The Place of Poetry: Tony Walsh Understands

Can we think about the place of poetry in our world? After listening to (watching, also) Tony Walsh share his stunning occasional poem “This is The Place,” I do wonder what people think about the importance of poetry (an occasional poem is written for an occasion). Not that many hours after the tragic bombing outside the Manchester Arena, poet Walsh recited a poem that gripped me with its significance and intensity.  Listen here if you have not yet had the opportunity.

Notice how his rhythm and, yes, rhymes, work to fire up the pride and hometown love of the people of Manchester. The poem takes the power away from the terrorist, away from those who want to harm our civilization, and gives it to the people of Manchester (and in a way to all of us for our hometowns). This is one of the powers of poetry: that it can allow us to assert our own power.

Poetry is power. Poetry is political. Poetry is today, this minute, right now.

But do people understand that? Maybe I’m imagining it. Because I looked at a different youtube clip of the same event and look at the comments from people! They are a mean, small-minded crowd, waiting to be thrown more and more red meat. Wait for it: the coliseums will be built.

Most of the comments on that clip are hideous. They completely miss it all.

But all is not lost. These commenters seem to understand.

What IS the place of poetry in our world?


* If the tone of commenting changes on any of these that will change the story, of course.

My prayers are with Manchester and, in fact, with us all.


Filed under Poetry, Poetry reading, Writing Talk

27 responses to “The Place of Poetry: Tony Walsh Understands

  1. My prayers are with Manchester also, Luanne. I like this speech/poem because people need to rise up after such a tragedy and tell those responsible that they cannot break us. Killing innocent women and children is the act of cowards and bullies who hide behind a belief that holds no awareness of forgiveness and mercy. They see our light and they want to extinguish it because they have no light of their own. RIP beautiful children and innocents xxxx

    • Good words yourself, Dianne. Yes, they can’t break us. And it’s so helpful to hear “our” praises sung the way Walsh did. The poem is so specific to Manchester and in that very specificity it’s for all of us whose light they want to extinguish.

  2. I consider the comments from those who miss the point to be from trolls! The poem and Walsh’s rendition was captivating and uplifting. I could watch it time and again.

    • Me too! I would have thought they were trolls, but there were so many under that one particular clip. They seemed to think that a poem was an inappropriate response. I SO agree: I can watch it over and over. In fact, I have!

      • So have I! Shared it on FB and tweeted it.

        • Did you get a lot of response from people? Very few people on Facebook responded to it when I posted it.

          • One share, one comment and 4 likes including me but sadly ignored for the most part. Mine was from the Huff Post. It might grow. Sometimes you just don’t know whether people don’t catch a post because they’re busy or because they’re not getting notifications (happening to me) or there’s just too much on there to keep up or don’t engage because it’s related to politics. Sad.

  3. It’s got a lot of rhetorical power. Sort of Biblical, sort of rap.

  4. Thank you for sharing this, Luanne. I so thoroughly agree with you. Both the poet and poetry stirred my heart, made me smile, made me laugh even; but more importantly, left me with hope for and admiration of the people of Manchester and every where else that terrorists have tried to undermine humanity and lost because our belief in humanity is too strong. I don’t look at comments. Yes, there are trolls out there but there also people who simply like to judge and tell everyone about it. If a person doesn’t find solace in poetry, well, then she doesn’t have to listen to it, does she? She doesn’t have to watch the clip or be in the audience. Sigh.

    • So beautifully put, Marie. I didn’t feel as if the comments on the negative thread were trolls so much as people who don’t “get” it because they don’t really listen or because they don’t believe in the power of words. Or maybe they don’t believe in people?!
      But maybe they are just trolls. It makes me so sad and angry that people act like trolls online anyway. No wonder we have road rage. Anonymity can make people horrible.

  5. Thank you for sharing this, Luanne. You should have had a “Kleenex required warning”…I was very moved. I learned my lesson a long time ago not to read comments on YouTube postings or any news articles. The hatred coming off the screen is sickening and quite sad.

    • I agree about the hatred. You are so right about not reading comments. I like to look for uplifting comments, but there are so many horrible ones, that I don’t know why I bother. It sickens me that people can be so hateful–even if some of them just do it for the attention.

  6. Luanne, I hadn’t seen or heard this poem before but listening to it now I can’t but cry – again. This time from the power of his words, the strength of people of good. This is one powerful poem, thank you so much for sharing. Yep, as a defacto Northerner I know there’s nothing quite like that ‘northern grit’.

    • And from hearing that poem so many of us feel as if we come from a place with “northern grit”! Thank you so much for letting me know, Annika. I have listened to it so many times.

      • I also meant to add how much I agree with you about the power of poetry: ‘Poetry is power. Poetry is political. Poetry is today, this minute, right now.’ It is a relevant force and my friend and I were talking the other day how prevalent, and rightly so, it is in our society at the moment.

        • I didn’t really understand that when I was young. I thought of it as more of a retreat, but it’s so political–a refuge, but political.

  7. I lived in Manchester for a few years and my partner is from there – I found the poem moving and the negative responses very mean-spirited, as you say. It speaks to the wider debate about the value of art in troubled times – that’s something I do struggle with myself sometimes, but I like Toni Morrison’s quote on this: ‘This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.’

    • The quote really captures the imperative of art in the face of such incomprehensible acts. Thanks, Andrea. Tony Walsh made a lot of people feel as if they are “Mancunians.”

  8. Such a powerful poem, Luanne. Thanks for sharing it.

  9. I believe poetry is important! I recently found out Walt Whitman wrote, “Oh Captain, Oh Captain” in tribute to Abraham Lincoln. How powerful to know the “back story” of a poem my Mom had to recite during her elementary school days. I’m sure most people know this but the point is, the Manchester poem is beautiful and poignant. I don’t “get” the ones who are negative. Maybe there is a portion of the world’s population who don’t like poetry (?) Thanks, Luanne for sharing these short parts about the tragic occurence.

    • I heard that they are going to make a book with art in it (up your alley!) with this poem! That should be a productive response to the tragedies, for sure.

  10. Great read. My prayers are also with Manchester. I think overall any kind of writing, not just limited to poetry, has a significance in this world in that their words not only bring us together but can also separate us and bring us into debate or discussion. The power of words is that they can start wars, but also spark love, inspiration and a sense of connection. In regards to poetry, poetry gives those words weight, they give them belonging and make them even more beautiful. I don’t know about others, but I write poetry because I admire the beautiful and it’s beautiful to me because it touches my soul every time I read it.

    Thanks for sharing. This was a really interesting read. 🙂


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