Welcome to this collection of poems, published by Inclusive Solutions, by members of the group that named itself ‘Quiet Riot’. The punning title is typical of their work. Asked about the common threads binding this collection together, Maresa MacKeith, one of the poets collected here, shared her insights on what drives the poetry of Quiet Riot:
A desire to be heard
A love of language
A longing for connection
At times, a frustration with a world that is too quick and too loud
Having a lot to say, but not always with the space to say it
Quiet Riot is not a self-help or support group in any usual sense. But they do hold common cause and give and receive support. Quiet Riot is a collective of disabled young people and their allies. They come together to explore their place in the world. They have shared experience of oppression and discrimination – never sharper than in the various educational and psychological ‘assessments’ they underwent as children – ‘assessments’ which found them far short of the ‘norm’ and not likely to have much to contribute. Once ways to communicate were found, all had voices to be reckoned with. The members of Quiet Riot share similar communication challenges and have around them allies who advocate and create the space for the group to explore who they are. The space so created and held gives ‘the sense of unwavering support and faith and is for me hugely present in Quiet Riot’ (Maresa).
The recurring themes within these poems are to do with the felt sense of belonging (and its absence), explosions of feeling (sometimes detonating on the page as in the phrase ‘dynamite tight’ in Thiandi Groof’s poem ‘Belonging’), the relationship of the self with its hands, memorably explored in the poems ‘Fingers’ by Judathan Allen and “Hands” by Maresa MacKeith.
All are poems formed in silent reflection or, at least, without the poet having the opportunity to voice their words out loud during their composition.
Poetry is about getting a lot said in a small space and the poets collected here well know the necessity of crafting strong and powerful language. Many of the poets developed their ability to communicate later than usual in their childhoods and they did this through typing. Because of their different forms of communication, they don’t have the luxury of wasting words. Consider the final line of Maresa MacKeith’s poem ‘Graduation’ (p. 19) – “The day was mine” – the restraint behind that line is impeccable; here is a young woman at her graduation for a 2:I degree in English and on first reading the line is celebratory, triumphant even, but just under the surface are all the days that did not belong to her, the days that belonged to ‘the experts’ named in the line before.
The poets collected here are all individuals who in the past would never have been published. Never because they were seen as being unable to say more than single words or phrases or participate in conversations. These poems are some of their conversations; they explore the poets’ relationship to the world and, like any poems, they contain multiple meanings. Some of these meanings connect to the alternative styles of communication the poets make use of in their everyday lives, other meanings connect to watershed events in their lived experience.
If the purpose of poetry is to evoke, to haunt and to amuse then you will find all these purposes served in this collection – take your time with each, these are not your everyday sort of poets. The fact they can be collected here to be read and appreciated is a big deal.