Poems from a Runaway – Ben Westwood

29 June 2019
Poems from a Runaway Book Cover Poems from a Runaway
Ben Westwood
Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
December 11, 2017

'A street cat named Bob' meets 'Oliver Twist' meets 'A.A. Milne' - yet still a unique legend of a book worthy of a channel 4 documentary!Welcome to Ben Westwood's collection of 60 true-story poems - 'Poems from a runaway'. It's his story of being a teenager in care, and a frequent runaway from the west midlands (UK). Follow him on a journey from ten years old, wandering from town to town before eventually at the age of twelve, finding himself in the east end of London with drug addicts and prostitutes. A year later he was to be sleeping rough in London's West end, meeting celebrities and all sorts of folk. It's a story with many tragedies, but also comedic moments.Choices that would have only been made with a youngsters thinking, and angels along the way. Predators, friends, heart-warming times and dangerous moments. Hustles, wind-ups and the way young people entertain themselves along the way. Some moments in life that some may never had knew existed.A collection of sixty poems of various lengths, leading the reader through the reality of this true-story childhood journey.Not only a great read and an eye-opener for general book and poetry lovers, but also a great resource for Foster parents, social workers, mental health support services, homeless services, child advocates and care leavers.Places in the UK commonly featured in book -Norton Canes, StaffordshireBrownhills, West MidlandsRugeley, StaffordshireGreat Haywood, StaffordshireLichfield, StaffordshireCannock, StaffordshireTamworth, StaffordshireChasetown, StaffordshireBirmingham, West MidlandsHighbury stadium, North LondonPiccadilly Circus/ Leicester square, Central LondonWhitechapel/ Aldgate/ Poplar, Tower hamlets, East LondonAbbey Road, St Johns Wood, LondonEdmonton Green, North LondonVictoria, Central LondonPiccadilly, Central LondonAldridge, West MidlandsCharing Cross, Central LondonPlantation, Miami, Florida,Blakenhall, West MidlandsBescot Stadium/ Walsall FCHyde Park Corner, Central LondonCricklewood, North LondonNuneaton, Warwickshire

Poetry is deeply personal to the poet, it has meaning and an outpouring of emotion; nostalgia, pain, love and truth. As much as trying to appreciate a poem for its face value there is always a draw to appreciate the underlying personal expression taking place. Ben was a young boy of eleven when he started running away from home and lived on the streets until about 16. He also became a homeless man, living without the constraints he perceived. Ben no longer lives on the streets, he is a busker and now works as a social worker. 

The narrative starts when Ben from his earliest years and illustrates his growing disaffection with his mother’s partner and life around him until he starts to run away. Reading about Ben’s life through his poems has a revealing feel to it because as a child he resists explaining his angsts, and finds it difficult to articulate his thinking and intention to those around him, yet commits his thoughts to poetry as a way of exercising this inner voice. The emotional context within each poem is very minimal, almost in an attempt to subvert any pity and sympathy that may arise. This is a story of a runaway boy – an example of runaways and homeless people – expressed through the personal experiences of Ben Westwood. The threats, exposure to drug addiction, prostitution, are all encounters Ben has witnessed and are revealed from a destructive and humorous perspective. I can’t imagine a life like this and it is heart-breaking and distressing that many young people live like this in our society.

The collection of poems are structured chronologically as narrative poems and each poem delivers a mix of stanzas and rhymes. My knowledge doesn’t extend to identifying the various mechanisms or styles in poetry but as a reader, I enjoyed this style of telling a personal true story. Like a lot of poetry collections, I find it more rewarding to read the poems in small bursts and consider each poem for its own spirit, rather than an amalgamation of thoughts and feeling, incidents and experiences, and a summary personality.

I came across this book after chatting with Jane Corry on her latest book, I Looked Away, and I appreciate the recommendation and the insight she gained from reading Ben’s work. I would recommend reading this book.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley peter@thereadingdesk.com

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