Inky Articles: Lemn Sissay at the Storyhouse, Chester: with Claire Faulkner

Having lived and worked in Manchester, I’m familiar with the work of Lemn Sissay. His poem ‘Rain’ is one of my all-time favourites, and I was lucky enough to see him perform his play, Something Dark, at Chester last year. So, I was thrilled to hear that he would be Artist in Residence at the Storyhouse as part of The Chester Literature Festival this year.

I particularly love the way in which the Storyhouse embraces poetry and introduces it to people. The building turns itself into a giant poetry book, and anyone who walks in to use the library or goes to the cinema becomes part of the experience.

This year Lemn’s poetry adorns the walls. It’s everywhere. The text is big and brave, covering walls and windows. But most importantly of all, the words are inspiring, positive and beautiful. You don’t have to be a poetry fan to appreciate work displayed like this. The overall effect and experience are stunning.

The works on display are from Lemn’s series of ‘Morning Tweets’. Poems written at dawn, which explore the themes of relationships and belonging, light and dark, sadness and hope, love and anger. I found that each one left me with an over whelming sense of comfort and peace.

The most inspirational was in the stair well…

If the phone won’t ring, make a call
If the mountain won’t move shift it
If the birds won’t sing, sing to them all
And if the sun won’t rise…lift it!

The poems are displayed in all corners of the building. Hidden away for you to find like buried treasure, and when you find one unexpectedly the messages have a deeper impact. Looking up from the first floor, I found this…

Let go of the pain
Let it be undefined
Let it rain let it rain
And then let it shine.

I was struck by the strength and hope in the line written across the balcony, “I am not defined by my scars, but my incredible ability to heal.” I stood for a while, looking up at it. Lots of people passed by, either collecting tickets or making their way to the theatre. Then one person, who I’d never met before stopped, glanced up and said to me. “It’s a good message. We should all remember that.”

Lemn Sissay MBE on Twitter

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