Henry has a passion to bring poets and poetry to more people more of the time.
On National Poetry Day he wrote about how he hates most poetry because it ignores most people (though you can tell he loves poetry and feels it’s a universal energy in everything). In the conversation with Panya he mentioned living as a child in St Ann’s and growing up in Bilborough, his dad a Raleigh engineer and remembering the massive size of the Raleigh factory (among many other ‘things’).
In supporting Henry Normal’s Poetry Society, Inspire, Confetti and Metronome offer us a chance to imagine so many other lives, histories and worlds.
What I realised about these poets is that they always keep on learning.
Panya Banjoko knows a thing or two about history and where class, gender and ethnicities intersect (as a working class black woman, Panya featured in Jackie Goode’s anthology Clever Girls about bright girls from working class backgrounds and how they fare in education and life).
She’s travelled a long way as a human: a mother, poet, action researcher and she’s still here in Nottingham.
Featured on Woman’s Hour last year, you can hear her approach to learning and life which is always about giving back, reciprocity and energy. Leaving school with CSEs she had to take learning into her own hands and handle it with sensitivity and creativity. As a mum with four children getting a place at university to study a degree, hooray(!) then gaining two masters degrees and founding the Nottingham Black Archive on the way.
Panya’s now in the third year of her action research PHD where again, she’s giving us back the history that was always there but just not respected by everyone. Carefully, and with grace, knitting it back in. In fact Ruddington Framework Knitters might be just about to do a Grayson Perry with some of her poems and knit them into their work.
What Panya brings to everything she does is a sense that she doesn’t privilege one form of learning over another: everything is research, everything is in motion I think.
Poets are great because they remember, they always remember the child they were in the adult life they strive for. Henry and Panya talked about poetry being the thing that made them feel at home with themselves. It’s a way of making sense of themselves, the inner, the outer, time, space, past and present.
What I learnt in listening to the rapport between Henry and Panya was their developing conversation about the power of language, the importance of a child’s determination to learn is probably attracted to poetry. Elif Shafak talks about her experience of education where she was forced to write with her left hand and how she developed a whole world and language at home as she began to obey the order to be right handed.
It’s interesting to think about how far these two people have travelled in their lives. Wouldn’t it be great to think about how you could create a currency of distanced travelled which could become art, could enhance our environment. You can listen to Mr N on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=the+escape+lan+henry+normal
and the incomparable PB here: