As part of the 75th anniversary of Jersey’s liberation from occupying forces, Jersey Arts Centre commissioned 17 Island poets to respond to our title and the ideas of occupation, liberation and reconciliation.
Originally intended to be a word exhibition on the walls of the Berni Gallery between 7 April – 2 May, this unique and compelling experience would have showcased the literary skills of some of our Island poets and storytellers in relation to the past, the present and the future.
However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the exhibition has been postponed, but we can nonetheless bring you those poems over the Liberation period from each of our 17 poets.
Click on the pdf or video file below to experience these stories. Enjoy!
- Sharon Champion
- THE LOSS OF HER OCCUPATION
“This poem traces our need for the ordinary at a time of uncertainty and deprivation during the Occupation of Jersey. Human desire for companionship – fun, sex and love – remain, perhaps, even stronger when forbidden? ‘Jerrybags’ – women who slept with ‘the enemy’ – were scorned and maligned, risking reputation and breaching expected norms of patriotism: they crossed the boundary. Many abortions were carried out illegally… decisions taken… regrets… heartbreak… Brave? Foolish? As the writer I have to ask myself what I would have done? What would you have done?”
- Nicky Mesch
- Simon Crowcroft
- LIBERATION DAY MEMORIES
- Jacqueline Mézec
- WALKING HOME
“In April 1944, aged 21, my father was sent as a forced worker to Germany, like thousands of others from occupied France. I have pieced together an account of his time there from his postcards home to his sister, Louise, and the details she recorded in a letter; from an enquiry to the Arolsen Archives; from online research with my brother who lives in Germany; and from childhood scraps of memories of my father talking about it. I will never know the full story of his year in a Germany that was imploding in a maelstrom of destruction, but the description of him setting out to walk home after liberation has always had great symbolic resonance for me. In my poem I set out to meet him, bridging the seventy-five-year interval through a shared family love of walking.”
- Judy Mantle
- TIME TRAVELLER
“Last year I spent some time in hospital and, whilst there, I had the privilege of meeting the Time Traveller. She was an inspiring woman, very old, wren-like, with twinkling eyes and a quick wit. She was often rooted firmly in the here and now but sometimes she would fly off to another time and place. She took me with her on her travels. We spent time with her parents on the family farm but mostly we went back to the Occupation years. She spoke very kindly of the German soldiers, who, as she said, “Didn’t choose to be here, and only wanted to go home.” The staff in the hospital were amazingly patient and caring with the Time Traveller and treated her as though she were their own Mother. I found the terms of endearment they used and their compassion towards her very moving.”
- Richard Pedley
“My father doesn’t often talk about the Occupation, but he let slip this memory about standing on Mount Bingham watching the Tommies get mobbed in the Harbour 75 years ago. It struck me that Liberation is still about a day off and grainy photos of people in hats, but the immediacy of what happened can only be imagined by most of us; we weren’t there. An expanded idea of liberation could mean taking a day to reflect on situations, relationships, habits, or unexamined ideas that, in the future, you’d be better off leaving behind. With the helmets and the Mauser.”
- Wendy Falla
- LIBERATION PRAYER
“As a Channel Islander in exile as a mature student, my thoughts often turn to home. The child of parents who lived through WWII and the Occupation, I have written extensively about Jersey, Sark, Temps Passé, thrift and the resilience of Islanders. To write about a celebration in the present, one must refer to the events of the past and the struggles of those who endured it. What they went through as children shaped their lives as adults and continues to pass down through the generations. I have tried to blend that past with the present.”
- Martin Porter
- HARVEST SONG
Martin Porter has lived in Jersey, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. His writing is most influenced by nature, abstraction and a distrust of narration. “Jersey, for me, is characterized by a triptych of experiences – the grey ring of concrete fortifications, the green of plateau and valleys, and the blueness of the sky. ‘Harvest Song’ is placed in early spring, 1945. It imagines how freedom might be used, reflecting this triptych and using light as a principal metaphor. ‘Harvest Song’ is a companion to ‘Digging Trenches’, published in ‘100 Poems’ by Jersey Arts Centre.”
- Colin Scott
- THE MEASURE
“For me, writing is a response to being in the world and, as such, any encounter can spark a piece of work: a landscape, a walk on the beach, a photograph. Or, like this piece, an unexpected object in an art gallery. The instant of recognition, of what it was and what its purpose had been, produced such a storm of feelings I knew immediately I would write about it, though what, or in what form, remained elusive until Daniel invited me to write for Liberation 75 and the final connection was made. Then it simply tumbled out. My thanks to Dr Claartje Wesselink and Carol Elon for their kind assistance while drafting this piece.”
You can find out more here: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/search/objects?q=isabel+wachenheimer&p=1&ps=12&st=Objects&ii=0#/NG-2011-97-1,0
- Traci O’Dea
“I would like to thank Jersey Arts Centre for commissioning this poem for the ‘seventy-five years’ exhibition. It gave me an opportunity to write about three seemingly disconnected things: the occupation of the Channel Islands during WWII, coffee, and my dad. I am also grateful to be spending my lockdown at home in Jersey – a stunning locale with an unbelievably supportive arts community.”
- Robert James Anderson
- VICTORY BALLAD
“I felt limp and betrayed, like the skin shed by a terrible animal. It was a relief to be free of the animal, but it seemed to have taken my spirit with it, and everything else it could lay its paws on.” Sylvia Plath’s words reflect my state when I wrote ‘Victory Ballad’. It is not the first time I have compared sexual and romantic relationships between men to war, which is historically a product of male conflict. There is an integral, adversarial aspect of maleness that seeks to conquer and destroy and it is not reserved for the battlefield.”
- Geraint Jennings
- D’SENHALAÛDEZ THESE HALLOWED DAYS
“This is a bilingual poem, switching between Jèrriais and English – but the two languages reflect and echo each other rather than translate. Two starting points also came together: our own language which was used as a secret code, a language of community and resistance during the Occupation, but minoritised in the decades after Liberation; and my feeling that we are not as fierce about freedom as we could, or should, be – especially on Liberation Day. As it turned out, the Jèrriais in this poem is, I think, fiercer than the English.”
- Alice Allen
Alice Allen grew up in Jersey and lives in the UK. Her poems draw on archival sources, present-day interviews, local war-time folklore, the Jèrriais language and fragments of her own Jersey family history to explore the experience of the local population and those of other nationalities brought to the islands during the Nazi Occupation. ‘Daylight of Seagulls’ is her first full collection of poetry and is set in Jersey during this time. ‘Field’ was written for the exhibition and explores a theme common in the collection: how a child’s experience of war trauma is carried through to adulthood.
- Alastair Best
- NOTEBOOK FOR A NEW DECADE
“This poem is about writing and remembering, and the uncertainty of both.”
- Juliette Hart
- SEVENTY-FIVE OCCUPATION CONSIDERATIONS
“Both of my parents lived through Jersey’s Occupation and I’ve written many poems about their experiences, but for the exhibition ‘seventy-five years’ I wanted to field a counter approach, where numbers were an allied force. The challenge to balance the logistics of history, truth, sound, structure, politics and future, united with arithmetic, became a compelling campaign which eventually equalled Liberation.”
- Linda Rose Parkes
- A BUS NAMED LIBERTY
“This poem began to take shape in my mind while I was riding on a bus to Bonne Nuit. Moving through the landscape which was beginning to pulse with early spring, it was easy to imagine transformation: a single act of kindness which has the power to set in motion deep change in the general psyche. I wanted to offer a journey of hopefulness while asserting a need for change.” ‘This Close’, Linda Rose Parkes’ fourth collection, was published in 2019.
- Christian Foley
- 75 LINES FOR LIBERATION
“As a child I always used to read the plaque at Green Island, about the three teenagers who went out there one night, bravely, brave beyond belief really, to try and escape the Occupation. I didn’t know too much else about their story. This poem explores that story in three parts from three perspectives over 75 lines – one for each year since Liberation Day. The first perspective is a removed narrator, almost like a voiceover on a history programme. The second perspective is the first person view of Peter, one of the boys on the boat. The third is my perspective. The final third of the poem relates to present day. It’s amazing to me how lessons from history are not learned. There are some people who venerate WWII, and the British Victory, who still and seemingly without any understanding of irony, denigrate refugees and advocate a closed border policy. Liberation and the need for it, is not confined to the past, it is present, it is current and it is vital if we are to have a future.”
‘seventy-five years’ follows in the footsteps of ‘100 Poems’ in autumn 2014, for the centenary to mark the start of the First World War, which was in partnership with the Bailiff’s Chambers and the Government of Jersey.
‘seventy-five years’ is also made possible with a grant from the Bailiff’s Chambers and the Government of Jersey.