Rough sleepers heard through poetry

Publish Date : 12 Aug 2021
Rough sleepers heard through poetry
Daren Kamali, bottom right-hand side, with some of the SPACE poets.

Rough sleepers are finding their voices through poetry with support from the Waitematā Local Board.

The board provided $5000 towards the establishment of The Street Poets and Artists Collective Enterprise (SPACE), an initiative led by Auckland Libraries Pacific Heritage Advisor and published poet Daren Kamali. 

A partnership between Auckland Libraries and the Auckland City Mission, Daren says that SPACE is providing opportunities for rough sleepers to speak up and be heard.

While some of the group are new to poetry and enjoy giving it a go, others have tried their hand at poetry before.

“One man in the group who is about 60 years old has been writing for over 20 years and has a collection of about 500 poems in black books. He doesn’t use technology or email, writes everything by hand and travels from Ellerslie to attend our workshops. He talks quietly and you can’t hear him well when he reads his poems but when you read them, you think ‘whoa this guy’s writing is amazing.’”

For some it’s therapy. They write about their time in prison, institutions, on the streets or addiction or they come up with other themes.

“I tell them don’t tell me too much just show me in your writing. We might start with phrases like ‘I hope’, ‘I said’, ‘I prayed’ or ‘I wish’.  It’s really moving what people write and I’ve seen subtle changes in them. They are vulnerable but in a safe place to share what’s inside them.

“It’s really great when they can tell their story, and someone is listening. Most of the time they go back to the street, and no one is there or listening.”

SPACE members will share their poetry in public on National Poetry Day on 27 August, and the next goal is to publish a book of poetry in March 2022 called Rough Lives Matter.

Waitematā Local Board Chair Richard Northey says the board were pleased to help get Daren’s group off the ground.

“One of our board’s priorities [PDF] is to respond meaningfully and effectively to homelessness. We want people in our local board area to have access to opportunities and facilities, and to have a sense of belonging in the community.

“SPACE is enabling rough sleepers to express themselves creatively and to be heard by mainstream society. This is fantastic and we look forward to the group’s next steps.”

“Rough Lives Speak” will see the SPACE poets read their poems on National Poetry Day at the HomeGround Pop Up Hub, 21a Wellesley St West, City Centre, 27th August between 3.30pm to 5.30pm.

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