Our lives take us on so many paths, I could have been a physicist, a gardener or a monk; each of these possibilities was real at one time. Instead poetry and literature choose me as their own, as if in reality it was always meant to be that my life would be intertwined completely with theirs. Then I could have been happily following the typical role of the poet: writing, lecturing, and writing criticism of other poets in a mainly hermetic world, but the revolutionary act of bearing witness to the lives I come into contact with, through simply looking when I write, has shown me what a hard yet beautiful world it is that we live in. The simple meeting of life with one’s true gaze is the greatest act of humanity and dignity there is. To find a way every day to continue doing this, to keep reporting back in poems, stories and photographs, is my own small fight for a better world.
There are times when I drown in the politics of the world, things I have seen in my own life, in the very town and country I live in, as well as on my travels in the edge-lands of Northern Ireland, The Americas, Europe and India. There are things that are much worse than death. It is not true that words can never hurt us, human dignity can be destroyed with a single word, neighbour can be turned against neighbour, and war can shout its name in the guise of being for peace. In this whirling mess of emotion and division, the only thing that can restore us is that light within ourselves, this where art is at its most valuable. Not in argument or sentimentality, but in truth, in dreams, expression, and storytelling. Just as words can destroy us just as readily as the gun, so it is that a true line written down can unlock a life that has not dared to breathe for years. It can bring empathy and dignity in the simple sharing in black ink on paper, or when spoken aloud in a room in another country. It can give life to those who have never had a chance at one, and it can lift us, though we may not even know how much we need this medicine.
Bearing witness and taking action are more important than ever. We are always riding at the front edge of time, and there will always be those who desire that these are the worst of times. The artist, the dreamer, the worker and the scientist are necessary. Ask yourself, what real contributions do banking or politics make as they stand at this time. How do they help with understanding, evolution, and the human spirit? I for one will continue to travel these roads with hope and love as best I can, erasing the borders that have been drawn on the map in order to divide us. For there are no borders, and there is no war between ordinary people when we truly see for ourselves that there is no separation.
John Siddique 2013