Those close to me know that poetry has a special place in my heart – it’s something that was introduced to me a young age by my Dad. On my 8th birthday he gave me a collection of Banjo Paterson’s poems and I fell in love with ‘The Man From Snowy River’ and I would learn the words so I could recite the poem at the drop of a hat. For me, there is something quite powerful and raw about poetry. Unfortunately I now don’t read as much as I’d like, but when I was asked if I would review Taking Steps, it was something I knew I’d love to do.
Taking Steps is written by Helen Sims and it starts with a foreword detailing her inspirational life, coping with Cerebral Palsy and raising awareness for disability. Before I had started reading, I was drawn in to her story – her incredible attitude and how she turns that into something so positive. I love Helen’s style of writing, each line is short and powerful and the collection of poems was like a snapshot into her life.
There were many poems, such as ‘Slipped’ which resonated in particular with my life after having my baby, that feeling of falling and not being able to find your way. To me, this feeling will never leave me and it took me right back to those early months:
I am shipped
To the middle
Of a distant sea
And others, such as ‘To Whom It May Concern’ really struck a chord as to the raw emotion of people’s perceptions around disability and the feeling of not being cared about. This was among my favourite poems of the collection, as it described so clearly what I have sadly not thought about before, and I don’t think I am alone in saying that. My underlying thought is that we all should be raising awareness for disability and changing people’s perception of it – this is 2016 after all. But it’s not that easy; as Helen explains to me:
I think it is changing and not necessarily for the better at the moment. Since 2010 there has been a lot of ‘scrounger rhetoric’ put out the government and the media on its behalf. There have been claims particularly in the right-wing media that 75% of disabled and ill people are ‘faking’ to get social security. In reality the figures for ‘fraud’ are less than two percent. As a result of this misinformation, disabled and ill people are I feel now being viewed with doubt and suspicion. I think the rhetoric is an attempt to justify cuts to social security. It has no basis in truth.
So what can we do to raise awareness? I was really struck that poetry is such an effective way to raise awareness, to get people talking and as it’s all about the engagement with other people.
I think there are lots of ways raising awareness can be done. I’ve always done it through talking to people, not being afraid to answer questions, -and writing, of course! I feel that the more creative you can be, (and honest), the more people will engage. I also think it’s important to share things that people will identify with, thus making the point that disabled people have the same wants, needs, aspirations, that they do.
It was a pleasure to read this book, and I would highly recommend it – it is thought-provoking and inspiring, not to mention such a real look at Helen’s life and gives you a better understanding of Cerebral Palsy. You can buy the paperback book via Amazon for £8.99 by following this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Taking-Steps-Helen-Sims/dp/1533347182/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1464642193&sr=1-1&keywords=taking+steps
I was given a copy of Taking Steps by Helen Sims for the purpose of this review