Click on the various headings on the About Us menu above for the story of the project, its funding, where the poems have gone, etc.

Here I would like to set out the main aims of this project, and the principles that underlie it. In some ways, these have emerged progressively as the project itself has developed.

The starting point was a belief that poetry matters and can play a role in offering vital and honest connection between people. It can “make precious the space between us,” and in doing so act as a healing antidote to the language of Sell and Spin that fills so much of everyone’s day and does so much to reduce, isolate, depersonalise and pollute us all. A good poem offers rich and truth-loving and illuminating communication, the currency of community. If a poem really succeeds in speaking to people, it can bring them back to themselves and to where they belong. In speaking truth – however hard that truth is –  it can renew health and hope.

One early impetus for the project was thus simply to open up the way poetry is broadcast and widen the audience it can reach and speak to. Since it matters, poetry should not be restricted to the specialist bookshop or literary festival, or to the class room as a boring exam subject, to be dropped, gladly and hastily, as soon as exams are over. Nor, for that matter, need it be restricted to ringing in the individual brain, cut off from other brains. Good poetry is good currency and belongs, not just in each individual human system, but in the air between people, in public space.

A second impetus derives from my own observations as a social worker over the years – that institutions seeking to support and heal often also depersonalise and reduce. In the waiting room, the individual too easily and too often becomes nothing more than a set of presenting symptoms, a mere name in a queue of parts. So poems displayed in the waiting room can perhaps help correct that distortion, and offer recognition of the whole person, a weaver of particular dreams and a carrier of a unique history. The posters can help make the waiting room a more sensitive interlude for people, a time that might even be fertile.

In the mid-nineties, as the project turned increasingly to selecting bilingual poems, other meanings and aims came clear. They involved the potential of public poetry to recognise, address and bridge difference, to make connection across frontiers which otherwise breed ignorance and fear. For poetry can reach through to people, bring things home to them, make things real and personal, in a way that lectures, the disseminaton of lists of facts, the selling of lines, the repetition of slogans, simply cannot.

And having arrived at this recognition that poetry can be eloquent and effective in opening frontiers, breaking down walls, we were bound to note that of course there are other human differences and divisions besides those of language, culture and race. What about the fears and divisions and social blight created by mental ill-health, by learning disability ? And that’s what led to the two most recent collections launched in the Autumn of 2015, one on mental ill-health, the other on learning disability.

Finally, I want to say that another aim of the project is always to publish poems of merit and high quality, poems that communicate in a way that adds richness to the air between us. And in the fulfillment of that aim, the project continues to rely heavily on individuals who act as expert guides in the matter of poem selection. Most are living , some are not, but their sound judgement and deep immersion in the world of poetry and its networks have made them indispensable to whatever is good in these collections. I feel duty-bound to name them here. Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes (for their “Rattlebag” selection !), and Judith Chernaik and colleagues (for their pioneering and impeccable “Poems on the Underground” selections). More directly, David Hart, Fiona Sampson, Debjani Chatterjee and Stephen Watts have worked closely with me on the various collections, to my personal great reward and the project’s great benefit.

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