Tuesday, 13 December 2011

On the "Outside"

These past few days have been exhausting as anyone who has been following the Poetry Space group may have gathered. I found myself faced with what I felt to be an inappropriate post and deleted it.Some people were pleased I had, others felt that they had a right to judge for themselves and in the end I came to the conclusion that they are right . Extreme views as one person put it are possibly best "out in the open where they can be challenged". This is true democracy in action. I have spent many hours examining what led to my decision to press that delete button and I think there were many factors to it. Fear was a big factor. I acted in self-protection .  I was worried about my good name, the reputation I have built up with Poetry Space Showcase and the printed publishing business.This is all to a large extent controllable. On these sites only I only publish material I am comfortable with and that  fit with my view of Poetry Space.

My discussions with family, friends and colleagues have all helped me to clarify my thinking on this and to realise that the forum I have created is not mine. It belongs to everyone who contributes to it and each and every one of us has a different idea of what that space is for. Like a mother who lets her child go out in the world I am now going to let this forum evolve as an entity apart from me and just use the ethical guidelines available to me - that I use all the time in my role as a counsellor. From now on I will rely on the group members themselves to monitor extreme postings and only press that button if I feel the posts breach UK Child Protection legislation and UK Anti Terrorist legislation and if I have to do that I will also record the posts in case they are needed as evidence.

It is hard being on the outside and it is hard being the one making the decisions. There is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

Being on the outside is the theme for a poem I wrote very recently for a competition organised by The Bardic Writer's Circle - a lovely group of writers in Caerphilly who set up this competition so that they could raise funds to produce an anthology of their own writing in 2012. I will be meeting them next week to receive my prize and I'll also get to meet Professor Chris Meredith who judged the competition.

This is the poem:


I am not sure

how  I came to be outside
rather than inside

how  I came to be
on a homemade sledge
gathering speed

how arms and hands
belonging to me could
own another child’s fat warmth

or how
in the bronze twilight
of a winter’s evening
my face
could burn
and freeze
and laugh

all at the same time.

© Susan Jane Sims

All the best for now,


Judge's comments on Bardic Writer's Circle website


  1. Sue, I think this poem so deserves its prize, a moving, courageous, skillful and liberating poem for all of us! Its structure and music bear repeated study and engagement. I see it as the kind of poem which is a model for poetry which offers the reader depth of experience in life and art which can help us to engage with our journey and heal.

    I wonder if I may use it with groups sometime in the future (with appropriate author acknowledgments and background)? In the meantime, I will be using it inside my own heart and mind!

    Congratulations on the act of creating this wonderful poem.

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful response Rob. I would be delighted for you to use the poem with any groups you wish.