Welcome to another AccessAbility Arts interview! I'm delighted to be able to shine a light on the fantastic work being done by inspiring women, multicultural groups, LGBTQIA+ community members and disabilities in the sphere of art and accessibility. This time, I spoke to Bethany Williams. A writer who knows the hardest words are often the ones that go unspoken, who isn't afraid to delve deep into the emotions that are easier for us not to talk about. Now with her debut poetry collection - Waiting for the blue - is an anthology that centres around grief, how it reshapes everything and shows how we can hold on to love in spite of it all. A poet who writes from the heart, and speaks to the raw vulnerability inside us all, letting her words reach out to embrace those who need it.
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Here is the interview
DK: What inspired you to delve into the emotions that are often left unspoken and centre your poetry collection around grief?
Beth: For me it was because I felt I simply had to. There was so much on my mind that I felt I was carrying with me and I needed a way to be able to put my emotions into words, to give voice to the pain, to the brokenness I felt inside. Poetry was a way of releasing those feelings – of admitting they were there and not hiding from them. Pretending that I was okay through words left unspoken only made things worse, I wanted to be able to write the narrative instead of letting grief write it for me.
DK: How has grief reshaped your perspective and influenced your writing?
Beth: It’s made me put my life into focus and made me think about what’s actually important to me – for me it’s finding the people who bring light into your life, this may be friends or family, even if they are acquaintances or strangers – even small acts of kindness can make a big difference. It’s encouraged me to focus on the good things and realise it’s life’s beauty and fragility which makes it all the more precious. Grief has made me focus on the one thing grief cannot truly take away – love - which endures everything. Yes, it's made me go deeper into the darker parts of myself but I hope it has also brought the lasting influence of perseverance and hope into my writing.
DK: What has been the most rewarding part of your journey?
Beth: The people who I have met along the way – who have encouraged me to keep writing and sharing my poetry, finding a positive and supportive community has been a blessing and a strength to me. But more importantly being able to share with other people who have also experienced loss, for them to know they are not alone in their pain and suffering. To connect with others on a deeper level by having the courage to be vulnerable, to find a way to keep memories and love alive even after death, is a truly humbling but soul-nourishing experience.
DK: Can you tell us more about how your poetry collection, "Waiting for the Blue," explores the theme of holding onto love in the midst of grief?
Beth: Grief can be so overwhelming to face because there feels to be such a finality to death, but you don’t just stop loving someone when they have died. You still have your memories of them, you still think about them, you still love them. No one can take those feelings from you. Grief hurts so much only because you loved so much, it is in itself a symbol that love does not die with the person who has passed away. Using poetry as an outlet to express those feelings, allows love to abide as an anchor in the ocean of grief. Something to hold on to, something which remains despite the waves of chaos and uncertainty that may follow the loss of a loved one.
DK: We all know how important it is to look after our mental health, so tell us, do you have any strategies you use to maintain positive mental health in your daily life?
Beth: I think for me finding moments to just stop, to breathe, to reconnect with my body, even if only just to spend a few moments trying to listen to what my body is telling me – mindfulness can be a really helpful practice. Finding small moments of gratitude and seeing what is, instead of being so focussed of on what isn’t – thinking in this moment what am I grateful for? I like to just have a quiet few minutes after breakfast – no distractions, just being still, just being present. Just being grateful for the opportunity to nourish my body with a good meal, before the day starts whirring up again, just allows me to start the day more calmly which I think helps.
DK: In what ways do you aim to speak to the raw vulnerability inside your readers through your poetry?
Beth: I think opening up and discussing the broken parts of ourselves – the parts that are hurting and healing and still feeling raw – I think that requires courage. Talking about grief can be so difficult and it can be easy to just avoid having the difficult conversation altogether. However, being able to admit that actually things aren’t okay – it might not take away the pain, but it certainly can make you feel a lot lighter by giving voice to those emotions. I think if other people can see that they aren’t facing their feelings alone, it can encourage them to open up and explore their own feelings. The poems give permission for someone to feel however they need to feel in that moment – there are no right or wrong feelings when it comes to grief - and the book aims to create a safe space for them to be vulnerable and share their pain, knowing that they aren’t alone.
DK: Poetry and art can be a great tool for society and looking back at history. What do you think is the power of poetry - or any art - and what role do you believe artists have in modern society?
Beth: I think poetry and the arts have the power to speak to what people are really feeling and move people in ways that perhaps some of our politicians can’t. I think it can reflect a society or a group of people or even just an individual voice and shed an honest light on someone’s perspective and story. I think it can provide an important voice of truth in a world of chaos. I also think art has the power to connect to people across cultures, backgrounds and experiences – we are all capable of experiencing the same emotions, hopes, dreams and fears as each other. Art can tell our stories both with and without words – we can feel the same way or connect with someone across the world or even across the street from us and realise that perhaps they aren’t so ‘other’ to ‘us’. Art can connect us without us even realising, that by sharing our stories through its medium we are brought closer together.
DK: What do you hope readers will take away from your debut poetry collection?
Beth: I hope that whoever may read it, may be comforted a little in knowing they aren’t alone, in knowing that it’s okay to experience a whole range of emotions out of grief. That there is no right or wrong way to feel, that it’s okay to be struggling, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and like you can’t cope anymore. Acknowledging how you feel wherever you are on your journey, is such an important step to take. I hope by sharing my story it creates a safe space for others to feel heard and perhaps take the brave step of opening up themselves, of looking deeper within and daring to ask for help. I hope they may discover their own way of moving forward, and may find a way to carry both their grief and their love with them through whatever chapter of life they may be in.
DK: And lastly. We all need to relax, chill, and switch off sometimes. So how do you relax?
Beth: By putting the kettle on. Dancing around the kitchen. Having a friend around for a nonsensical chin wag. Eating hash browns. They make everything better! There are times when you need to be serious, and then there are times to just be silly and not care about anything much than having a good chuckle. Going for a walk, doing yoga – slowing down and enjoying the little things instead of running around all the time! Sometimes it’s about recognising the little moments in life that can bring the most enjoyment.
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