Poems about refugees


These poems were read at the Lantern Parade at the end of 2021. These were poems written by or about refugees and the condition of being a refugee –  raising questions about isolation, loneliness, and exile. They reveal the trauma and pain of being forced to leave home and being unable to find a place of safety and security in a violent and uncertain world. Click on the title to read the poem.

1     W H Auden – Refugee Blues

Written on the outbreak of WW2 and inspired by the plight of Jews forced to flee Nazi Germany.

2     Malcolm Guite – Refugee 

A sonnet exploring the flight into Egypt, as much a prayer as a poem.

3     Benjamin Zephaniah – We Refugees 

The message of this poem by poet and playwright Benjamin Zephaniah is that we can all become refugees Not just through war but political turmoil, a natural disaster or a spot of bad luck could make refugees of any of us.

4     Warsan Shire – Home

This long poem is by Warsan Shire, a writer born in Kenya to Somali parents. She lives in London and this poem gives voice to the lives of undocumented refugees across Europe, and has been shared widely across the media and read in public spaces such as Trafalgar Square.

5     Rebecca Goss – Crossing

This poem was commissioned by Winchester Poetry Festival and asks what do refugees do for us?

6     Brian Bilston – Refugees 

The mysterious author of this poem is a sort of Banksy of poetry, the poet laureate of Twitter. If you’re readit carefully you’ll see the same lines twice. That’s because the second verse is the first verse read in reverse order, and that changes everything.

7     Nicola Davies – The Day the War Came

Nicola Davies is a children’s author and this poem is from the book she wrote in response to the Syrian crisis, and presents the impact of war from a child’s perspective. (Beautifully published by Walker Books.)

8     Wang Ping – Things We Carry on the Sea

Born in Shanghai and educated in Beijing and New York, poet Wang Ping writes about her experience at the intersections of two cultures, a sometimes violent and always challenging interweaving of different languages, traditions and histories.

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