Sarah de Nordwall

Performance Poet, Sarah de Nordwall

Poetry Performances

The House of Lords, London

Photo by Larry Johnson

'Well there's something we're never going to forget!' said Lord Brennan, House of Lords to the UN Rapporteur on Freedom of Conscience and Belief, when I finished my poem The Container of Abandoned minds, as part of my submission about the language of political correctness and freedom of conscience. Performances of poetry are often associated with small basements with microphones, exercise books and coffee stains. And that's a fine place for them too. But one of the joys of being a bard is the opportunity to contribute to public debate and campaigning, right at the heart of the public square. The performance of a poem changes the tone and the atmosphere of a meeting. It can bring people together and it awakens the imagination in fresh ways. The poem I was performing on this occasion, was written specially for the event aimed to highlight in a light hearted but none the less slightly sinister way, the danger that George Orwell points out so beautifully in his essay on the English language, that if you want to abuse a people, you must first abuse the language. Poetry is resistance!

The Container of Abandoned Minds*

There is a place
Where standardised thought
Will lead, if you care to go.
Why so few see, where the path leads on
Is hard to say, or know.

The road takes little effort
As it slopes and twists and winds.
But when you arrive, you'll know the place;
The container of abandoned minds.

Its walls are sheer consensus
Their surface, entirely flat
They almost seem to absorb the light
They're so utterly grey and matt.

And all the sounds are deadened
The many voices, stilled

For the Container of Abandoned Minds
Is crushingly, shockingly filled.

Its inhabitants are all relieved
From the strain of a complex life,
Where grace and suffering mend the world
And receive the surgeon's knife.

No healing there,
Through pain or joy
They are offered this instead;
That all the world become the same
And the living obey the dead.

There is a place
Where standardised thought
Will lead, if you care to go.

The container of abandoned minds
Don't say you didn't know.

*The title of this poem is taken from the wonderful essay by Paul Hogget, The Institutionalisation of Shallowness, in his book Partisans in an uncertain world). Other performances which have given me particular joy were for the Women's Environment Network at the Climate Change camp as part of the Lib Dem Party Conference, speaking alongside the founder of ethical trade and textile company Green Fibres. Poetry and business acumen at the service of ethical trade could not be more appropriate companions. As Von Balthasaar reminds us Beauty, Truth and goodness are sisters, who must not be separated. If they are, they enact a terrible and inevitable revenge. Personal experiences rendered through poetry can also be found to benefit others practically. When I helped Caritas launch their campaign for more funding for young people who had run away from home, they used my poem Catch me If you Can on their literature for MPs. Related poems were also performed at the launch of the campaign with the Cardinal.
Performances are memorable and when they incarnate the message of the campaign or touch upon the crux of the debate, creating more room for intellectual exploration, the Bard's work is done.

If you would like to commission a poem and performance for a campaign or debate do contact me with your brief. Prices start at as little as £300.

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