Former Walsall Poet Laureate on social distancing

A former Poet Laureate from Walsall has been commissioned to write a series of poems for Walsall for All about social distancing and COVID-19.Ian Henery was appointed Walsall’s first-ever Mayor of Walsall’s Poet Laureate by Councillor Garry Perry on National Poetry Day in 2011 and served under Councillors Dennis Anson and Mohammad Nazir until 2014.

Ian is the author of 5 collections of poetry, all of which have sold out, a playwright under commission with a trilogy for China West Midlands 2020 and a workshop facilitator. He performs on stage with the poetry collective Poets Against Racism and last year performed around the region at 5 music and arts festivals.

These poems were written at a time when Ramadan was under way explained Ian and set to be observed by millions of Muslim people. The coronavirus pandemic greatly affected the rituals which were modified to fit physical distancing measures in place all over the globe. I was greatly inspired by what Muslim people were doing at this difficult time.

Matt Hancock praised the Muslim community for making changes in how they marked Ramadan during the lockdown.

The world needs to come together to keep safe said Ian but, ironically, coming together means staying apart to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by social distancing. In a time of limited social interaction we can see the power of words. It’s a difficult time for everyone and we need poetry more than ever quite simply to bring people together – but six feet apart and not six feet under

Ian shared these poems on a global platform called Speak Your Peace. It was a 5 week global expressive arts series based entirely online. The event was hosted by iLikeZach in New York in partnership with the Stafford Space Station.

For 1 hour each week expressive individuals were invited to join a Zoom session online curated by Zach to share their poems, art and music said Ian. The core purpose was simple – to demonstrate that amidst the fear, uncertainty and separation that we’re all currently processing – the human capacity to express experience through art forms will always prevail over the limits of our circumstance.

Ian was joined by the Staffordshire Poet Laureate and the former Worcestershire Poet Laureate. The poems for Walsall for All were well received. Ian also read the poems at other virtual open mic performances in Birmingham, the Black Country and Brighton. Hope Radio, which broadcasts on 87.9FM, wants to do a feature on these poems for Walsall for All and the general relaxing of lockdown routines in Walsall.

The vision of Walsall for All is to create an integrated and inclusive community where people from all backgrounds come together and celebrate what they have in common.

The Language of Social Distancing – COVID-19 (Sonnet)

Six feet apart and not six feet under,

Grieving families with hands on window panes

Quarantined, masked grandchildren in the rain.

Coronavirus has torn asunder,

Waves with the rush of tsunami thunder

Engulfing constellations of sorrow;

The curl of surf, trembling foam of woe –

Pandemic, the news-drunk virus plundered.


Unite! Come together – but stay apart,

Social distancing – wash hands and wear masks,

It`s the language of love, it`s all we ask

As the coronavirus scales ramparts.

Communicate by voice, eyes and heart,

Life can`t be measured by inches and feet

But love and respect, kind deeds, words so sweet

Let`s begin again and our lives restart.


I Love You – From 15 Million Miles & 6 Feet Away (Villanelle)


My love is in social isolation,

Six feet apart, masked, gloved hands, forced to hide

COVID-19`s viral decimation.


Virtual hugs are no consolation,

Our gloved hands reach outside, never inside;

My love is in social isolation.


A galaxy away, aberration:

Screen time, blue light of phone, tears that have cried,

COVID-19`s viral decimation.


Language of love is in devastation:

Two worlds and computer screens, love denied,

My love is in social isolation.


Gloved hands hold love, viral incubation,

Daily statistics of those who have died,

COVID-19`s viral decimation.


The stars go out in our constellation,

Love cannot cross over the great divide:

My love is in social isolation,

COVID-19`s viral decimation.


Walsall Poem (COVID-19)


If the pandemic begins to worsen

Keep it together – but six feet apart;

Social distancing – length of a tall person,

Communication by eyes, voice and heart.


We need poetry now more than ever,

It`s limited social interaction;

Social distancing – let`s stay together

On digital platforms, an attraction.


Our hands are cracked, we`ve used up all the soap

Walsall behind bars, quarantine, lockdown;

Social distancing – poetry is hope

We need lots of that in our Walsall town.

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