Birmingham’s Poet Monkey chalks the Ukraine poem on footpath

As Russian bombs continue to fall on Ukrainian cities, a poem is chalked onto the sidewalk in a southern Birmingham suburb. The verse condemning the Russian invasion is written by Poet Monkey, an anonymous alter-ego of a local resident.

Like many of Poet Monkey’s works, it is written from someone else’s perspective, in this case a Ukrainian. This is not the first time their words have been seen chalked on sidewalks around Frankley.

“What I do is give people a part of someone else’s life,” the anonymous artist said.

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Part of the poem reads: “This is my country

“It belongs to me

“My ancestors’ blood runs deep in the ground

“It has far more value than any oil …

“The only place you want to occupy is the burning hole of hell

“You do not take Ukraine until the last Ukrainian has fallen

“You will never dampen the resistance”

A poem by Frankley artist Poet Monkey on a footpath in the Birmingham suburb
A poem by Frankley artist Poet Monkey on a footpath in the Birmingham suburb

Poet Monkey said, “That’s exactly how I would feel if I were to go to war. I’m more sad than angry, I’m bitter and sad.

“Imagine if it was here at Frankley, imagine if the bodies of your neighbors’ children were on the streets and the buildings were destroyed. I have been brought up with war all my life when I was a child, there was fighting in the Congo in the jungle.

“My grandfather fought in World War II, my uncle fought in the Korean War.”

This is not the first time Poet Monkey’s poems have been inspired by war abroad. In the summer of 2018, shortly after chalking up their first poem in Frankley, another called ‘The Damask Rose’ appeared on the streets.

The poem explored war in Syria and was inspired by the words of a Syrian refugee who spoke on the radio. Poet Monkey told BirminghamLive last spring that they cried when they first heard her speak, they cried when they first wrote the poem she inspired, they cried when they first wrote it out on the sidewalks, and they cry still to this day, every time they read. that.

Poet Monkey’s other poems have covered political issues, including the 1% NHS pay rise last spring, while more light-hearted poems have given ‘big thanks’ to local waste pickers and thanked local chip shop staff ‘for their kindness’.

“It’s a wonderful feeling when people enjoy my poems. I send them to my son and ask him what he thinks, but of course he says they are brilliant. When I was 13 or 14, I realized that I could write, but it had to be different and be my own style, ”the artist added.

Like most children in the 60s and 70s, Poet Monkey left school at a young age. They then moved to Frankley with their family of 16 years.

“My older brothers were hippies, my mom was a hippie. I would not sit here today and be the person I am if it were not for my mom.

“She educated me. My love of culture, art and music comes from her.”

As a child, Poet Monkey’s father called them and their friends ‘factory fodder’, but the poet was ‘determined not to be’.

Poet Monkey ended up working in the local community in many ways, volunteering as a nursery nurse and in the local community center as a teenager, before working in geriatric and mental health care.

The poet said, “I ended up doing what I wanted. At Rubery Hill, I used to sit 12 hours a day looking at people and assessing their mental health and trying to figure out what’s going on in their heads.”

Rubery Hill Hospital was a nearby mental health facility, which closed in 1993. The Hospital Chapel, a Class II listed building, still stands today.

“I have worked a lot in the community over the years and if I needed help, the community would help me right away. I’ve seen Frankley grow and people grow with it.

“Of course there is poverty, unemployment, the people who can not function because of illness, addiction, drinking, but it happens everywhere. At least people get out of it with each other and take care of each other here.

“I like a lot of people from Frankley and Birmingham. First of all, I’m from Frankley, secondly, I’m a Brummie.”

Today, Poet Monkey still works voluntarily in the community, cooking, cleaning and running errands for vulnerable people on the estate. In their spare time, they archive music, make experimental art, read and listen to radio.

In winter, when night falls early, the poet writes for hours, preparing to show newly written poems in summer sunshine.

“I celebrate life, the sun rising, the birds in the sky. My way of writing is to put on headphones, blow music down in my ears, sit with my pen and pad and wait. As soon as I can hear the words louder than the music in my head, the words come forth. “

Because of Poet Monkey’s work in the community, they are well known by many local residents and have been named Frankley’s official poet by the New Frankley Parish Council.

“I’m proud of the achievement, I’m really grateful for all the support,” they said. “I went out one night to write some poetry and just hoped people liked it, that’s how it all started.”

The new Frankley parish councilor Bruce Pitt said: “The Ukraine poem is one that is important. People need to be reminded; what did Ukraine mean to any of us a year ago? It should make you think, that’s the poetry is about.

“Seeing the poems on the street, written by a local, makes them hit so much harder. They are from the community, it is homemade. ”

Penny Moore, a local resident and member of Friends of Balaam Wood, a group that takes care of an area of ​​old oak forests and grasslands in Frankley, said: “We love Poet Monkey. They’re out chalking on the sidewalks for hours, so others can enjoy their poems.

“People may not go to a poetry reading or visit an art gallery, but reading a poem on the sidewalk is accessible. It’s about the joy of sharing.”

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