Word Travels reveals hidden voices
By Hani Abdile
When you’re performing poetry, nobody cares where you’re coming from, just what your words express.
It was amazing for me to meet Miles Merrill. He has a similar passion to me and he has done so much with it for a wide variety of people, especially myself. Whilst I was on the other side of the fence, my friend Janet would keep talking about him and much to my delight she eventually introduced us. Miles is the man who founded the Poetry Slam in Sydney; he did this after migrating to Australia from the US a decade ago. For me, personally, he gave me an avenue to tell my story, express my ideas and put my heart on the stage. He also helped harness my energy; he would listen to all my ideas and never say a negative word, but always encourage me to focus. He also told me that I could study, write poetry and work toward my dream of becoming a journalist at the same time. He welcomed me to poetic circles which helped me feel at home in Sydney.
My point of view on poetry slams in Australia is that they give a voice to those who have never been heard before. Many of us always try to be deaf or blind to reality, but we need to be heard so that we can be understood and can transition beyond our pasts that we worked so hard to escape. We use poetry to describe different themes, and, too many of us who are lost, through poetry we find ourselves again. In my experience poetry was a healing force or a weapon against my stress. Finding solace in writing was the only way I could escape depression, desperation and all the negativity that surrounded me while I was in detention. I created my own newsletter and wrote short poems in it. It served as a record of our experiences, not only to document our shared existence on Christmas Island, but also to offer messages of hope among the community in the Christmas Island Detention Centre. Since departing from my first Australian home (Christmas Island Detention Centre), I have been able to represent a group called Writing Through Fences (an online writing group founded by Janet Galbraith, which spreads literature from inside detention centres giving a voice to the voiceless). I have also begun running a poetry night called ‘The Arrivalists’ in Newtown, which helps me connect with the community in which I am living. These avenues of sharing poetry and literature facilitate our inspiration of each other, our shared growth, and importantly, for a lot of us, our healing. One of the most important parts of the poetry slam is the way it brings different voices together so that we can be inspired by one another. Through the poetry of others I gain insight into my own background and origins. Everyone has their own problems which they help the audience to feel and understand through poetry.
Word Travels (Miles Merrill’s poetry organisation) has helped give me confidence and courage to use my voice and present myself talking to other Australians and represent my writing group – Writing Through Fences. They truly give a voice to the voiceless, bringing a megaphone to our souls. They not only give me a voice, as someone who has escaped detention, but also the people still behind the fences who have their own souls to bare. Word Travels has opened an avenue for their voices to be heard, to help remind the wider Australian society of their humanity and what they have to offer all of us.