The Power of Creativity — Poetry by people in poverty

Above: Angela Babb and Gill Main perform their poem

ATD Fourth World’s 2023 event for the UN International Day to End Poverty, 17 October, was an exhibition and performance showcasing the creativity of people living in poverty. To discover the photo exhibition, please click here.

Poems were written by:

  • from ATD: Angela Babb, Patricia Bailey, Alison Barnfather, Charlotte Brown, Amanda Button, Francesca Crozier-Roche, Taliah Drayak, Kevin Makwikila, Gill Main, Seamus Neville, Moraene Roberts, and Lisa Slaughter;
  • from the APLE Collective: Tracy Knight, Loraine Masiya Mponela, and Carole Turner;
  • and from the International Parent Advocacy Network and by Parent Advocacy and Rights: Jess and Lisa-Marie Graham.

Below are three of the poems that were included: one by Angela, Francesca and Gill; one by Patricia; and one by Kevin.

Gaping Furiosity and the Power of Care

by Angela Babb, Francesca Crozier-Roche and Gill Main

It was “just a domestic dispute”

That was their official call.

Of course they ignore your injuries

And make you feel so small.


You’re put down, told your choices were wrong

They insist it was all your fault.

But with the refuge full, you can’t protect your kids

So you lose custody and family life grinds to a halt.


Carrying the massive weight of misery

You fall pregnant again — maybe hope will grow from the earth?

But in family courts, it feels like a non-stop wheel,

No compassion in their cocoon of poshness, and your baby is removed at birth.


The past keeps spoiling the future. Solely on your own,

Stuck in survival mode, your soul is just so very tired.

Feeling absolute gaping furiosity, you want to be

A bomb-throwing suffragette or Guy Fawkes lighting the fire!


“Poverty” gets used as a buzzword

But it’s really just not understood

That some so-called “solutions” do damage

And leave you stuck in the shit for good.


You feel powerless to change things

But still you shower others with love and care,

Taking time to check in and offer support,

Knowing how much it means to be there.


Coming together for a meal,

Knowing the impact of each word,

Asking “are you okay?”

And making sure others feel heard.


You know when someone else feels shut down.

You help them open up, and it fills your soul.

You invest in creating lightbulb moments

That help to make the world feel whole.

My Time

By Patricia Bailey

“School is the best part of your life.”

That’s what they say —

But when you’re behind because of ill health

It doesn’t feel that way.


When you’re sent to a special needs school,

It’s true the other kids can be mean.

When you get your own back, you’re called “troublemaker”

Cause that’s just how you’re seen.


Coming home, sometimes dinner’s waiting for you.

Or other times, it’s not.

It depends how life is going

But as the oldest, you know what’s what.


The one place to relax was the bath

With some Dettol to feel extra clean.

“Aren’t you finished yet?”, they’d ask.

Nope, that was my only time just for me.


School is the best part of life.

Now I’m older, I finally agree

Cause I know what it’s like to be my mum’s carer

While both working in the same factory.


On the factory floor,

They always nag you to go faster.

And even when you’ve got a doctor’s note,

The boss can still decide you won’t last there.


“He doesn’t have to give child support.”

That’s what the DWP told my kids’ dad.

And when I ran out of money every Friday

I knew that we’d been had.


When one of your kids is a rebel,

And you’re struggling to pay for food,

Social workers are at your door

Saying your parenting’s no good.


You’re doing everything you can

But the kids are still put in care.

That’s when you can fall into depression

Because they’re no longer there.


Even picking up a pencil

Feels like too hard a chore.

Those are dark days

Wondering how you could have done more.


But when you chat with friends,

You know there are good days too,

With a cup of tea and a fleecy blanket

And others checking in with you.

Kevin Makwikila

Do we insult our maker, or how do we honour?

By Kevin Makwikila

As a child, I used to wonder,

Does anyone else comprehend these words?

This led me to blur them out.

My escape was drawing for hours to understand.


I didn’t know things were blurry.

I should have had glasses to see.

Now, I’m the one trying to see,


but listening deeper to allow the spirit to emerge.


How does a human being comprehend?

The disconnection between the minors and the majors.

We must balance true compassion.

We, the wealthy, must take care of those with little,

Did Christ’s sacrifice mean nothing?

For we are the rivers that flow with living waters.

without it, we only repeat the cycle of oppression.


How can one eat on a silver plate and

feed his neighbour on a dog’s plate?


When I looked after the executive team in the gym,

I learned the privileges of what I never wanted to be,

Enjoying my lunch with the cleaners kept my sanity.

Fighting to remain humble,

if you think it’s a walk in the park,

you must be joking.


I thank the elites for treating me like a son.

You reminded me of my father; grateful I am.

Because, indeed, they are not all the same.


The more time I observe,

The more obvious things are.

For where your money is, so is your heart!

I know it’s not easy, but was anything ever easy?


Listening is our superpower;

take a walk into the streets and listen.

For the sun sets on us all,

So as the rain rains on us all,

for I am no greater than you.

But together, we will move mountains.

So, let us take a walk in the streets!