A city-wide display of love and solidarity
For some, this time of year will be filled with warmth, family, and celebration. For others, it will feel bleak and isolating. So many of us are struggling for different reasons; stress, grief, anxiety, helplessness, and war.
Bookbag bookseller and poet, Sirisha Damarla, had the idea of filling our Christmas window with poems to express love, solidarity, and the importance of Hope in these times. We thought poems of Hope needed to go much further than just our doorstep.
So, we reached out to poets; local unpublished poets from the Bookbag By Night community and local group Roots Resistance, to The Bard of Exeter Ceri Baker, and to award-winning poets like Salena Godden, Louisa Adjoa-Parker, and John Wedgewood-Clarke. We asked them to share pieces that represented and felt like Hope to them.
The poems span themes of solidarity, finding joy in nature and friendship, migration and memory, and active hope as an act of resistance.
We printed the poems and hung them in the windows of cafes, bakeries, community arts venues, Exeter Picturehouse Cinema, and indie businesses throughout Exeter to create a city-wide display of Hope.
Thanks to each poet for their generosity in sharing their words, to each host venue who made this a city-wide show, to Sirisha Damarla and Davina Quinlivan, and to Patrick May who gave his time to design them.
Poems For Hope and the City runs until late January 2024. View the poems in full here
Out of the Window of this Wound
“I started writing poetry in 2014, during wartime, as a way to connect with poets outside the hulking walls of the largest open-air prison in the world that prevented me, for a long time, from seeing the beauty of other cultures and heritages. Within these walls, poetry was the only tool that helped me to transcend all this, and scavenge hope.”
Mohammed Moussa is a Palestinian poet and journalist from Gaza. He was born in Jabalia Camp, the largest refugee camp in the region. He set up the Gaza Poets, the first spoken word project in Gaza in 2014. He visited the UK in 2022 and performed at Bookbag.
This poem in displayed at Bookbag.
Welcome To Hope
Salena Godden is a poet, author, award-winning novelist, and activist. Her poems are alive with the power of solidarity and Hope, and if you get the chance to see her perform them, you should take it. You can read more of her work in Pessimism Is For Lightweights. Salena's memoir is due out in 2024.
Welcome To Hope is displayed at Bookbag.
I See You
Priscilla Okoye's I See You is taken from anthology The Other Side of Hope, a literary magazine helmed by migrants and refugees that offers a space to document their thoughts, lived experiences, and their hopes. You can find it for sale at Bookbag.
I See You is displayed at Bracket Interiors on Fore Street.
Ceri Baker is the Bard of Exeter for 2024. Farmers Know is about her Father, a farmer and a teacher.
You can find it on display at Shillingford Organics Farm Shop & Cafe in St Thomas, Exeter.
Louisa is one of the Westcountry's foremost poets. Her poetry and prose has been widely published. She has been highly commended by the Forward Prize; twice shortlisted by the Bridport Prize; and her grief poem, Kindness, was commended by the National Poetry Competition 2019. She regularly performs her work and gives workshops in the South West, where she lives. Her latest pamphlet, She Can Still Sing is available at Bookbag.
Her piece can be seen at Exeter Phoenix.
Ysella is a Mid-Devon based poet, writer and producer. She writes with a focus on nature and connection, and produces poetry readings, open mics, literary events and podcasts.
The star-shaped Wood Anemone is one of the first plants to bloom in spring.
Find it displayed at Sacred Grounds Cafe in the West Quarter.
By Silai (bio coming soon)
My Hopes For You During The Holidays
Sirisha Damarla is a bookseller at Bookbag and runs Bookbag By Night, our open-mic night, inspired by poetry events she used to frequent in Banglelore. She has an MA in Creative Writing and Poetry and lives in Devon.
Her poem is in the window of Helen of Troy in the West Quarter.
Davina is a writer and researcher interested in post-colonial identity, migration, ecology, and immersive storytelling. Her poetic memoir, Shalimar: A Story of Place and Migration, was published with Little Toller books in 2022 and she is currently working on her next book.
Kitchen can be viewed at tea shop The House of Hope And Mercy in the Jungle, in McCoys Arcade.
Ocean Tawiah was a bookseller at Bookbag while studying at university in Exeter. They relocated to Tokyo after completing their studies. They were a valued part of the poetry community here.
Ocean's poem can be viewed at Crankhouse Coffee.
Arun Sood is a writer, musician and academic working across multiple forms. His novel New Skin For Old Ceremony, about youth, music, and the ghosts of friendship, spans India and Skye and came out in 2022.
Location: coming soon