Refugees

They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or me
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
Welcome here
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
They cannot
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way

(now read from bottom to top)

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196 comments

  1. Hi, sir I am in yr11 from sydney I really liked ur poem and studying as a related text can you please help me I want to know what technique did you use to portray both parralel (good and bad) side to the poem
    Thank you!

    1. Thanks very much for getting in touch. I borrowed the device of a poem that reads differently backwards than it does forwards, from a poem called The Lost Generation by Jonathan Reed. I really like how the structure can disorientate the reader. best wishes, Brian

      1. Hello again! (I contacted you a while ago asking if I could use REFUGEES on our website: csjp.org). You said yes but I haven’t done so yet but would like to post it as a video on youtube. Would that be ok? thanks
        susan

      2. Hi, I return to this poem time and again and have shared it with many friends and colleagues. I’ve also used it in the classroom and young people have responded so well to it, through both discussion of the topic as well as poetic form. At the moment I’m putting together resources for teachers to use and I’d really like to include Refugee. There is so much children (and teachers) could get out of it. Could you let me know if this would be possible please, Thanks.

      3. Hi Verity, thanks for your kind words. As long as the resources aren’t on sale for financial profit, then I’d be delighted for you to include it. With best wishes, Brian

  2. Wow, Brian I just discovered your Refugees poem from a friend today who published it on FB. Absolutely brilliant and so well executed! I have since checked out and shared many of your poems with friends, Instagram and FB because it is so good and I have so much work to catch up on.

  3. Thank you so much for this. It is a wonderful poem that we are going to read during out march on the 10th of December, celebrating Human Rights day.

  4. Absolutely brilliant. A metaphor for Yin and Yang, the closest verbal one that I know of.

    There is more, Geometry, Perspective, the relativity of morals, even a glimpse of “priming” for some body approaching the subject (theoretically) neutrally. Just awe struck!

  5. We’ve just used your poem in a Year 5 class (9 and 10 year olds) and they absolutely loved it. They wanted to know how long it took you to write and how you wrote it. We tried breaking it down so we could see how you were about to create such an amazing effect and we tried our own. Here’s one example, using a completely different topic:
    Be late
    You always hate to
    Get up early.

    1. Thanks very much for this feedback, Nikki. Sorry for being so slow to respond. It only took a couple of hours to write – but I’d be thinking about a forwards / backwards poems for months. But I was in search of the right kind of subject matter on which to use it.
      And thanks for sending me that exampled. That’s excellent work!
      best wishes,
      Brian

  6. This is absolutely brilliant and moving. I teach a high school class, and I would like to use this poem as a teaching tool. We have had many discussions in recent months about the negative movement regarding our current political situation. The USA is becoming so divisive that I try to motivate students to look at all situations from more than one viewpoint, and this poem will certainly help with this concept. Again, let me express my admiration for this poem; I truly believe that my students will enjoy it as much as I.

  7. What an amazing poem. Thank you. Can I please have permission to share it with the Mid North Coast Refugee Support Group and put it on their facebook page and my facebook page.
    Beth

  8. Thank you, Brian, for writing this wonderful poem and for so generously making it freely available. The growing divisiveness here in the US is tragic; particularly so since there has never been a time in history when realizing we are all in the same small boat together was more desperately necessary.

  9. My daughter’s school included your wonderful and thought-provoking poem as a reading in their Christmas Carol concert. The two teenage pupils chosen to read it did so with subtlety and a sense of gravity. Your words spoken by our next generation were both poignant and hopeful. A touching moment.

  10. Dear Brian
    I would very much like to use this challenging and thought provoking poem in our church magazine and would very much appreciate the permission to do so. I am not sure if my previous request got through and of course it has been a holiday and celebration time.
    With best wishes
    Alan

      1. Thank you so much and of course appropriate credit and link to your site will be shown. Very best wishes. Alan

  11. Great Poem , just used it in class to 8nspire my students to write an opinion essay on the topic .
    Thank you !
    David Gellman
    Tel Aviv

  12. Thank you so much for this beautiful poem. I’ll be sharing it with my class full of immigrant adults. I know it’ll really speak to them. And how generous to make it freely available!

  13. Brian, may we have permission to use your poem (with credit to you, of course) in a blog post?
    We are an order of Catholic sisters who support refugees’ rights.

      1. Brian, I asked for permission to use this on our site a while ago (we are catholic sisters also)- you said yes but I also would love to put the poem to music, do it in a video and put it on youtube – would that be ok?

  14. Hi Brian! We are currently raising funds up here in Peterborough, Ontario, to bring a family over from Syria. I’d like to get your permission to use your Refugee poem on our website ‘Amany’s Hope’. Thank you!

  15. I read your poem yesterday evening for the first time. We are in the midst of putting together a pro bono immigration screening clinic, and I have “miles to go before I sleep.” That said, in pausing for a few minutes to read your poem, and re-reading it, I was infused with the kind of energy that comes from being reminded of who I am, what I believe, and why I do what I am doing.

    1. Thanks, Tom. What a magnificent thing to be involved with. I’m so pleased to hear the poem helped to reinforce what you’re doing. Thanks for making a difference to people’s lives.

  16. Hi Brian,
    My name is Aisling I’m a primary school teacher in Ireland. I teach ten and eleven year olds and they are very bright, clued in and love to learn. We are learning about Mexico at the minute as our country study. The first thing one of the children said they know about Mexico is that Trump wants to build a wall to keep Mexicans away from the USA. This bothered me as you can imagine. As usual the children have surprised and delighted me with their research and their interest in finding out more for their project. I came across your poem on twitter and read it to them today. It was the line about the wall that got me. They LOVED it. They were so glad that it ended up having a positive message. I have been looking at your poetry and it’s brilliant. We were inspired at school and today as it is Internet Safety Day, they wrote poems about using the internet which were about the fun and safety element. Often we adults focus on the scary side. Your poem showed them (and me) a way to look at the world which is positive and open and kind.
    Thanks so much!

    1. Dear Aisling, I can’t tell you how cheered I am to read this message. Thank you! And thank you also for encouraging such imaginative and positive thoughts in those young minds.

  17. Wow. What a thought-provoking piece!
    Have keenly been following your poems on twitter but I am so glad to discover this gold mine. I wish to be allowed to pitch my tent here from now onwards.

    Zack

  18. Hi Brain,

    I am in year 11 and was wondering if i could use this peom for a close study multimodal ted talk?

    sincerely,
    Sophie

    1. Hi Sophie,
      Sorry for the delay in replying. I’ve only just seen this.

      I’d be delighted for you to use the poem in such a way – if it’s not too late.

      Good luck with it all,
      Brian

  19. Hi Brian, I am planning curriculum for my Year 8 students for next year, and would love to use your poem as part of our project on refugees. Do I have your permission to reproduce it for use in class, full credit given to you, of course? It is astounding, by the way, and I know our students will respond to it profoundly.
    Thanks,
    Jim.

  20. Hi Brian, I really love this poem… I’m wondering if I could have your permission to set it to music as a choir arrangement? I would like to see if our local high school and / or community children’s choir in Brisbane (Australia) would be interested in performing it. Many thanks. Lucy

  21. Dear Brian

    Lucy from the English and Media Centre here again. You are our poet of the moment and we would love to include Refugees and Love in the Time of Cauliflower in our forthcoming publication on poetry for 11-14. (It’s a publication in the same series as The Language Laboratory for which you very generously said we could use your Emoji poem.)

    Poetry Plus is written to encourage students to read poetry with pleasure and confidence, engaging critically and creatively with a diverse range of poems. It will include activities on individual and clusters of poems, and suggestions for writing poetry.

    While we were delighted that you were happy to give permission for us to use one poem, free of charge, we’re not expecting that again. Three poems in as many months is a bit much. Could you email me at the Centre (lucy@englishandmedia.co.uk) to let me know whether you would be happy for us to include the poems and the fee?

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Lucy

  22. Dear Brian,

    The translation of your poem into Catalan is in a book, with no ISBN I’m afraid (Published by a little town near Barcelona where I took part as a poet). It looks great.

    I am at present working on the translation into Spanish. When I finish, I will let you know the results, and tell you where and how it will be spread.

    Best wishes,

    Montserrat Aloy

  23. Dear Brian,
    Thank you so much for allowing me to use your poem “Refugees” in my keynote address for the National Association for Poetry Therapy conference last week. The poem was very well received by the conference participants!! I made copies for the participants with full acknowledgment. If you would like to see the video, scroll to the approximate 27 minute mark.
    I plan to revise the keynote for an article in the Journal of Poetry Therapy. With your permission, I would like to include it. Take care,
    Nick

  24. This is such a though provoking poem, thank you. My year 5 class are looking at refugees this week in conjunction with our text Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman. I would like to get the children to write their own poem in the same style. Do you have any tips for them writing a forwards/backwards poem?

  25. Brian, I am asking permission for our Parish of the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario, Canada, to publish your amazing Refugees poem in our monthly church publication called The Key. Thank you, and I’m looking forward to reading more of your poetry.

  26. Dear Brian,

    Just finished my translation of your Refugees into Spanish 😉
    I would like to know if there is any issue about Creative Commons rights that I should know about the poem and my translation… , before posting it into my blog and Facebook.

    I don’t want to spoil it :-&

    Best regards,

    Montse

    1. Hi Montse,
      Excellent! I’d be very happy for you to post it up. My main concern is for the message to have as wide a circulation as possible – rather than anything else (unless someone tries to use it for commercial gain, that is!).
      Thanks
      Brian

      1. Dearest Brian,

        First of all, hugs and kisses for your reply. It makes me so happy to share this wondrous poem and my translation to the world.

        I will forward it to the ONG Coordinator in Lleida and the deputy Ruben Wagensberg, organizer of the Social Action Movement “Volem Acollir” (we want to provide refuge).

        The more, the more conscious.

        Thanks a lot!

        Montse

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