Poetry

Don’t Tell Me

Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant.
When our laws are grounded in Ten Commandments,
words engraved in stone translated into ink on paper.
Even before rules were recorded, morality was expected –
Abel’s murder forced Cain into banishment,
Dinah’s rape, the tremor of a city’s fall,
Rebekah’s lies passed from generation to generation,
lessons in dishonesty not paying off.

Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant.
If we calked God’s carefully laid path,
disparity between rich and poor would cease to be a national crisis.
Greed alleviated, generosity weighing heavier,
equilibrium reached through sharing at centre.
Not convinced?
Leviticus 25; Deuteronomy 15 or 24 will fill you in.

Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant.
Keeping Sabbath holy benefits health,
time to recharge between weeks.
Constantly grinding kills our batteries, shutting down bodies unexpectedly quick.
Powered by moments of reflection, fellowship with others,
plugged into rest away from hustle of working days.
Did you know it’s linked to Loma Linda’s famed longevity of living?

Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant.
Foretold prophecies in Daniel and Revelation already come to pass;
others to be fulfilled in earth’s enduring story,
drawing near to its closing chapter.
Behaviours lined up in Matthew 24 and 2 Timothy 3 brought to life around us –
hearts gone cold, love for money verging on obsession,
disobedience to parents ramped to rebellion.

Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant.
Its influence glaring through film and television screens,
jumping off pages of fiction books – it has everything.
A hero tasked with saving the world,
betrayals of brothers, partners, friends.
Stories of redemption, romance, wisdom, war,
drunkenness ending in mistakes, polygamy ending in hurt.
Tales of actions supernatural, deep family bonds,
consequences of wrongs committed, mistreatment of those deemed different.

Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant.
Poetry and song hum from its verses,
prayer and praise run throughout.
Battle between faith and works not just for our time – religion blocking relationship.
Women showing bravery, intelligence, resilience
Men showing sacrifice, tenacity, strength –
Two wholes to become one, equally supporting the other.

Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant.
It’s provided comfort and hope,
Taught me right from wrong,
Advised how to live the best life,
Laid out inspiration in Jesus’ example of perfection.

Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant
without having read a page of it.

Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant
because you cannot comprehend it.

Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant
because you’ve chosen not to believe in it.

Shaniqua Benjamin

Restoring Humanness to the Homeless

Talking to people like they’re people has morphed into a foreign concept for some.

Believing words need to be contorted from lips when bestowed
on those in a contrary situation to yours.
May as well inscribe the headline,
“No roof overhead strips you of humanity”
A story filled with anecdotes of invisibility, disconnect and interactive inability.

Don’t hide behind being insensitive,
Anyone with awareness and care will know not to put a foot in a muddy puddle and splash it in another’s face.
Fear of insensitivity, an excuse used to escape interaction
outside of moments that interaction’s door is not closed altogether,
shutting them out, when what is desired is to be let in to a sense of normality –
What is needed to be fed into every headline, so it ceases to be news reported.

No longer alien territory,
speaking to people in adverse conditions, like they are people, becomes home in your mouth,
Reacting to them as you would anyone else.
Reviving their feeling of humanity that had been lost in statistics
they had no hand in constructing.

They Warmed My Heart & Made My Year More Beautiful

As you probably know by now, I’m a poet, so portions of my life are spent with poets and around the poetry scene, which brings me happiness and a wealth of other emotions.  This year has been spent in the world of poetry a lot more for me, bringing a lot of great people into my orbit.

I am beyond thankful to the stellar poet, who is Anthony Anaxagorou, for bringing me into the world of Out-Spoken.  Out-Spoken not only wows and inspires me, but the poetry and music onstage has enriched my soul on a number of occasions.  In November, I went to Out-Spoken feeling emotionally drained and was uplifted by the gorgeous, soulful sounds of Thabo, who was exactly what I needed on that day.  In December, I teared up to the ridiculously powerful poetry of Chimene Suleyman, then cried my eyes out to Lowkey’s emotion-fuelled, politically charged music.  They were both incredible nights; in fact, every night at Out-Spoken is incredible.

Going to Out-Spoken is also the perfect opportunity to see Anthony and Joelle (who I met during Rallying Cry) on a regular basis – both lovely human beings who always make me smile.   Anthony is also brilliant at convincing me to buy books.  Seeing Tom is great too, who I met through Spread The Word, and its been lovely to meet the ultra talented Karim and Kaia as well.

Paul was someone I’d known in cyber form for a couple of years, but I finally met him in the flesh at my poetry night in April.  He is a wonderful human being, who wowed us with his stage presence and made it clear that he wanted to support me and Young People Insight (YPI) as much as he could from the outset.

He stayed true to his word, putting out a photo of the two of us, captioning it with info about what I do and a call to action.  He also invited me to perform at Field Day in the summer with The Chocolate Poetry Club, his poetry organisation.  I was beyond grateful for the opportunity, as it was the biggest festival I had performed at up until that point and it provided me with another platform to get my poetry heard.  I’m so glad to have people like Paul in my orbit.

Field Day was where I met Usaama face to face for the first time, after being in contact through YPI on the Twtittersphere for a significant period of time.  I’d seen his work online, but watching Usaama perform his poetry in person is special.  What’s funny is that after finally meeting him in the flesh, I went on to seem him perform three more times throughout the year, including a few days later at Out-Spoken, none the less.

What I’ve come to love most though is not Usaama the poet, but Usaama the person.  We’ve sat together at three of the four events I’ve seen him perform at this year, so we’ve been able to chat a little bit.  His personality is unique, he always makes me laugh and he never fails to engage me in interesting conversation.  However, what makes Usaama really stand out is the amazing, beautiful compliments he gives that warm my heart and soul.  These aren’t basic, face-value compliments, but they are compliments that speak to the inner-most parts of my being and character.  Everyone needs someone in their life who compliments them like Usaama.

Then there is the lovely, supportive, community-orientated Darren from Well Versed Ink, who asked YPI to be one of the partner organisations for LIP Fest 2018.  Shout out to Justine (Well Versed Ink), Jemilea (Writerz & Scribez), Ted and Peter (Poets Anonymous) as well – I was happy to see it come to life with you all and I can’t wait to see how it develops next year.

And one of my favourite poetry nights, What You Saying, put together by the wonderful Humi, Daisy, Nomes and Nikki.  They have created a beautiful event that exudes a beautiful atmosphere, which I miss whenever I’m not there.  I’ve also met some beautiful people at their nights to, including Manj, Roe, Louise, and Nay, who I enjoy catching up with whenever we’re there.

Poetry has become one of my great loves and I’m blessed to share it with so many great people.  I hope their presence in my life will continue and that their creativity will continue to grow.  Love them all.