Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Poetry Crisis

Homeless in the house of Keats

By Mark Cantrell

Poet Benjamin Zephaniah took in a group of homeless and vulnerably housed people to show them around Hampstead House, London, and lead them in a poetry workshop; all part of efforts to help them overcome their problems.

The group were all involved with the Crisis Skylight London initiative, part of the charity Crisis’ effort to help the homeless, and the tour and writing workshop were aimed at boosting their confidence as much as introducing them to home of the Romantic poet John Keats.

“This may be a wonderful grand house in a very expensive part of London, but when Keats came here he was down, he was lout, he was homeless, he was ill and needed help,” said Zephaniah. “Actually the number one group of people who should come here should be homeless people.”

Keats lived out the final years of his life at Hampstead House, Wentworth Place, Hampstead, having gone there in despair after losing his parents and brother to tuberculosis.

Zephaniah is currently the poet in residence at Keats’ former home. After the tour and creative writing class, the group took part in an impromptu poetry reading session. “Creative writing is one of the classes the charity offers to help vulnerable and homeless people rebuild their confidence, which can be ground down by the experience of homelessness,” said a spokesperson for the charity.

In the poetry session, Zephaniah talked about his early life and how he became a poet. To illustrate his ‘backstory’ he read both early poems and recent examples of his work. Crisis members then talked and performed some of their own poems.

“It’s been really positive because I didn’t want to just do a workshop where I am the expert and I’m just lecturing to people,” Zephaniah added. “It was a sharing poetry experience with a group of people who are really passionate about poetry.”


Category: NEWS



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