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This poem by Melanie Rogers comes from 'Same Boat? Poems on poverty and lockdown', an anthology to be published by Church Action on Poverty on 15 October 2020.

My mask keeps me safe.
It stops others asking if I’m OK.
It stops me having to lie
and prevents tears from coming.


My mask protects me.
It stops others seeing the real me,
the me that hurts so much,
that’s shattered inside, held together on the outside.

My mask keeps me shielded.
It saves me from feeling vulnerable.
It  saves me from being hurt,
from history being repeated.

My mask is a lie.
I’m not OK.
The tears are there, they’re just hidden.
The pain is there, it’s excruciating.

Not many people recognise my mask.
Not many people know me well enough;
I don’t let them.
Those that do terrify me.
I can’t bear to be hurt again.


I’ve worn my mask since I was a teenager. I’ve used it to hide the internal pain and distress I’ve carried with me since then, from those around me, be it family, friends, colleagues or professionals caring for me. I wear it well and I’m able to hide how distressed and/or ill I am, there are very few who can see past my mask. Just before lockdown I began to consciously let my mask slip in front of my therapist but as lockdown unfolded, so did a traumatic, personal life event and I had to stay strong, so my mask one again became fixed. But, I also began to recognise how my mask protected me and this led to me writing my first poem in years, ‘My Mask’.

 

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Since the beginning of lockdown, an estimated six million people in the UK have fallen behind on one or more household bills, with poorest households hit the hardest.

This is an urgent problem that demands a solutionThat’s why Church Action on Poverty has teamed up with the Joint Public Issues Team to ask the Chancellor to create a Jubilee Fund, to pay off and cancel unavoidable Covid debt for households in the UK. 

 

You can help. Write to your MP today, and ask them to write to the Chancellor.

We need to:

  • Raise these concerns about Covid-19 household debt and its impact on the poorest families.
  • Find out how the government intends to address this urgent problem.

We need to make sure everyone has a stable platform from which to face the future. Add your voice to call on the UK Government to #ResetTheDebt. 

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This poem by Earl Charlton comes from 'Same Boat? Poems on poverty and lockdown', an anthology to be published by Church Action on Poverty on 15 October 2020.

100 days now of lockdown and stress.
When are the government going to get a hold of this mess?
There are people like me who have been shielding wanting to see their family!
Come on! We have feelings.
It’s been 100 days now since I made an income.
These 100 days haven’t been much fun.
But being homeless before and living in social isolation,
give me the knowledge and sense to beat this complicated situation.
Routine, routine, is all I say.
Don’t let your mind take you away.
I for one was nearly there,
when I thought that we’d become homeless again,
but with the help and support of our local sources,
North East Homeless, Mercy Hub, Hope and more,
It’s made it easier to hang on a little longer.
Come on July the 6th I’m back to make an income.
These days are hard these days are dark,
but it will be easier as we put these dark
times behind but not forgotten in our hearts.
Let’s stand the fight, let’s come together.
We need each other now, more than ever!


I did this poem because I myself know what it’s like to live isolated on your own. Even on the busiest of streets you can feel alone. Mental health, addiction and homelessness definitely fits into loneliness. On the 100th day of lockdown I found out that I was able to go back to work and make an income, leading me to reflect on them 100 days. A very good friend of mine, Jeremy Cain, mentioned this poetry book to me, and encouraged me to write this poem, so I sat down and 10 mins later my feelings were once more on paper.

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Today is National Poetry Day, and we have an exciting announcement

We will launch a  powerful collection of poetry about poverty and the pandemic this month, during the first Challenge Poverty Week in England and Wales.

Same Boat? brings together dozens of works by people with experience of poverty and supporters from across the movement to end poverty, including some debut writers. We’re announcing the launch today, on World Poetry Day.

The book brings new perspectives around poverty and challenges many of the prevailing myths and clichés, and challenges us all to ensure that society after the pandemic is more just and compassionate. We know we can build back better and the outpouring of kindness and community has been heartening – but it cannot be taken for granted. Simply reading the poetry in this anthology is “a radical act of empathy”.

Launch event

The project has been coordinated by Matt Sowerby, who was poet in residence at Church Action in Poverty from the beginning of lockdown until September. He facilitated workshops and open-mic events online and oversaw the production of the anthology. Participants were asked to contribute a poem reflecting their experiences of lockdown and poverty, or the impact of Covid-19 on themselves, their families or communities

A launch event will be held on Thursday 15 October, during Challenge Poverty Week.

Four of the contributors. From left: Ellis Howard, Shaun Kelly, Jayne Gosnall and Matt Sowerby.

In their introduction, the editing panel of Barbara Adlerova, Ben Pearson, Jayne Gosnall, Matt Sowerby and Penny Walters, write:

“While the term ‘poverty’ is often understood as a financial problem, these poems suggest that the word is more of a blanket term for numerous different ‘poverties.’ These include social poverty, poverty of choice, psychological poverty, poverty of autonomy, digital poverty, poverty of access and poverty of opportunity among others. The book also takes a closer look at some of the people behind the statistics. Rejecting the myth that those in poverty are helpless, several poets choose to explore the power that their experiences have given them.”

Responses to abuse, homelessness and stigma

Works include i have a voice by Penny Walters of Newcastle, which reflects on her determination to speak out against poverty, despite having “abused and berated downcast / shunned”, and 100 days by Earl Charlton, which reframes his experience from that of victim to expert. He writes: “being homeless before and living in social isolation, gave me the knowledge and sense to beat this complicated situation”.

Ben Pearson’s Yellow Sticker pinpoints the stigma around poverty, while Melanie Rogers’s My Mask finds relevance to mental health in the face coverings that the pandemic has made routine.

The Same Boat? title reflects the question of whether we are all in the same boat during the pandemic. The question is also addressed in a short film of the same name, written by Ellis Howard & directed by Brody Salmon, which is being released on October 13.

More information:

  • Same Boat? will be launched on October 15th.  Sign up here.
  • To discuss the book or if you have media queries, email benp@church-poverty.org.uk
  • Challenge Poverty Week England and Wales runs from October 12 to 18. For more information, visit challengepoverty.co.uk

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