“Hands burn for a stone, a bomb, to shiver down the glass. Nothing’s changed.”
― Tatamkhulu Afrika
The big burley bloke steps up to the mic. Following poets, teachers and story writers. We expected a particular type of man, long hair and in touch with their inner feelings. We’ve judged this masculine man already. Bulging muscles, tight shirt and jeans showing years of dedication to physical perfection. He’s here to convince us to take ice baths at 2am and train before dawn. Get ready to heckle girls… this guy has too much confidence – we judge – he can take it.
“I was moving house today.” He trembles, sweat, disclaimers and an abundance of fillers giving away his fear. We are judging, comparing him with “those creative people” that followed before. “I’m looking for my voice.” He says. The yang of outward looking strength struggles with the yin that comes with showing your vulnerability to a crowd requires.
“Those creative people” had one thing in common. They’d all found their voice. They’d channelled their childhoods, bad education and mental health issues into rhyming couplets or punctured prose, perfectly poised to attack the ghosts of boyhood. Scars of dyslexia, loneliness, homelessness and substance misuse exploded in a rhythmical blast. “I’m looking for my voice.” He says, struggling at first to recall the inspirational words practiced. Inspirational stories far more powerful than the perfectly polished pitch pace and tone of the professional public speakers. Speakers who had been teachers with years of heart and soul but with years of practice to look less nervous on stage.
Past students of these idealistic teachers had spoken that evening too. We’d judged them in their turn. Loud mouth beer drinking blokes, “Distinctly working class in every way.” This was a night of blokes we’d judged. Another male only choir, women silenced in the stands. Women who had words – wrote poetry – wrote diaries – talked to each other about their fears and feelings. These beer drinking blokes were taught by teachers who changed lives with the power of words. Not the Eaton educated elite rich blokes who run the world but midland men with stereotypes to live up to and dads to make proud. The creative arts were the first thing to be axed in their schools. The most dangerous to the establishment… the most inspirational to a lost youth. “I’m looking for my voice.” He said.
He’s got a powerful message lost in the fear. A message of survival in a rich man’s war; a message of a lost youth in a land where words are limited to farming. Without the words, his message is lost. He found himself in a gym…beside a poet… a conversation… a voice. “Can I do that poem?” He asks the poet as his time on the mic is coming to an end. “He’s contagious this one. “He says as he pulls out the poem he scribbled on a plane. The poet in a gym has inspired his pen and he began to read the words. Slowly… Articulately…. The nerves dissipate. Yin and yang together; vulnerability and power on the stage. The poem brings calm to his nerves and his story forms shape and structure – we can hear it. This is me. I’m a man. This is my voice. The judges sit in awed silence.
The yin and yang exist in us all. Stereotypical expectations of the masses can drive us into unbalanced boxes, segregation of the sexes. Silencing the stories. Men are most at risk of suicide, maybe because their voice is lost in the yang of strength, conquest and control. Can the power of poetry be the answer to finding balance, finding their peace, finding their voice? Can the power of poetry help your son, father or friend find their voice? I walked in thinking, “This is a man’s club.” I walked out thinking, “More men need clubs like this.”
Thank you @Rhythmicalmike for a powerful thinking experience
Sorry we judged you!