Like most people, I heard the dreadful news that the tower block was on fire in the night, with the likelihood of dreadful loss of life. People on the upper floors had little chance of escaping, and the worst aspect was the very many concerns residents had raised about power surges and other aspects of the building’s safety. The fact that the cladding which has been used to tart up the building without any benefit to the residents, and the outdated ‘stay put’ policy contributed to the deaths, did not go unnoticed. There had been other tower block fires but the warnings went unheeded. The Grenfell Tower tragedy was avoidable, which makes it so much worse.
I would never have presumed to make a poem from such a tragedy, as a mere bystander who could not have known how it was to deal with the situation; the struggles of people to escape, the valiant efforts of firefighters (one fireflighter has a poem in the book), so I wrote a poem from my own perspective. It was beautiful June weather. I had just returned from a stay with my Leeds family, rejoicing in playing with my little granddaughter, and I was making the house ready for a friend coming to stay. It struck me as so unfair that the Grenfell victims were not able to enjoy that day, doing ordinary things like exams, shopping for milk and bread, or planning to see friends. My poem came out of that.
I saw the call-out for poems on social media and sent mine in, thinking it had a slim to nil chance of being accepted. In the end it was. The book is a beautiful thing, on cream paper, with a good range of poems arranged into sections. There is also a wide range of international contributors. I won’t give names of poets here; this book is not about showcasing big names. It’s an act of collective mourning.
You can get the book here. David Lammy, who lost a friend in the blaze, wrote the foreword. To this day, many of the survivors have not been rehoused yet, which frankly appals me.