A BOOKLET of poetry published by Maryhill Integration Network showcases new writing by women seeking asylum, refugee and local women living and writing in Glasgow.

Tackling themes such as motherhood, migration and even the art of navigating the Glasgow bus network, In Our Shoes contains a mixture of poems by individual writers and group poems.

These are all the work of women who meet regularly to read and write poetry at Maryhill Integration Network, who welcome women from all over the world. The poems reflect both the challenges and the delights of building a new life in Scotland.

From the haunting violence of war to the daily struggles for survival of people seeking asylum in Scotland, these poems give the reader a sharp insight into the issues facing refugees today, and show how the writers face these challenges head-on and with great courage.

The National:

“Everyone who steps into your life comes for a reason. This project was meaningful for me; I learnt a lot from it through the lovely people”, Syeda Sadaf Anwar, a Glasgow-based poet originally from Pakistan, said.

“It’s my new life – I was born again with my writing skills. My birthplace as a poet is Maryhill Integration Network”.

The collection also features artwork by Sara Abdelnasser – a member of MIN’s Art Group the ‘Museum of Things’ – produced in response to the poems themselves.

Many of the group poems were written in online creative writing workshops during the long lockdowns of 2020-21.

On compiling the collection, Katherine Mackinnon, PhD researcher at the University of Glasgow who facilitated the writing workshops and edited the final book, said: “I had always been interested in different ways you can have conversations with people, and record their experiences – sometimes a very formal interview with an audio recorder might not be the best format, particularly when people have often had a very negative experience in asylum interviews with the Home Office.

“So I set out to work with a group of women who I knew already through running regular creative writing sessions at MIN with Open Book, and we read work by different poets around different themes - like daily life, family, belonging, neighbourhoods - and then wrote group poems in response to these themes”.

The National:

She continued: “I think poetry is such a powerful way for people to express themselves - in the book there are lines and images that are like a lightning bolt to the reader, communicating different experiences and lives in the most intense way”.

In Our Shoes is available to purchase via Maryhill Integration Network’s website http://maryhillintegration.org.uk/publications/

Booklet design: Garry Mac (artstation.com/garrymac). Production: Remzije Zeka Sherifi, Rose Filippi and Anastasia Maria Tariq of Maryhill Integration Network.

All photos credited to Najma Abukar.