Words That Burn – question through poetry
First watch writer, poet, speaker and educator Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan perform ‘This is not a humanizing poem’.
Suhaiymah describes herself as someone invested in unlearning and interrogating narratives around race, gender, Islamophobia, state violence and colonialism.
As a poet, you are free to explore both individual experience and wider concepts and to question societal structures and power.
Sabrina Mahfouz is a playwright, poet, screenwriter and performer who has recently been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and is the recipient of the 2018 King's Alumni Arts & Culture Award for inspiring change in the industry.
Watch Sabrina Mahfouz perform ‘SOLIDARITY POEM (for all those defending human rights)’. (read the poem)
Now reflect on the poem:
- What do you like / dislike about the poem?
- Did anything puzzle you or feel familiar?
- What questions does it raise?
In the poem, Sabrina shares with us that
“two world wars were required for people to form a formal idea that these ideals belong to all”
A big idea
Following the second world war, the countries of the United Nations got together to formally agree the idea of rights being for us all. This formal agreement – The Universal Declaration of Human Rights – marked a fundamental shift in history. For the first time a global agreement put human beings, not power politics, at the heart of its agenda.
The Declaration became the foundation stone for the ‘rules’ of human rights: human rights laws. These include 80-plus international human rights laws and, here in the UK, the Human Rights Act. The body of human rights law is a work in progress and continual work is needed to uphold human rights and freedoms for particular issues and social groups.
Human rights are:
- universal (they belong to all of us)
- inalienable (they cannot be taken away from us)
- interdependent and indivisible (governments should not be able to pick and choose which are respected)
Explore the preamble and/or the summary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Cut or copy out words and phrases that you think are important. Move them around and play with them. Are there any that you want to connect or repeat?
Use these words or phrases to create a free verse poem. A free verse poem is a poem with no set rhyme or rhythm.
Words That Burn - bitesize poetry series
Explore more about the power of poetry with our other bitesize blogs:
- 1 – introducing our bitesize poetry series
- 2 – reflect through poetry
- 3 – feel through poetry
- 4 – question through poetry
- 5 – listen through poetry
- 6 – dream through poetry
- 7 – demand through poetry
- 8 – celebrate through poetry
The Words That Burn bitesize poetry series explores the power of poetry and suggests writing activities you can try at home. For full teaching resources visit www.amnesty.org.uk/wordsthatburn
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.