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BLM, BBC, NHS: In Conversation with Piers Harrison Reid

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

by Harry Smithson

 
"I’ve never wanted to be exclusive, to use an elitist form of expression. I’d always want to speak to someone in the street and for them to get the crux of what I’m saying"

Poet, performer and A&E nurse Piers Harrison-Reid, fresh from appearances on the BBC and CNN, shares an exclusive poem for our 7th issue, Solitude. In our interview, we discuss the risk of publicly confronting racism, playing roles as a poet, and attempting to resonate with those who disagree with him.

 


So, now it seems the brown man’s saviour is viewfinder favouring the true.

Still smirk-screams of context and coon fill comment sections, and forget to count their blessings. Who knew?

Some closet racists now want a brown face to call their bias justified.

Pretend a rich right winger has nothing to hide. You know people lie for power and pride, right?

But we’re all flawed, all worthy of love, yeah whatever you’re feeling is alright:

We all crave contact, cuddles, and the darkening soft summer skies,

We’re all made of stars, all search for meaning,

We’re all such beautiful sore thumbs, sometimes.

We are clammy handed honesty, hope pouring out of smiling eyes.

Lord knows my zen is more Monzo than bonsai but I,

know so many lived and died, to get us right here in time.

Belly Mujinga and the ghosts of Grenfell: No justice no peace.

This skin has rotten nooses hanging from it still you see.

But the opposite of death is dance, to be truly lost in movement: glee

Our lives electric and our love is vast like the beauty of the rolling sea.

So, may the space we leave be full of light,

May we find one voice to sing and fight,

Learn to harmonise our heartbreak, learn we can be less polite.

Begin to rebuild our world to meet all our needs and make it right.

And as we are our actions we must always act phenomenally:

Take time to listen, forgive ourselves, just breathe and grow and be.


 

How long have you been a poet?

I’ve been writing poetry for 10/15 years. I’m 27 now. When I was 16, I focused on writing then performing in the Colchester area – Essex, Suffolk. Recently I’ve been writing more about my life as an A&E nurse, using the medium of poetry as a form of reflective practice.



There’s been a spurt of public interest in your poems. Can you give us a run-down of the developments?


I was a full-time A&E nurse for a few years and decided that it was taking over my life and I wasn’t finding time to write. I started doing bank-nursing, which allows you to choose which hours you work, so I could focus a bit more on poetry.


I immediately went on tour with a group of poets around England, Scotland and Ireland. Off the back of that we started doing some work with the BBC to increase the profile of the tour. It was serendipity that one of the producers for radio and one of the producers for TV also wanted something about the NHS being 70 years of age. So as a poet and a nurse I was asked to write about that. That worked really well – it got up to I think a million views across different platforms. They asked me to revisit that again this year, in the wake of the coronavirus crisis and it’s two years since that last piece was done, so the NHS is 72 years of age since its inception.