(by Gillian Clarke)
For the earth that shivered its skin like an old horse
For the shout of the sun, of the earth as it broke its heart
For the white palace that fell into itself like snow
For the hospital, for its rows of white graves
For the cathedral that folded on emptiness
calling God's name as it went
For its psalms of sorrow, the prayers of the living and dead
For each house crushed with its cots and cushions and cups
cooking pots pressed between pages of stone
For the small lung of air that kept someone alive
For the rescuer's hand reaching into the void
For the slip of a life from its grip
For the smile of daylight on a woman's face
For her daughter dead in the dark
For the baby born in the rubble
For tomorrow's whistling workmen
with their hods of bricks
For scaffolding and walls rising from the grave
over rosaries of bones
When Carol Ann Duffy heard about the cataclysmic earthquake in Haiti, the Poet Laureate felt it was not enough to pull out her credit card and donate some money to those left suffering in its wake.
Instead, she contacted 23 of Britain's most eminent poets to mobilise them for one of the biggest charity poetry jamborees for decades. Two hours after she requested their help, she had received a deluge of enthusiastic replies. Some pledged to write new poems relating to the disaster, while others said they would read verses filled with love, humour, sadness and death, some to music, to mark the moment.
Poetry Life for Haiti, which takes place today at Westminster Central Hall, has been billed as Band Aid for poets. Roger McGough, the former poet laureate Andrew Motion, Brian Patten, the national poet of Wales Gillian Clarke, Elaine Feinstein, and the Costa-prize winning Christopher Reid will all be taking part, as well as Duffy herself.
[Keep reading here]
N.B.: You can read about Haiti's History in this text which I annexed some time ago to this post. You can also read about the challenges facing Small Islands Development States (SIDS), which include Haiti, here.