork, Atwood, Haddad,
those who with each hieroglyph
also ached for change.

The palms of this cities hands plant the pips 
of trees with primary school children,
while the cities eyes watch tiny chocolate lilies
open and close from fists to prayer.

The tongue of this city speaks Hindu, 
speaks Spanish, Pakistani, Caribbean, French. 
Speaks Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic, Somali.

The city recycles its memories in cafes
with fair share breakfasts.
Swaps stories of fried okra and dürüms
for cheese and ham sandwiches
and builders tea the colour of rust.

We make laboratories in this city's
green spaces, festivals where this cities 
legs dance and its chest expands.
Here we breathe in unison.
Remembering how brave and scared
we always were,
remembering the particles that connect us
this transplant of self to other
this experimentation of change 
covered in glitter.

This city is 4% hydro, 54% wind, 
21% solar, 21% bio, 
30% optimistic, 10% equal, 
40% unsure
100% trying to understand freedom.

We cross over this city's spine like a bridge,
through a thug of fog where clouds
pass through the infinite potential with us
and as this city pulses and moves
within this city we stand
knowing we contain it all;

The wreck and ruin
the crumble of an empire
a growth 
that isn't measured by heaven scraping height
but by how I, We, Us
are still standing noble.

Performed at Powering Change in Bristol on 19th February 2016 at Tobacco Factory Theatre

Our City, Our Planet by Martin Stannage

This is my provocation, so as I take the mic,
Picture a glacier dissipating; I’m here to break the ice,
That’s the problem, the question is, how do we make it right?
Will the next generation pay the price if we don’t change our way of life?

Global warming is no longer shrouded in mystery,
And if you know about this city, we were founded on industry,
Factories with clouds of smoke bellowing out of chimneys,
Now how can we be carbon-free in 2050?

What can we do? Who should be under scrutiny?
Is it just the UN or U-‘N’-me?
Is it how we produce the clothes we wear, the food we eat?
Can we fuel our human needs without bringing the planet to its knees?

Well today we form a panel, like we’re soaking in the sun rays,
To suss ways to sustain this energy, and someday,
The tides will turn, it’s within range,
If we innovate, and inspire ideas to bring in the prevailing winds of change…

Curb our workaholic habits in a world that’s manic,
Waste less food, eat local, organic,
What we really need is clean air, less traffic,
We can all make a change to our city, our planet.

We’re living on a broken globe, solar rays blazing through the ozone’s holes,
We know it’s real, Leonardo DiCaprio told us so!
A titanic problem, only now, it’s the iceberg that’s sinking,
We know this already, but how do we feel it as well as think it?

“Decolonise our imaginations”, see through the author’s eyes,
Cos art is the truth that overcomes corporate lies,
When we lose our human rights, then there’s nothing but wrongs,
When “home becomes a hostile lover”, then we lose our mother tongue,

Close tab – the media onslaught has got us desensitised,
Building our shrines of everyday things, while our surroundings are gentrified,
But we can we make use of our green spaces before they’re all colonised?
Even on a tight budget, can we make a compromise?

Curb our workaholic habits in a world that’s manic,
Waste less food, eat local, organic,
What we really need is clean air, less traffic,
We can all make a change to our city, our planet.

Performed at Our City, Our Planet on 1st March 2016 in Manchester at Contact

Sustainable Future by Amerah Saleh

I am halfway through raising my child 
I look upwards  
My child's eyes are scrunched up 
Abnormally close together 
Like full 
Of fear

My child
Through pain tells me that
We are told not to die
But never taught how to live

If I can spare some time I know
I should do some teaching
Give some permission for mistakes
Maybe this isn’t working
Maybe I need to change what I am teaching
Love your city my child
Look after it like it's your first-born
You're costing me a lot of money my child
And I know we can save if we work together 

I will teach you
To nurture your skills
Enable your creativity 
For change. 
Then I will bring the neighbours
Who might not understand your art
And sit you in a room together to talk
To find solutions to the things you thought were impossible

I will translate data for you
I will take all the numbers and put them into emotion
I promise to always make you feel
I will never promise what emotion that will be 
You are the middle child, you are where they say leadership comes from 

You are mobilising a generation to see this city differently
Rethink your role in this family.
Stand outside your local elites and tell them what they need to do
Write poetry on poetry on poetry in painted faces of homeless people outside grand central
Go back to the elites and tell them what you think we need to do

Let them understand 
Show them that with art sometimes budgets come secondary 
Never let them undervalue you 
Nothing comes free
But we can find more sustainable ways cheaper 

Don't show off my child, 
But don't be too humble like this city is
When you need to show your accomplishments
Take a bike ride for an hour or two
Think about your intentions
When you're ready 
Take a megaphone 
Shout about Brum 
Our civic history 
How art everywhere else doesn't come close to the art here
Because we are an open city
Honest to the people who live in it. 

Go to a museum, where our fathers' stories are stored away.
Listen to them; look at the history in the change they've made
Then share them
Share them with the passion this city has for change
Dress smart some days
Then go and volunteer in gardens 
Don't tip toe around
Get stuck in
Buy a new suit the next day to replace it
Now you have a suit you can always put on when planting 
So you know it has value

When you're walking the street 
And your stomach feels heavy with words
Keep a stencil shaped as a heart in your wallet
Spray water in dirty places
Leave hearts in the middle of dirt
Clean your heart on the way home
Take this journey with me; place your hand in mine even though we might not have met yet. 
Let's walk, let's talk, let's discover, explore and find new ways of bringing our world to life again. 

Always ask
How can we
How can I 
Never tell them
How we can't
We can

Challenge their perspectives. 
Ask the museum manager where the stories of the slave trade are
If they aren't there
Create stories through your art
Then plaster them on bus shelters
Make a museum  

Don't waste your time
Don't waste food 
Never waste someone's love
Don't waste someone else's time
Don't waste paper
Don't waste your time on the Internet
Don't waste in general
Don't waste my child 

Understand your privilege 
Your access to resources others may not have
Don't underestimate the value of objects 
Learn to embrace the little things
Close the tap when you're shampooing your hair
Brushing your teeth
Be mindful of your surroundings
Then put your mind in others' surroundings 

Be careful my child
Be fun 
Own your city my child. 
All of this will happen 
When me, Artistic Vision
Makes a baby with your father, Pragmatic Approaches 
You, Sustainability will be born. 

Performed at Sustainable Futures on 14th March 2016 in Birmingham at Ikon Gallery.

Sustaining Creativity