This is, as one would expect, a moving and meaningful anthology of poems about the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
Every time I write a following line to that opening statement, I am struck by the platitude of what I attempt to add as well as the need otherwise to explain in depths far better explored in the poems themselves. So to the collection, as a general observation.
It is an anthology with a blurb of recommending/observing voices on the back cover by variously a receptionist, a student, an entrepreneur, a hairdresser and a lighting designer. It is an everyperson of engagement and empathy.
There is a Foreword by David Lammy, MP, that begins with the assertion Grenfell Tower exposed a tale of two cities: one that has a voice, and one that does not. There is a ‘Thanks’ by ‘The editor’ who claims feelingly It was a sad privilege to create this book. I respect the humility of that anonymity, but our thanks go to Rip Bulkeley [his work on this is well documented elsewhere] for being catalyst and host to those giving their voices, and needing to, along with others mentioned in that ‘Thanks’, not least The Onslaught Press.
The poems range across the obvious and full spectrum of emotional response, from the pathos of opening poem Souad’s Moon by Pat Winslow to the anger of the second High-Rise by Ali McClimens to the horror of later The Voices of Grenfell Tower by Alemu Tebeje, translated by Chris Beckett.
It seems odd in this context to comment on the quality/effect of the poetry – that crafting – but it would be remiss to not acknowledge the strength and weight of these poetic responses: these fine poems wrought from emotional/intellectual/personal involvement and the art of conveying this.
Therefore, there is subtle and haunting rhyming, for example, in George Szirtes’ The Burning of the House, and the direct honesty of rhyme by Ricky Nuttall [Red Watch, Battersea Fire Station] in the poem The Firefighter. There is the power of listing in Bring it Home by Janine Booth. Obviously, there is so much more in use of form and language and its contrasting and ironies and palpable realities – the range and impact of this poetic community capturing poignantly the Grenfell one.
And again, I have paused to reflect on and remove any further explanation of what I am trying to say about the ‘poetry’ of this collection.
What strikes me throughout the reading of these poems is the inherent ‘truth’ of their thoughts and feelings and expression of this. It is a force of both honest and poetic reflection that is crystallised in the questioning of the closing poem The Heroes on the Stair by André Rostant.
poems for Grenfell Tower can be purchased here.