Poetry at WOMAD

Sea vigil

On Chilka Lake in Odissa

the village farmed vegetables
of the sea, tending them
since boats had trod on waves

without their catch,
the village would fade
so when metal boned ships
stormed fields of sea

our villagers met
decided to rise, not see
all farmers kept
on hungry beeches

but they harvested our marchers,
stored them deep in cells
whilst wigged men battled
with words, the women lit
their candle, kept flames glowing
and floating on their stretch of sea

our village had tended, never farmed
till metal boats came to plunder
draining shoals and dredging life
but the women held their waves

kept their candles burning
till their sea was returned
though you cannot return
what cannot be owned
what is just a part
of the village soul

I sew for you

I am a woman

my stitches never match
my pay.
I sew to be independent.
I sew for the West,
I sew jeans for UK teens
no time to sew
seeds for my eating.
I sew sequins for many hours
with tired eyes, sore fingers-
and they glitter like the sun.
I sew on pink and turquoise
my many beautiful patterns.
I sew and I raise my voice
to be more powerful,
and be heard.
I sew my own designs
in my own time.

I can grow when

I can learn- then I can teach

my children to live better.
I grow when infrastructure
meets my needs.
I grow when I feel safe-
and have a home.
I can grow when
my seeds blossom
when powers change
when rains arrive
and greed disappears.
I grow when my boss
builds tough walls-
that keep me safe
not crush me.
I can grow when
I get a fair price,
I have the freedom
to make my choices
and when I own my land.
My rights grow
so I can feed my family
nurture the soil
and sew the seed.
My right to grow
being taken away
from me
denies me my right
to glow, but,
I will rise.

The story of K Rani-

a lady, a mother, an entrepreneur supported by Action Village India

She was wearing white too soon,
too young to be a widow
then uprooted from a plot
that was never hers and shunted
from the room her daughter called home.
Debts piled and favours grew scare

Favours grew up into debts,
which stalked her through lanes
battered her door, smashed the rice jar
searching for her last bangle.

But, she knew how to grow
her future and claim it back-
she went to market with lent rupees
who would tow their newly welded life
to a safer path, and her white sari
is now folded in a new home
where she ladles the milk
she sells to keep her house
her own, pay back her gifted loan.
She’ll see her daughter grow
and keep her village close.

Indian farm kennings- by children aged 4-10

Rice growing

curry leaf picking
bananas yellowing
monkeys scoffing.

Cows milking
pigs rolling
oranges growing
farmer picking.

Cat purring
mouse running
tiger growling
farmer shouting.

Oxen ploughing
horses trotting
crops growing
farmers sewing.

Dog barking
farmers harvesting
scarecrows frightening
birds squawking.

Laila Sumpton

Laila's poetry uses imagery and lyricism to tell stories about identity and human rights. She studied English literature at the University of St Andrews and Human Rights at the University of London. She is a member of the Keats House Poetry Forum, a collective of London based poets supported by Keats House in Hampstead who work on poetry projects. She co-edited 'In Protest- 150 poems for human rights', a unique anthology of global poetry collated by the Keats House Poets and the University of London's Human Rights Consortium.

Comments are closed.