Poetry Emergencies – or The Importance of Joy & Inspiration in Work

Inspiration for my work often comes from unexpected sources. Today, it came from Peter Paphides and his piece on the eight-day whirlwind that created the charity single and video to raise money for Syrian refugees, Help Is Coming. His article is a clear description of how a good idea matched with persistent and willing people can make the world better – right now.

It’s not a stretch that the plight of millions of people fleeing the danger of their homes can inspire others to help – the film’s images of anguish and love are powerful. But I found additional and unexpected inspiration in two points about the about the creative process behind #HelpIsComing.

The first is that after Pete Paphides was struck with the inspiration for this project, he supposed that someone else would do what seemed obvious to him: that an obscure Crowded House song from 1995 was eerily suited the current refugee crisis and should be used to generate revenue for people in need. If he had thought of this so easily, surely someone else with better, faster, more famous resources would have the same idea and make it happen.

But as the hours ticked by, no one else came along. The insight and its apparent task were his. So he kept going, sending emails and making inquiries as to what might be done. And momentum started, interest built, and as friends started working the thing took shape. Help was coming – from him.

Curious tenacity emerged despite wondering when someone might arrive to take over. His persistence exemplifies one very liberating and potentially daunting idea: it’s just us. Each one of us is the help that is needed, and we have got to get on it. Other support will join us as we start. This is true at work, at home, in our creative ventures, anywhere in our lives. We are the people who can get things done and make things better. We are the ones who create change.

And it is the second unexpected bit of the article that puts that reality in lighter perspective. Pete’s wife, Caitlin Moran, was in charge of getting the intro to the film coordinated. This included getting the approval to use the introduction’s poem, and without it the entire section would be unusable. He wrote that while the intro was being filmed, “Caitlin was at home, on the phone to The Poetry Society, exclaiming, ‘Help! I have a poetry emergency!’” Oh, that Milton, Dickinson, or Angelou could hear the thrilling and dire need for Warsan Shire’s words! (Perhaps Billy Collins is writing a poem about such emergencies now…)

The the inspiration I found in those two two elements is that in the midst of unexpected efforts that make the world better, we can have an excellent time. If we become mired in the weight, chaos or pressure of our work and miss opportunities to honestly and hilariously declare that there is a “POETRY EMERGENCY,” we miss the point of what every other human being everywhere is working so hard for: to live a creative and joyful life.


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