World Refugee Day in Poetry

world refugee UN“I’ve met so many who have lost so much. But they never lose their dreams for their children or their desire to better our world. They ask for little in return – only our support in their time of greatest need” — UN Secretary-General, António Guterres


A group of rescued people on the deck of an Italian naval vessel as the sun sets in the Mediterranean. ©UNHCR/A. D’Amato

Reproduced under Fair Use Act all credit to

Back in May, I was fortunate enough to meet some people from the charity People in Motion at a Spoken Word event ‘Gobs & Guitars’ organised by Sarah Tamar to raise money for the cause and to say goodbye to The Boars Head, the much loved venue of Mouth & Music (Heather Wastie/ Sarah Tamar). Read more about it here.

Inspired by a week of events happening in Malvern, organised by People in Motion for Refugee Awareness Week – I put a call out for poems and my inbox filled with words. 

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What I really liked was the variety of submissions. International poets, poets submitting for the first time, some new to writing poetry others more established. 

Any ambassador of poetry would welcome such rich pickings. I wanted this collection to reflect the range of people who responded to this call. Thank you to everyone for sending me such impassioned poems. 

This will not be an easy read – this is not a easy world.

Do read on, sign petitions, raise awareness and HOPE. 


I hope the following words are shared widely. 

Nina Lewis Thank you to everyone who submitted.

Nina Lewis Worcestershire Poet Laureate.

PIM refugee stats

Show Me Your Passport

Show me your passport

Out rattle bones

These are our children


Show me your passport

Out blasts rubble

This is our bread


Show me your passport

Out roars ocean

This is our land

We drown until you wake


Neil Richards


BIO: Neil Richards lives in Worcester, recently returned to writing.


Mare Nostrum

Shoe laces tie the dead tighter than life.

We raft on their skin , how can flesh float

when boats shatter, wood, ribs and bone. 

Hamid, swollen brother, hollow gourd,

the salted body of you drifts, whitens tears.

My hands are cups of waves and piss

and all the sky hangs grey as glass.

I never knew the baby’s name. Gaza, Syria.

Her eyes were closed, turtle, fish. 


Mary Gilonne


This poem was first published online by ‘I am not a Silent Poet’.

BIO: Mary is a translator from Devon, living in France for many years. She won the 2015 Wenlock Prize, shortlisted for the Bridport, commended in the Teignmouth, Prole and Caterpillar prizes, published in Antiphon, Emma Press, Clear Poetry, Elbow Room and more. The plight of refugees is a never ending tragedy that concerns us all.  

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Encased in stone

my arms are frozen,

my limbs are stayed

and yet I watch.


I see the children

housed by rubble,

some parentless, alone

and I cry.

There is no comfort.

The mothers, they wear them

for miles, a burdenless burden

and I know


There is no promised land,

no safety zone

just fences and legislation

and our children are still alone.


Antonia Seaward


Bio: Antonia Seaward is a Scottish poet based in the South side of Glasgow where she lives with her husband and three children. Her work is a mixture of written and performance based pieces and she describes many of her poems as ‘reactive’. She also writes children’s poetry and stories.

jungle calais People in Motion

The Key

Displaced, no place, no home,

misplaced anger where love

should be the key to unlock

the doors of welcome, accept

with open arms the children and

parents, brothers and sisters, the solitary, the young, the old and the in between.

Accept with open arms our fellow humans

as willingly as they would fall into those arms, bringing with them the offer of themselves. And what more precious gift

could one human ever offer to another?

The world, this world, our world does not belong in the windows of property owners and estate agents – the planet has entrusted itself to us and we should treat it well, live on it well and show ourselves capable of the one thing, the one thing we should all have in abundance as the core of our very existence. Humanity. Let’s find the keys, unlock our hearts, and leave open those doors so that all who wish to enter may do so without fear, without hate, without discrimination, but instead with the words ‘welcome home’ ringing in their ears. 


Louise Stokes

Bio: Louise Stokes is a Birmingham based writer and actor. She co-runs LouDeemY Productions, a Theatre and Arts Company with Nadeem Chughtai. Together they create performance and film to explore challenging subject matter. Louise is very proud to be one of the Writing West Midlands Room 204 co-hort.


The View

Looking out toward the boarder,

She sees pain and devastion,

Destruction and desolation.


Shanty towns held together by pain.

People tortured by people, 

And then tortured by their situation.


She sees blood and she sees the bleeding,

She sees death and she sees the dying.


Little boy with ribs that resemble the fence,

she has seen two of them break through the fence.

One of them survived.

She thinks.


She sees a rainbow of agony,

painted more vividly than normal reality.

She sees the manifestation of nightmares,

in high definition.


Even the nightmares she has inside of her nightmares,

do not compare to the life of these people.


A man whose life fits in a bag,

looks at her, clutching his bag,

like he used to clutch his children.

She couldn’t fit what she ‘needs’ for today,

inside that bag.


She sees hell, but this doesn’t worry her.

They’re building a wall.

Casey Bailey 


BIO: Casey Bailey is a poet, spoken word performer, rapper, song writer and Senior Leader at a school in Birmingham. He runs Bailey’s Rap and Poetry (BRAP), through this initiative has performed and spoken at events, including 2 TEDx events and run workshops. Casey’s debut pamphlet, Waiting at Bloomsbury Park, published by Big White Shed, will be released in Autumn 2017.


Help Me Over

Help me.
Help me over.
Help me cross.
I can see the sky
by debris,
by rocks,
by wire,
by dereliction.
by sharpness and
impenetrable barriers.
I want to see it clear,
clear and unblemished
creamy white
and pink and blue.
Help me see it.
Help me over.
Help me cross.
I want want to see it
framed by trees,
I want to see
the rocks become
Help me.
Help me over.
Help me cross
to the place
where the birds are singing
breaking up the sky with flight.
Does it still exist, this place?
I must think so.
Help me find it.
Help me.
Help me over.
Help me cross.


Lynn White 

This poem was first published in Pilcrow and Dagger, February 2017.
BIO: Lynn White lives in a one time industrial area in the mountains of North Wales. She has been writing since her teens. Her work is influenced by her surroundings and the effect of the demise of industry has on the landscape and the people inhabiting it. Issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined feature in her work. 

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Bones and Ashes

They make a lot of money down there, and they’ll defend it with knives and guns. I’ve got scars and stuff up and down my body. A completely humiliating situation. Many of us were gunned down as we fled. You could hear the laughter. And, just as suddenly, you couldn’t hear it anymore. Where are we now? Who are we, anyway? It seems like we have more deaths here than other places. The world should know what happened. We don’t want the fire to run away with us again.


un-refugee-daystock photo david snyder

First they stole everything, then they burned everything. This was the spice market – it’s totally gone. There was a checkpoint here, there were sandbags there. Perhaps we’ll need them again. It’s just that I don’t want to be there. We often say, If only this, or if only that. Soon I’ll be dead, and it won’t matter.

un-refugee-daystock photo david snyder

There were a couple of old ladies who believed in Jesus, but believed in Buddha, too. We told them to just hide and be silent. We never heard back from them. I don’t think my mother ever got over it. Either a bomb was planted or someone blew himself up. When I looked out the window, I saw a guy with blood all over his face and T-shirt. It has to stop. Some young girl is running through the woods naked screaming.

Howie Good

BIO: Howie Good is based in Massachusetts, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz,  is the author of The Loser’s Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize from Thoughtcrime Press, and Dangerous Acts Starring Unstable Elements, winner of the 2015 Press Americana Prize for Poetry. 

Demonstrators hold aloft signs at the rally against Donald
(Picture: Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)


He writes on a wall knowing
a ghost will erase his words. 
He kisses the wall. 
He is exiled in Iceland. 
He is followed by a journalist.
He says poetry transforms 
dust into a rose. He says sometimes
he doesn’t write for months
and he feels nervous. 
He sticks his arm into snow and
shows the camera how deep.
He says “Everyone can be Christ
here,” and points to frozen water.
“Where is a wall?” he asks.
A couple in scarves say
“If you use chalk, you can 
write anywhere. It’s up to you
to find your own wall.” 
He says his notebook is an empty
suitcase he fills as he walks.
He leans over a poem and works with 
a translator on the phrase “I have.”


Quinn White

This poem was first published in the Winter 2013 edition of Mobius Magazine: The Journal of Social Change


BIO: Quinn White is the author of My Moustache (Dancing Girl Press, 2013). She lives in Alabama with her plants. Her poems appear in or are forthcoming from journals such as Amaryllis, Healing Muse, The Fem, and Rogue Agent. 


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© Getty Images

Pay back

They gather in groups

watching you.

You wonder what they’re thinking

pray they don’t move

don’t reach out.

They look lost in their fashion

out of sorts

their faces loom large

like dreams with muddy feet.

You can’t stare too much

or you’ll have to give them things.

Not just your purse

but all you are

so they can take over your life

and be.


J V Birch 

This poem was first published in First Refuge: Poems on Social Justice by Ginninderra Press in 2016


BIO: J V Birch lives in Adelaide. Her poems have appeared in anthologies, journals and magazines across Australia, the UK, Canada and the US. She has two collections – Smashed glass at midnight and What the water & moon gave me – published by Ginninderra Press, and is working on her third.

Nimaniarmend Nimani AFP © Getty Images.

Serbian Refugees

Out there, a boy. His baby sister

strapped to his front.

On his back, a rucksack,

brown checked blanket.

His hair is short, tidy,

he’s handsome, still,

and clearly once well cared for.

He’s running from war. A refugee.

Maybe weeks of little food,

living in squats or camps,

has put shadows below his eyes,

his face grown old, past its years.

Or maybe sleep rarely comes;

his dreams haunted by home.

He’s running from war. A refugee.

At the border with Hungary,

once open but now strung with invisible wire,

he pushes against a masked policeman

in white gloves. The policeman’s arms

anchor the boy in an almost embrace.

He’s seen plenty of boys like this:

running from war. Refugees.

But under his police-issue sunglasses

a glimpse of something –

compassion? Perhaps it’s on account of the little girl

in the prettiest of pink cardigans

most likely knitted by her grandmother,

the colour so nearly matching the shade of his hat.


Belinda Rimmer 



BIOBelinda has poems in magazines, including, Brittle Star, Dream Catcher, ARTEMIS poetry; Obsessed with Pipework; Sarasvati. On-line includes, Cloud Poetry, Picaroon, Ground, Writers Against Prejudice, Amaryllis. Some poems are in anthologies. She recently came second in her first Poetry Slam and won The Poetry in Motion Competition as part of Cheltenham Poetry Festival.


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In the Wake of Frobisher

Martin Frobisher was a Yorkshire born 16th Century, sailor, explorer, and privateer knighted for his endeavours


As tides turn

we’ll try to fathom

how they made these odysseys

with primitive equipment and mad bravery.

What waves pushed them out

Which tide pulled them in?

             Stone question marks on Easter Island

punctuate the replica Kon Tikis and Sailing Ships

that collect answers and awards like flotsam.


Will rhymers add another verse to

“Columbus sailed the ocean blue

In fourteen hundred and ninety-two”.?

Saints and pilgrims guided by fear, faith or stars

buoyed up with dodgy life jackets

bought in seedy seaside bars?

            Will Jonny Depp portray you as adventurous buccaneers

School houses named in honour of these modern pioneers

            Your names writ large on globes and maps

as straits, channels, rivers, seas

            when we celebrate the courageous travels

of last year’s wave worn refugees?


Steve Harrison


BIO: Steve Harrison was  born in The West Riding but is now writing and performing in the West Midlands living under the Shadow of the Wrekin or just off the M54 on his non-poetic days. Frobisher was the name of one of the tutor groups at his school in Yorkshire.


© Pixabay

Should Our Leaders Decide

Should our leaders decide

A flower is mightier than a gun

Should our leaders decide

A sturdy roof is safer than these imposed shattered ruins and ragged tents

Should our leaders decide

Our neighbours, might, just might, have valid opinions

Should our leaders decide

Education will carry us farther than rockets can

Should our leaders decide

To love our children more than hate our enemies

And should our leaders decide

To reward those who choose hope, not death

Then, only then

Then we will live in peace

We can tear down divisive walls

Love our neighbours

Earn friendship

And grow together.


Damon Lord


BIO: Damon Lord comes from Wales and lives and works in Worcester, England. He speaks numerous languages including Esperanto, with a keen interest in enabling better communication around the world.

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Wild Flowers

They left their houses empty

A piece of them was gone

Seeking refuge in a camp that was a wasteland once

They didn’t find much amongst the rubble that was there

But friendship in the restaurants they built for those who cared

Selling their food

Telling stories

From a homeland, far away

Always a smile but sometimes a tear for a land they fled that day

Tents erected

Volunteers holding hands

Delivering them food

From human to human

In humanity, we stood

And now the jungle as they called it

An unkind name

They are demolishing it

For the land is rubble

They have nothing again

Only wild flowers will grow

Where a school once stood

Which helped teach frightened children and remind them what it’s like to just be a kid

Where will they go now from here?

Where only wild flowers grow

As they stand in a country that allows people to have nowhere to go

Destroyed their lands but we won’t offer them ours

If they had somewhere to go they’d be there by now

Where will children lie their head

Where the wild flowers now grow

When will we let our humanity show?


Nona Wyld


BIO: Nona Wyld lives in Birmingham, she has written poetry for the past three years. Last summer she volunteered in Calais providing aid for those in the camp. She learned a lot whilst she was there. Nona will soon be graduating and hopes to travel and volunteer more in the future.



 Primary blues and reds light up a jolly nursery world

scattered in pieces on the carpet. The father thumbs

an Arabic/English dictionary at the table.  No words:

all we translate are smiles. Here’s ‘q’ but where’s

the lady with her golden crown?  I show the boy,

the little girl, their mother in her flower-bright hijab,

wonder what they make of our cold, hard-edged country,

what pieces of their lives they’ve had to leave behind.

The queen’s united, triumphant, with her letter

and here’s an ‘m’. The grinning monkey swings to catch it. 

The boy jumps gleeful on the sofa we’ve brought

to help them build a home.  Now ‘r’. The girl holds

all the colours in her hand; they arc one shining moment,

before the breaking up, to start again.

Penny Ayers


BIO: Penny Ayers lives in Cheltenham.  She began writing poetry in 2008 when she studied Creative Writing with the Open University.  Since then she has been shortlisted in several competitions and won prizes in the Wells Festival of Literature International Poetry Competition and the Cardiff International Poetry Competition 2013.  She has read at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival.


Outside The One Stop

A puddle’s sludge has settled
beneath its skin of oil.
Khaled proffers his Big Issues
to oblivious passers-by.
Our wettest winter’s clouds
reflect as livid bruises
in a diesel sheen.

When the next storm breaks
shoppers abandon pavements
for Costa’s welcome
or the Co-Op’s familiar aisles.
Khaled takes refuge
in the doorway
of a boarded-up bookshop.
Hail stones pock the puddle’s
gunmetal slurry.


Myfanwy Fox


This poem was first published in The Morning Star.

BIO: Myfanwy Fox’s work has appeared in journals and anthologies including The Morning Star, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Snakeskin, For Rhino in a Shrinking World, Fit to Work: Poets Against Atos, The Colverstone Review, The Waterhouse Review and many more. She lives in the Malvern Hills.

bbc syria


Shooting War
Mahmoud Raslan’s photo of Omran Daqneesh (aged 5rys) Syria, 2016

One more wounded infant,
but no limb-loss and blood enough
for the world’s-eye view.

I always cry, but my lense captures no tears,
only a tiny frame, shocked dumb,
a shy wipe of crimson on the ambulance trolley.

Some big boys from the multiverse pressed ‘send’
and bombed homes to rubble
after evening prayers in Aleppo.

Oh, comic strip heroes,
see where your super powers
have led you.

Kathryn Alderman


BIO: Kathryn Alderman, ex-actor and mother, resumed writing poetry during OU degree studies as a mature student. She’s published in various magazines, e-zines and collections including recently: Amaryllis and Good Dadhood. She runs the annual Gloucestershire Writers’ Network prose and poetry competition for the Cheltenham Literature Festival. 


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It’s the way she holds herself upright

speaks carefully to the camera

face composed.


A neat cerise headscarf and tunic

says more young woman

than adolescent girl.

A creased photo shows her in jeans

at a Syrian market

alone in a broken city.

She talks through tears

of time spent in a Lebanese camp,

all the insults she won’t repeat.


She straightens her back

sips water, smiles,

tells us about her new school.

Beyond her Blackburn window

is a derelict plot;

soon the willowherb will flower.



Frances March

Willowherb, sometimes known as Fireweed, is one of the first plants to colonise derelict or bombed out ground.

BIO: Frances March is a Poet and performer with the Cheltenham Festival Players. Work is included in Poetry Among the Paintings, 2015. Commended by the Poetry School with a poem on their blog. The Broadsheet commented favourably on her work. MA, Creative and Critical Writing UOG after a career teaching English.


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At school there was a weekly collection
for charity.
I saved up my biscuit money
so that
I did not seem different, more impoverished
than the rest.
And so that I had something to give to those
less fortunate.
I knew what charities were, you see.
Well, except for the one called
I did not know what refugees were.
This was 1956.
Only six years after the ending of a war
creating millions
of refugees
and I had to ask what they were
several times.
Even then,
I didn’t understand.
It made no sense to me.
I didn’t understand.


Lynn White


BIO: Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. Her poem ‘A Rose For Gaza’ was shortlisted for the Theatre Cloud ‘War Poetry for Today’ competition 2014. 



© Pixabay


Bomb Damage – the first,

inspired by ‘The Thinker’

devastation and despair

the thoughts of this neighbourhood.


Children play amongst the rubble,

beside the image of a white kitten

with pink bow around it’s neck

playing with a ball of wire

which sticks out of the pot-marked wall.


Highlighting the plight of Gaza

this sorrow filled kitten misses playing in joy

and gets hits on the worldwide web

because we only use the internet to look at



Nina Lewis

All contributors will receive emails from me in due course, in the meantime,

read – share – activate. 

Thank you to Kirsty, at People in Motion who allowed permission to use photographs from the site.

PIM shoes

Many thanks to everyone who took the time to be part of this project. The past 48 hours show idea conception to result – all this in just 2 days. Proves how quickly word(s) can spread!


  1. Reblogged this on awritersfountain and commented:

    Just in time for World Refugee Day – in Refugee Awareness Week – this went LIVE. A collection of poetry about refugees from emerging and established writers. Regional. National and International poets were involved.

    Thank you everyone for your amazing submissions and to those kind enough to grant permission to use photos.

    Please read – share – and read again.

    Liked by 2 people

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