Over Land, Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge

Over Land, Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge

Edited by Kathleen Bell, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan

Review by Arthur Adlen

The struggle experienced by many men, women and children seeking a safe haven where they can live their lives is captured in these 101 poems by 82 poets. For those of us who are fortunate enough never to have faced such desperation, the heroism and, all too often, tragedy we only see second hand are reflected throughout the book.

There are poems that give us a strong sense of what people are going through, like Ambrose Musiyiwa’s, The man who ran through the tunnel:-

When I heard
how he ran
across continents
over rivers
through forests
through deserts
and through tunnels,
how could I fail
to be inspired?

Another poem, Alright, Jack by Alan Mitchell, challenges the attitude of many British people who lack the capacity to care about refugees. He asks,

When did it become
the British thing to do
to just shrug our shoulders
and ignore the suffering
of fellow human beings?

In The Gate of Grief we are reminded that humans have always been migrants. The Gate of Grief: Bab-Al-Mandab, on the Red Sea, is the point where our early ancestors left Africa.

Siobhan Logan writes,

When a sharp-eyed hunter spied land over there
we began to think
how to reach this new place, how to put
ourselves into the water.

All the poems are thoughtful and challenging, and on the whole the book is inspirational. Not a read to snuggle down with while you enjoy a cup of cocoa. One that, for anyone with a conscience and a love for humanity, will be disturbing.

Any actual enjoyment one may gain from this book comes from the appreciation of the writing, and sympathy for those people who have lived, and are living, through the experience of displacement and the search for a safer, better future.

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