A Poet Acts Out

Last week I wrote about a poet and activist I met while attending the 100 Thousand Poets for Change in Salerno, Italy. I asked my readers to think about what kinds of change poets can stir up, and I introduced my readers to Richard Paa Kofi Botchwey who established a foundation to help orphans in Ghana. This week I’d like you to meet my new friend Siobhan McMahon, an Irish performance poet who lives in Yorkshire, England.

Siobhan and I began talking before we arrived in Salerno and bonded over our mutual love of Ireland, drama, and Trinity College. Once we began talking, I discovered Siobhan does a lot of poetry workshops with women experiencing mental health issues.

Ann Bracken, Debby Kevin, Siobhan McMahon, and Karla

While working in a closed psychiatric ward with women in England, Siobhan offered poetry workshops giving the  women some way to have a voice, some way to tell their stories of pain and darkness. She told me how the women opened up once they could tell their stories and share the common struggles that kept them locked away. Poetry became almost a natural vehicle for them to explore the dark secrets hidden inside. Siobhan was passionate about the power of poetry for both bonding the women to each other in mutual support and for its quiet power to reveal new truths to women who are largely forgotten and ignored.

Helping women, especially women suffering from mental illness (though I prefer to call it deep sadness) is a big part of what I am committed to. Because my book, The Altar of Innocence, is dedicated to helping women find a voice, I gave Siobhan a copy to use in her work. I look forward to hearing how she is using it.

Here is a link to read and listen to Siobhan read her poem “Saving the World.” Enjoy and go out and save some part of your world today!

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