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    As part of our project, we have been working with educational charity Never Such Innocence to bring young people into dialogue with Diana Forster’s artwork and to give them opportunities to express their views on forced displacement and the wider impacts of war.

    Thanks to funding from the University of St Andrews, we have been able to run in-person workshops at our exhibition venues for local schools. With the help of poet and author Nik Perring, students have been writing their poetry in response to Somewhere to Stay. You can read a selection of their work here:

    These poems draw inspiration from one art form and prompt new readings of it through another. They paint pictures with words which are inspired by, and offer thought-provoking reflections on, the sculptures and prints by Diana Forster. Different media can have different impacts on us. In dialogue with each other, they can tell powerful refugees stories that leave a lasting imprint on our habits of visualising war, displacement, and the long shadow of each.

    As well as supporting young people to find their voices, Nik Perring has written some poetry of his own in response to Somewhere to Stay. Which of these two poems mosts speaks to you, and why? How do they compare with, challenge or deepen your habits of visualising forced migration?

    When We Were Slugs

    To the slug
    the difference between the touch
    of bullet cases
    and soil
    may be nothing but temperature.

    Cold does not deter them:
    tiny mouths mark
    soldier-grown cabbage leaves;
    unaware of the guns.

    At night
    we transform ourselves 
    into slugs:
    gastropod compact;
    mollusk stealth.
    Better to be a slug
    than a human, hungry
    or dead.

    We shrink our stomachs small,
    morph our mouths
    to form radula.
    Suck the edges of leaves 
    as quiet as night
    but remain blade-edged alert.

    We know the difference
    between bullets
    and what they bury 
    in earth.

    Nik Perring

    The Cuts

    Watch me cut this paper.
    I am no Vandal;
    we were moved 
    crammed in like cattle,
    herded to new world. 

    Cut: a calculated 
    slice –
    I scar this paper to show you
    the holes
    and the shadows cast over us. 
    Like a bayonet pushed against the 
    paper’s skin
    I begin my tribute:
    my wycinanki.

    Move with me (the edge/blade)
    from home
    (you will call it different things;
    your geography is not mine). 
    Trace cattle cart edges
    at sixteen
    and a stopover in Arkhangelsk, 
    Siberia, for a year and a half
    where we crawled
    to cabbage at night, 
    nibbled rabbit-bites 
    so small, you would not know
    it was our child-mouths marking them.
    Trees were cut to timber;
    their leaves, hammer-heavy;
    wood-felling powered by our hearts
    which you still needed


    the world turned a notch
    and you found a new enemy

    and a use for our strength 
    kept inside beating chambers;
    lumberjacks turned into peace-makers,
    allies now.

    We trace the blade through
    the Stans, then
    over the rolling Caspian 
    in boats to Iran.

    Shadows, now, cast by warmth
    blended with the palaces there.
    Isfahan: The City of Polish Children;
    I did not know 
    freedom smelled of silk worm feed.

    I’m sorry.

    When I’m hungry I forget
    finer details
    but, then,
    who wants to hear?

    Are you sitting comfortably?
    Good. So:
    A clearer sky
    but not all of us tasted sweat-salted,
    sand-rough air. 
    It’s war. 

    We died. 

    I felt you recoil.
    Sharp truths burn, and
    words sting.
    Words, like screams, are brief. 

    So, a gift:
    I give you relief. 

    I leave a piece of us with you.
    Cut into aluminium
    to stop them wilting in heat
    or rotting in rain
    or frozen, brittle. 
    Made metal, these paper memories;
    of homes we didn’t choose
    and our shadows
    follow us, watching,
    We feel their breath,
    cold as bayonets,
    in our ears
    or warm, like safe mud hut slumber
    telling us
    home is a changeable
    point of view.

    Nik Perring