Who has power over you?


In the summer I had the opportunity to be a participant in the Truth to Power Cafe at Hebden Bridge Trades Club. The original event was not filmed, so here is a video I recorded of my poem Testimony, which I wrote and performed in response to this question posed by London Artists Project, the creators of Truth to Power Cafe, ‘Who has power over you, and what do you want to say to them?’ It’s a very cathartic and personally empowering experience to answer this question. The participants all answered the question from their own perspective and experience, which made for a very interesting, varied and heartwarming event. Whether or not you are a writer or performer, if you are feeling frustrated and disempowered, you may find it therapeutic to have a go at answering this question for yourself. It can be a way of releasing anger and despair, reflecting on your situation, and finding a way to move forward with hope. If nothing else, venting in a nonviolent and creative way enables us to let go of some negative emotions, which helps to free up our energy. London Artists Project are very clear that hate speech is not acceptable. Even when we are writing in rage, it’s important to keep our humanity and intent to create a better world for all. We can raise up ourselves and each other, without putting others down in a destructive way.  In her book ‘Dreaming the Dark’, Starhawk describes the difference between what she calls ‘power-from-within’ and ‘power-over’. The first is a healthy form of power, building our inner strength by working on ourselves, and the second is destructive and unhealthy. Power-from-within takes work but is nourishing to self and others. Power-over is a form of violence sadly too common in this world, which requires constant battling to be maintained, and which does not ultimately satisfy those who practise it, so that, like any addiction, their desire for it becomes insatiable as they keep on trying to fill a need by the wrong means. It is possible to be strong and powerful without needing to dominate and control others. Part of finding our power-from-within is increasing awareness of power dynamics. How can we feel more in charge of our own lives? As well as realising where we are failing to act consciously, we may discover we are feeling controlled by others. It is a lifetime’s work to free ourselves, and in some situations we may always have limited freedom, but within that we can still find a freedom to act with integrity in accordance with our values. Even if our words do not bring instant external change, we feel an inner shift of energy and perspective, and a strengthening of purpose. We also find solidarity with other who feel the same. I surprised myself as I wrote my poem, in finding a sense of sorrow towards those who hold power over my life—not sorrow for myself, but for them, in their ever unsatisfied need to be so grasping. In this process we are transforming ourselves, finding our voices of power-from-within by speaking our truth to those who hold power-over us. This is what it means to speak truth to power.

©️Janey Colbourne 2019

Earth Pathways Diary 2020 and poetry booklets for sale

For the last few years I have been honoured to be a contributing writer to Earth Pathways Diary. The 2020 edition includes one of my poems, overlaid against Lucy Pearce’s beautiful ammonite spiral art. This diary is, every year, such a gorgeous piece of work I have kept every single copy I have owned, and I guarantee you will want to do the same. As well as being a very useful, practical diary, with a weekly view per page, plus a calendar at the back, and including detailed phases of the moon and other astrological information, it is brimming with wise, positive and inspiring words, beautiful artwork and photography, and helpful articles on the seasons and celebrations. It is printed on recycled paper and spiral bound so it is easy to open out flat. As a contributor, I have copies of next year’s diary for sale. The diaries are £14 each plus £3 postage & packing. For two diaries to the same address the postage is £4. If you would like more than two copies to the same address, contact me for a price. They make lovely gifts, and always sell out before the end of the year, so I recommend getting your order in as soon as possible. You can order diaries by using the link below to pay by PayPal. Please confirm your delivery address in the PayPal message box, as I have had issues before with customers who hadn’t realised their addresses were not updated on PayPal. If you have any questions you can contact me via email plantseer@icloud.com

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Earth Pathways are a nonprofit cooperative organisation and they have a Seed Fund, which they use to support ethical small business start ups, so when you buy a diary, you are supporting the contributing artists, writers, ethical small businesses, and environmentally conscious initiatives, such as tree planting, as well the continuation of the diary itself.

I also have a few copies of my own poetry booklet ‘Outspoken Words’ for sale, at £2.50 each plus £1.30 postage & packing. As the title suggests, this is quite a fiery, sometimes fierce, outspoken selection of the poems I perform at spoken word events. If you want to purchase a poetry booklet along with your diary order, I can include them in the same parcel at just the diary postage rate. Please state in the PayPal message which items you are ordering.

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Chimera. A poem about forest fires.

There are a number of mythological beasts in this poem. A chimera is a fire breathing monster, with the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail of a serpent. The word can also be used to refer to something that is imagined, illusory or delusional. Dragons, in their negative aspect, are known for their love of gold, for demanding it relentlessly under threat of murder, for their penchant for breathing fire over the land and people until their will is carried out, and for their intelligence and ability to manipulate people’s minds. The Phoenix is the mythical bird that rises from the ashes.


rain does not fall in the forest
the clouds are of ash
cities shrouded in toxic fumes
as money and sanity clash

slash and burn turns day into night
for the fires in the amazon rage
the world watches in helpless horror
as we enter a new age

the corruption of corporate rule
no more can we turn a blind eye
to profit bereft of values
as the lungs of the planet die

theft of resources is murder
fat dragons sat hoarding their gold
nature and people divided
as the landlords take lives to be sold

they told us that we were not worthy
hierarchical lies for our chains
living beings must comply for one purpose
as their chattels for private gain

but all lives are interrelated
fates inextricably bound
there is hope for restoring the wasteland
as resistance has grown underground

despair is the breath of chimera
whispering this is the end
yet our power is in persistence
as resolutely we stand to defend

all wars seem devouring and futile
yet the sun always rises at dawn
life shall take root in the bare dust
as the phoenix from ashes is born

©️Janey Colbourne 2019

For those of us who haven’t experienced war, try to imagine the sense of hopelessness and despair in the midst of it. It must be so tempting to give up, and yet life’s will to survive and thrive gives people the greatest courage, determination and endurance. What if those who fought in the Second World War had believed that it was the end of the world, and there was no hope? It must have seemed like it at the time, not knowing the outcome. I imagine the tide of terror was overwhelming. Preceding the war, there were those in allied countries who flirted with fascism, yet in the end, clarity prevailed, people pulled together, they made sacrifices, took care of each other, and believed in freedom and democracy. That is what we need now. The forests are burning, neofascism is being given a platform, and democracy is at stake. We must never give up, for that is when we are lost. Look around at the solidarity, the protests, the actions of the many who want to make a better, fairer world. Stand with those people. Even the smallest actions contribute to a sea change. We must not allow fear and despair to paralyze us. There is hope and power in our actions. There is always hope. In the battle of the mythical beasts, the Phoenix will always win. Nature arises from the wasteland.

©️Janey Colbourne 2019

Working Till You’re Dead

Working Till You’re Dead
(A Pantoum)

Working till you’re dead.
The government said raising the state pension age
up to seventy five years old
will reduce involuntary worklessness.

The government said raising the state pension age,
a boost for the GDP,
will reduce involuntary worklessness,
helping older people. In their eyes,

a boost for the GDP
is an economic policy more important than
helping older people, in their eyes,
the so-called economically inactive.

Is an economic policy more important than
social justice, when
the so-called economically inactive
must be deemed unworthy?

Social justice, when
measured only in money
must be deemed unworthy.
Life is too short to be

measured only in money
up to seventy five years old.
Life is too short to be
working till you’re dead.

©️Janey Colbourne 2019

Click on the link below for The Huffington Post’s article on the recently proposed raise of the state pension age.

Pension Age Should Rise To 75 Says Iain Duncan-Smith’s Think-Tank

Truth to Power

Well here’s a sneak peak of something I’ve had under wraps for a while. At the end of June I was a participant in Truth to Power Cafe by Jeremy Goldstein, Jen Heyes and Sarah Hickson of London Artists Project, performing at Hebden Bridge Trades Club (that’s one off my bucket list 🤩)
We were asked to answer the question, ‘Who has power over you and what do you want to say to them?’

Well, in response to that, I wrote Testimony, my longest poem so far. Here is a short extract:

My name is Janey Colbourne, I am poet and seer.
I am here in defence of the disenfranchised.
I speak to those who hold economic power over us,
over people and planet—the profiteering class,

the kings of crass materialism, whose god is wealth,
whose creed is acquisition without limit,
greed above all else, regardless of the consequence.
I say to you, we see you and the game is up.

You shall no longer silence us with weasel words,
as poets and prophets we stand and we are heard,
among the spinners and weavers of a new world.
Not a world red in tooth and claw, survival of the fittest,

but a story built on thriving in symbiosis,
spreading through the web of life, the birth of an alliance.
Evolution is imperative, for balance restoration.
The earth demands you pay your dues,

If you would like to hear me passionately throwing myself into the entire poem, get yourself to Vinyl Tap, Preston this Sunday 14th June 7.30 pm for ‘Truth to Power’ poetry/rap night (coincidentally and serendipitously of almost the same name, but not the same event), where myself and Phil McNulty will be supporting the talented Richy Integer.
Facebook event page Truth to Power with Richy Integer

Speaking truth to power is definitely my thing!

If you are feeling the urge to do the same, the Truth to Power Cafe is on tour around the north of the UK at the moment, and anyone can apply to participate. You don’t need to be an experienced performer. London Artists Project are a very nurturing group who support the participants and make everyone feel safe to express themselves. Have a look at their website for details.

©️Janey Colbourne 2019

NB Just to clarify, Truth to Power Cafe has a different variety of participants at each venue, which gives lots of people the opportunity, so you can apply to take part at the venue nearest you. Participants don’t go on tour, although you can apply to participate more than once if you wish.

Should’ve Checked Trip Advisor

It’s World Refugee Day on Thursday 20 June 2019, particularly poignant in this month when we’ve seen German boat captain Pia Klemp face prosecution by the Italian government for rescuing people at sea

Should’ve Checked Trip Advisor

You’ve chosen to take a swim
on a rather foolish whim,
and you’ve even brought your children.
I must say, this spot’s a bit grim.

It’s outside of the tourist season.
To help you is probably treason.
Saving lives gets us sent to prison.
They say asylum is not a good reason.

Before I pull you out from the high seas,
could I look at your passport please?
You’re travelling without a visa?
We’re not allowed to save refugees.

My government has given the order.
You’re illegally crossing the border.
They’ve approved this form of torture,
so it can’t really be classed as murder.

©️Janey Colbourne 2019



Mic Drop. A poem about a certain issue at poetry open mics.

poetry open mic

Mic Drop

It’s a non-stop mic drop situation,
a cause of much deliberation.
At the open mic poetry nights,
there’s a need to adjust the microphone height.
It seems we have a broken mic stand.
It just came off in my hand.
Yet again the mic’s cut out and dangling,
and we’re awfully sick of wrangling
with this wayward piece of kit.
Let’s stop before it’s all in bits.
As wild and fearsome as a deckchair,
This gear’s invoking mild despair.
Can we find a way to prevent this wreck?
There’s not much need to have a sound check,
just an estimate of how tall we are.
Perhaps we should stand against the wall?
You can order us all by height,
and spend less time in a technical fight.
All the five foot twos come forward please.
Still, I’m guessing it’s quite likely this blessed thing will seize.
I’m dying to give you some assistance,
when I see the mic stand put up resistance.
You can’t attack it like that! It’ll just come loose.
You do know that it unscrews? Although not necessarily when you choose.
You may observe with a brief assessment,
it is made for infinite adjustment.
This micro stage is rather small, resembling a ledge.
I’m wincing as I see the feet of the mic stand teetering on the edge.
Don’t put it there, oh fuck…
I have to stop myself from jumping up.
Yes, I know I’m a bit of a control freak.
It gets mentioned to me pretty much every week.
As if me sat here, with my jaw clenched, is going make the slightest difference.
You don’t need any interference.
I know I have a problem, it’s just my fussy brain.
I have a tendency to mumsplain.
It’s all going fine, it’s a minor issue,
and a source of some amusement.
Even if the whole thing’s come undone,
we’re all still having fun.
I can see I need to let it go, so,
I’m sorry. I’d better sit down, shut up now, and let you get on with the show.

©️Janey Colbourne 2019