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Words To Live By 2020

Published by holly, 2020-09-29 11:57:58

Description: This book is the result of The Word Association’s second Words To Live By project – a six month writing course that benefits individuals who have battled long term mental illness. The project was supported by The National Lottery’s Community Fund and features a collection of poetry and prose from a gifted and diverse collection of writers.

Featuring the work of: Alison McIndoe, Memoona Ahmed, Rosie Elizabeth, Rhianna Levi, Michelle Barnes, Emma Lord, Colby Fierek, Jay Rose Ana, Oliver Bliss, Becky Leonard-Dixon and Nicola Longworth-Cook.

The project was originated and coordinated by The Word Association.

Cover image by Emma Lord.


Read the Text Version

The Voice Let me be The Voice for those unheard. And as new ears begin to listen, let me speak ever so gently, as The Voice leads them carefully away from the lies which fall in fountains out of the mouths of people in suits. The ones who gesture with hands, and facial expressions as they seek to convince us that what they tell us is the only truth. Let my words open eyes which are otherwise blinkered. And as those eyes begin to see, let me show them the true world, in place of the stories they once read in newspapers, which aren’t even worth using as chip wrappers. Let my pen celebrate the existence of those with no voice, and give them a platform. Let me shout with all that I have, from the top of a mountain, and let my call thunder across the world. Let me show them that we are together, that everybody matters we are the kind in humankind. Throw stars into the darkness; let their light create hope. WORDS TO LIVE BY 101


FROM OUR ALLIES: The Word Association works with other marginalised groups. Here are some poems from participants from our LGBT+ group who are in full support of anyone with a mental health diagnosis. The following poems are all on the theme of mental health. COLBY WREN FIEREK (They/Them) Colby has recently completed their degree in Creative and Professional Writing and Screenwriting at the University of Worcester. They love to write short stories, filled with social realism and character-driven narratives, one of which was published in the Odd Voice Out anthology last year. They should be working on an historical novel about working class teens in 1970’s London, but they probably aren’t. Being in the Word Association/Out2Gether writing group has finally given them the chance to focus on building their confidence with poetry and explore more introspective themes in their work. WORDS TO LIVE BY 103

Substance These words are cold. Built to fill dark, echoing spaces. Low, insistent throbbing, like a lump in someone’s throat When they cry for help, and nobody hears The frenetic tension of someone constrained by their own skin, and the weight of their thoughts. In a bleak world of black and white. Of back alleys and stuttering streetlights and red-brick industry crumbled to nothing. Those who came before were the fire. But these words are chilling, and something more terrible. Ice in the cracks of his voice as it breaks and strains from a deep bass to a ragged scream. Ice in his eyes cast with pitted shadows and frozen over with the furrows of a raincloud. Ice in his veins as he’s jerked to life by the thunder of drums and flashed lightning of the guitar And transfixed, expectant eyes turn as the world falls apart To watch him dance. 104 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Closer It has been forty years since your words tailed off. So sudden. But now, you are still At twenty-three. The ones who knew you best Have kept on growing Like flowers in the rain. They are different now. Torn apart. By love, as you said. Those words, too, are the eternal. I wonder if you wanted that. I wonder a lot about you. Though our times are separated by Decades. You were a poet, or so they say And when I stare down at rotating vinyl I wish that turn of phrase came so easily to me. When I listen, I get the feeling Closing in That this voyeurism might not be appropriate When your transmission faded With the new dawn. But the atmosphere hangs. Still. In my heart And soul, I feel the isolation In a lonely place With a frayed connection to those Standing two feet away Behind glass, Stained these days, where you lie Watching love grow Forever. WORDS TO LIVE BY 105


JAY ROSE ANA (She/Her) Jay is a transgender woman, and mum, living in Worcester. Her poetry focuses on her experiences transitioning from male to female as well as positive mental health. htps:// WORDS TO LIVE BY 107

Shame Shame! Shame on you. Shame on me. Shame that even with open eyes I could not see. Unworthy of affection, your sense of rejection. An unfortunate end that did not have to be. Dishonour, disgrace, continued condemnation. Deflation is fuelled by foolish sedation. My mind was open, but my eyes averted. Where hope once soared, deflation reverted. The bond of trust broken, set free, set to flee. A painful emotion, an unfortunate place to be. Where did I fail, that we ended up here? The community cries, ignominy! How do we rebuild? Fix what is done? Push back up to the sky, the falling sun? Hang back the moon, let the stars have their fun? When all I can see, is what I have become. I thought I knew better; that I stood against the man, I did not think it through, it was a nowhere plan. Now the man’s pressing down with all of its might. Admit defeat, a lesson to learn. I have lost this fight. 108 WORDS TO LIVE BY

The Gift Of Anxiety I could expend my energy on so many, many things. Worrying about life and what tomorrow brings. I could waste many hours regretting the wrongs. Pouring over words, interrupting sad songs. Digging up what is done, put to bed, laid to rest. Best forgotten, out of sight, out of mind, way too stressed. Anxiety falls, a sense of unease, breathless, a hammer blow. Run and hide, find a door, let me out, I need to go. Energy low, sugar rush, tide me over, feeling flush. Take a breath, need a rest, sit down here, try not to push. A shrinking room, sliding walls, nervous twitch, restricted air. I cannot breathe, stay calm, slow down, take care. I force a moment to sit, to calm myself down. This gift of anxiety makes me look like a clown. My nose is not red and my tie does not spin. And yet these feelings of dread I just cannot hold in. Thinking of tomorrow, but worrying about today. This sense of fear simply will not go away. I take a deep breath, hold back my dismay. But with energy low, I cannot hold it at bay. I could expend my energy on so many, many things. But we never really know what tomorrow may bring. I could expend my energy to gain a brief reprieve. But I choose to use my energy to listen, understand, and believe. WORDS TO LIVE BY 109

A Grain Of Hope What would the world be like without me in it? Would the Moon come to rest or would the world stop spinning? Would Mars free fall and would Jupiter collapse? Would the Sun, shine its final light, and surrender a gasp? Would satellites break free and drift deep into space? Carrying the memory of a blue dot, released from embrace? Would black holes collapse, spilling out all that matters? Would comets collide as their icy trail shatters? Would the stars all go out in a beautiful pattern? Would Neptune smile as it kisses Saturn? Would matter contract as gravity grins? Would the universe shrink until it fits on a pin? Would the edge of the cosmos slow time until it stalls? Would the Milky Way relax as one-by-one, solar systems fall? Would anyone hear a cry from the vastness of space? In the dark, would there be light, as Pluto covers its face? I expect what would happen, would be nothing at all. The sands of tomorrow, drift far, when they fall. When you step onto the beach, spare a thought for before. Hopes from yesterday, often wash up, along the shore. 110 WORDS TO LIVE BY



OLIVER BLISS (He/Him) I’ve recently moved with my partner and cat to start our new life together in Worcester. Rather than being a writer, instead I would say I’m a passionate reader and love anything creative. I was looking for my community and ended up discovering a lot more. The Word Association’s Standing Proud Writers’ Group came at just the right time for me. It has given me the opportunity to link with a caring bunch of people and discover new creative skills. The group has been incredibly supportive, nurturing and welcoming. It has become a highlight to the weekend. I have the pleasure of listening to different stories and experiences whilst having the opportunity experiment and share in a safe environment. This is really the beginning of a creative writing journey for me and I am so glad I gave it a go. It can be nerve wracking to try something new, even scarier to voice words out loud. What is wonderful about the group is you develop at your own pace and share as much as you want. So, if you a newbie like me and feel a sense of interest reading this. I hope it enough of a nudge to encourage you join a Word Association writing course and give it a go as well. WORDS TO LIVE BY 113

Here Comes The Bride The cuts ended up staining more than just your favourite t-shirt Thankfully it didn’t stop your head being held high as you walked down the aisle. What was it about the scars that worried you that day? Why couldn’t you keep old pains at bay? Was it the photographer who could collect your past? Were you worried it would be presented to you, every time you saw it framed in future? Was it your mother wanting to protect you from the questions that they would inevitably ask? Or was it just old secrets that would now be on show? And would it be worse that they would forever partially know? Was it just that every mirror, potentially reflected the past and shattered the image of Daddy’s little girl? Was it just you didn’t want your happy day to be shrouded with a private pain? Below the shoulders, your veil hid a previous life. Those silkworm lines across the flesh, Could have ruined the look of that dress. There was a parity, in multiple ways The rows of the witnesses who watched as you glided forward They had watched you grow up too. They were avoidant of the clues from your dark past and were oblivious on the day They just wanted to support you and your bright future Your lines were kept neat, those little hidden rows Like a badge on arm of a solider Each one a battle Each scar, a reminder of a war. 114 WORDS TO LIVE BY

This comment here, that drug there, A fight, a cry, a hug They were all tallied there, relaying a total, a score Each time you were overwhelmed and had to purge I wish I had known what to do To help you stop Help find some other way to release that pain. I hope you feel you survived that war Although the physical scars remain. I was bursting with joy that day Especially as you sashayed away. I wish that you didn’t need it all to be concealed And I am grateful that although times back then were hard; you stayed I know that every time your fingers brushes over the ridges, Its a secret brailed message tapping memory back to you and that’s hard. I wish I had done more to intervene, I wish you knew that holding a small block of ice could act as a remedy Holding it there in your hand is pathway to keep the demons at bay. It’s a trick that allows you to gain the pain you need to stay sane. And as it burns, it melts some of the noise away. But like water is can wash you without a stain. WORDS TO LIVE BY 115

We’re All Friends Here Steve got married because he didn’t want to disappoint his dad. James pushed you away because she wanted to prove you would leave, just like her mum. Frank mainly became a narcissist because he wasn’t hugged enough as a kid. Milena is borderline because she can never stay in the narrow lane of stable and not. Drew rejects your hugs, because of his uncle. Kelly only stutters because you keep interrupting him when he trying to form his words. Kim stops eating because it’s the only thing left they feel that they can control. Muntaz gambles because it’s the only buzz left that can make him feel alive. Row was never chronically sick because she was depressed. She was just chronically bullied and it made her depressed. Alex wanted to check out early because he couldn’t see a point. Helen exaggerates because the lies are more interesting than her truth, and it give her a buzz to see how you will react. Will gets depressed because he wishes he was still be in college and he can’t accept how things have changed. 116 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Jacob gets so angry because he can’t control the things that he wants, and it’s enough for him to put a hold through a wall. Jane sleeps around because she doesn’t see what she does is wrong. Ryan feels alone because of what his parent’s think; as what he wants between the sheets, they say is a sin. Jen was an addict because of broken promises and high expectations that she put upon herself. Harri drinks and smokes because they’re still not comfortable as a person in their own skin. Mist wouldn’t let the issue go, because when he was younger his brothers were inhumane. Rachel is anxious because she was always told that she was the one in the wrong. Dale put on so much weight because he was so rejected back at home. Ramez trains so hard because he’s afraid to fail; and he thinks that will make him less of a man. Vicky get migraines because of the FirstWorld problems her friends all suffer from. AndTom keeps shagging everything that moves because he’s afraid of not knowing what happens when we’re all dead. Yeah, so um, anyway what’s up with you? WORDS TO LIVE BY 117


BECKY LEONARD-DIXON (She/Her) Becky Leonard-Dixon is a thirty something queer Yorkshire woman living in the Midlands. She has written poetry intermittently since her teens and enjoys riding her motorbike, playing the guitar and singing. She works for a housing charity and part of her role has been creating and delivering LGBT+ awareness and inclusivity training and being the bi+ representative for their pride network. In 2017 she won the accolade of “most inspiring” from her organisation and in 2020 she was delighted to be recognised by Stonewall as “Role Model Of The Year” for her dedication promoting workplace equality relating to sexuality and mental health. WORDS TO LIVE BY 119

Girl Interrupted Amalgamated together Into one big happy home Forgotten in the masses Often feeling all alone Surrounded by people None of them could see All that awful trauma Encapsulating me A happy home and family The lie we told the world Some of us deceitful Hurtful and so bold Lost for decades in the ranks Silent and in fear I spoke up eventually But they didn’t want to hear This girl was interrupted But the woman won’t halt Now that she’s an adult She knows it’s not her fault 120 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Where Does It Hurt? Sat in the doctors waiting room Fidgeting nervously in my chair How can I explain to them? When they’re simply not aware Crippled with anxiety Deep in dark, dank hole I don’t know what help I need But I’m frightened for my soul How do I explain to them What happens in my mind I can’t work it out myself I just know I’m in a bind Where does it hurt? He asks As I shrink into my seat It doesn’t just hurt, it grinds me down I’m on the verge of total defeat WORDS TO LIVE BY 121

More Than Myself It’s taken me 28 years To find a sort of fit But now I’m getting better I’ve been through the hardest bit Now I tell my story And share what I know To help out others That are still feeling low For those who have got better It’s important that we share To show those still fighting That people do care More than just myself One in four in fact I may be slightly fractured But I’ve come out intact 122 WORDS TO LIVE BY



NICOLA LONGWORTH-COOK (She/Her) Socialist. Pacifist. Environmentalist LGBT Activist Inclusive Feminist Humanist Horticulturalist Lover of… lists [email protected] Facebook/NLCPoetry WORDS TO LIVE BY 125

Adjustments - April 2020 Recognise things are not as they were. Accept this change with good grace, Welcome it, if you can. Embrace the new possibilities. But recognise too the cost, The resistance, the energy burn of loss. The drain of disappointment Giving up on cherished plans. The hours of work spent - wasted. The sense of being cheated. The limbo longing for some certainty. These feelings cannot be wrong. Let them surface, let them sing. Let them bring your new now song. 126 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Shallow Today has me trembling A wobbly kind of distance A muffle between me and experience. I feed my body that seems to lack energy. I eat so much, and yet the strength does not return. Thoughts curdle, move in slow motion. Shallow my reserves. Sleep might be a source of recharge - (My body yearns to sleep) But my mind will not let go And my mind thinks it’s in charge But my body tells me: no. WORDS TO LIVE BY 127

Mindfulness Exercise 1 Close your eyes and just listen She said. The group fell silent Spinning minds slowed and Focused on the not quite noise. The hushed hum of the fridge. The rush of traffic passing. Seagulls. Seagulls, white and wheeling in a blue sky The shush of waves on sand A moment on the beach, Calmness within reach... Now let’s focus on our breath, She said. 128 WORDS TO LIVE BY


Cover image by Emma Lord: Haweswater, Lake District. Home to the last known Golden Eagle in England, who lived there for 15 years. Alone since the death of his mate in 2004, the eagle arrived every spring to build a nest and try to attract a partner. He was thought to be around 20 years old when last seen at the site, in 2015. Having dreamed of seeing an eagle in the wild since I was a small child, I made an annual Easter trip to watch the Haweswater Eagle, visiting with both of my sisters, my mother, and my husband over the years. Find out more about Emma at her website: And follow her blog at: 130 WORDS TO LIVE BY


This book is the result of The Word Association’s second Words To Live By project – a six month writing course that benefits individuals who have battled long term mental illness. The project was supported by The National Lottery’s Community Fund and features a collection of poetry and prose from a gifted and diverse collection of writers. Featuring the work of: Alison McIndoe, Memoona Ahmed, Rosie Elizabeth, Rhianna Levi, Michelle Barnes, and Emma Lord, with supplementary work by allies of the project: Colby Wren Fierek, Jay Rose Ana, Oliver Bliss, Becky Leonard-Dixon and Nicola Longworth-Cook. This project was originated and coordinated by The Word Association Cover image by Emma Lord 132 WORDS TO LIVE BY

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