Poetry Crossings Jul-Aug 2022: Please Bear With It

bear with it brian bolston jul-aug 2022 kathy ellis perception shift poetry crossings refugees sietar usa Aug 05, 2022

Poetry Crossings: Please Bear With It
by Kathy Ellis

Poetry often possesses a lens to simplify, and hopefully clarify, the complexity of our societies. Writers and poets are often driven by the challenge of specific topics and content. In poetry, line and stanza formats have a purpose. Every word counts. Poets use such tools as alliteration, titles, puncutation, and word stress. Just as poets usually consider the tools of language, interculturalists consider who the partipants are and what resonates with a particular audience.   

This poem appeared in my Facebook feed last month. The poet, Brian Bolston, asks the reader to “please bear with it” in reading this particular poem. You’ll see why. 


They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or me
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
Welcome here
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
They cannot
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way

(now read from bottom to top)

Refugees piqued my interest in sharing possibilities of poetry in the workplace. I coach Afghan refugees, so the title drew me. Secondly, reading this poem in a few minutes suited the busyness of the day. Most of all, Bolston’s application of reverse order and content of the message were powerful and clever. The words don’t change, but the ingenious move of changing the order instantly shifts the perception. Can this quick shift of a point of view happen in real life? Perhaps sometimes. Perhaps not at all. Perhaps. The possibility of a sudden change seems to be part of Bolston’s point with this poem.

How could you use this poem, Refugees, in your classes and sessions?

Suggested discussion questions on “Refugees” for your participants: 

  1. What were your initial reactions from the title? From the poem? 
  2. What impacted you in reading Refugees
  3. What emotions did you have? Where in the poem did the emotions change?
  4. Would the message be any different if you read the “bottom to top” first? If so, how? If not, why not?
  5. What is the heart message of Refugees?
  6. What does this poem say about viewpoints? Shifting perspectives? The human existence?
  7. Regarding refugees, who are usually fleeing danger or chaos, what obligations, if any, do neighboring countries have as opposed to countries much farther away?  
  8. How might a refugee react reading this poem?  

Questions for you as a facilitator:

  1. How could you use this poem in your environments? 
  2. What are other discussion points that segue into related topics? 

We invite you to share your ideas and responses in the “comment” section below.


About The Poet

Brain Bilston is from the United Kingdom. He has nearly 200,000 followers on social media, including noted British authors and performers. Bilston has written two collections of poetryand a novel. His acclaimed poem, Refugees, has been made into an illustrated children’s book. 

Brian Bilston's Poetry Laboetry | From Ideation to Poemification

*SIETAR USA and The “I” newsletter have the poet’s permission to include his poem.