Yasmin Ali with Patrick Braithwaite & Peter Webb

03 July 2020

Poetry and Conversation, in Isolation

Y.A is a Nuyorican International Slam Champion, Performance Poet and Spoken Word Artist from South London. She’s considered one of London’s most sought after lyricist’s on the Spoken Word scene. Writer, artist, playwright, song-writer, mental health advocate and activist. Y.A is also the founder of the Young Wordsmith Project, providing writing workshops and performance events for young people in South London.

Y.A is a part of the extremely talented FLO Poet creative collective as well as a mentor for Bridge the Gap’s RTB collective raising awareness about PTSD in BAME cultures. 

Co-founder of the Words of Womyn collective. Host of THE WORD on soho radio as well as co-host on the Outspoken podcast. Y.A is also a host and resident poet at the Chocolate Poetry Club. Y.A has performed internationally in Barcelona, Amsterdam, NY and Philly to name a few. She also performed for the “Stop Trump Coalition” and “Million Women’s Rise” march. Y.A has even won a Poets Vs MC’s battle at the Tower of London.

As an artist, Y.A challenges some of the most common misconceptions and stereotypes of South Asian women. Through her work she advocates on the issues of mental health, youth participation and women’s rights. She strives to empower through the art of writing and encourages self-expression through the use of words.


Website: www.flovortex.com/y-a


Patrick Braithwaite:

My name is Patrick Braithwaite I was born in Manchester but moved to London in 87 I worked in a American bank called Merrill Lynch for 10 1/2 years then went on to work for English heritage looking after listed buildings. I enjoy music and do some voluntary work for V.S.L. I now live in New Cross. 


Pete Webb

Pete is a Deptford resident and former Chair of Three Boroughs Housing Co-operative.  Pete founded the Poetree, a poetry club at the Ninth Life pub in Catford in 2019, where (prior to lockdown) local poets performed their urban poems. Pete is a social commentator, writing pieces about several subjects that affect the lives of everyday people.


Poetry and Conversation, in Isolation

Poetry and conversation in isolation with Y.A” was a project intended to encourage self expression and creative writing in the form of poetry over the phone. As a spoken word Artist, I am used to developing my writing sessions but this project in particular allowed me to establish new relationships, understand alternative experiences throughout this time, as well as create new works. I was paired with service users who were very talented writers and together we created pieces of poetry that highlight a range of thoughts and feelings during the pandemic.


An Ode to Patrick


I know you know pain.

I know each day has been a struggle

and it’s been hard to maintain.

I know this time has been hurtful

and there’s so much explain;

That although there’s a pandemic you already contain,

a heartache.

From fighting.

For your whole world in a smaller space.

I know you know courage,

when I speak to you,

I pay homage to every line that aligns and survives in your lineage,

Because although I can only listen

Your words paint an image.

That captures life’s essence

and the power of living.

I know you know loss

but you never give up.

Barely a stranger but what’s strange about Trust?

To trust in a voice because you hear good in its soul.

I’m writing to you because I think you should know.

That sometimes in this time when you feel on your own.

There’s power in the silence that forces you to let go.

I know you know loss but to me, you are whole.

Full of a goodness that many don’t own.

So please forgive me if I had to write an ode to show that, I respect that.

How you have every right to get upset but each day you survive despite the setbacks.

With each day you thrive in life so don’t forget that.

You’re still a DJ even if there’s no dance.

How brave a warrior legend is to see light inside the dark.

How powerful a bond, that you still smile though you’re apart.

How blessed a baby girl is,

to bring more love inside your heart.

I know you’re in autopilot but that makes me appreciate the time that,

you give me.

Bear with me,

it probably seems a little strange to hear this, so please forgive me.

Because I’m my mind,

I must remind,

you of your own exception.

What power you possess

to accept these kinds of lessons.

That raise you in a strength

despite the demand for a depression.

So, to me you stay blessed.

As the truest of reflections.




Maybe if I wear a mask I’ll be protected from this virus.

Maybe if I cover my mouth I won’t speak up against the violence.

The whole world sees a struggle while those who struggle see the tyrants

The mask is now a symbol, seen as a muzzle for the righteous

I wonder if keeping our distance covers up the rise in domestic abuse.

I wonder who is lying and who’s telling the truth.

I wonder if in years to come we’ll get answers to what caused this

I understand a mask can’t protect a race from feeling cautious

From feeling, grieving, from already fearing for their lives

I wonder if the pandemic is even a blip in time

I wonder if it shakes the cosmos like it’s shook our minds

I wonder if feeling alone in our own homes together makes this all alright

I wonder if anyone’s really happy at all.

I wonder if we still feel connected when we respect a little more

I wonder what we’re really distancing for

I would never knowingly endanger the lives of another being

But when I walk out, the mask on my mouth covers my disbelieving

How strangers scurry to the edge of the pavement out of fear of this infection

How material is integral for everyone’s protection

I’ve been wondering why we pay for something that the law demands we need

How surely if it saves a life then the face mask should then be free

Do government backed bail outs help the rise in redundancies

Who is putting who at risk to rise an economy?

If the figures are now rising, then now we should concede

that the mask is a necessity unless we’re out to eat

So many contradictions I’ve confused myself so much

I wonder how the distance really helps us keep in touch

With phones and zoom and gadgets to ease the fuss post shock

For some the only connection is a visit to a shop

For others is a friendly face, 2 metres space after a knock

The world has paused, we’ve felt its force and now there is no stop

I wonder how isolating it is, in public for those who lip read

I wonder if it limits us to what we really see

I wonder if it masks the plight and what we really need

because I’m feeling antisocial and my mask limits how I breathe.

How do you say it’s for our protection?

To stop the spread of infection

For those who are high risk

Now there’s an invention

There’s no cure but

A mask can be worn

To limit your connection

To limit your affection

To ensure you are accepting

A new way in a new place

I don’t recognise

Because despite the pressure

The fear and the ever-growing rise

You don’t need a mask to cover up the confusion in our minds

For you…

Of course, I’ll cover my mouth

When I go out

But I won’t cover my eyes.



Behind the mask

We are often judged on the way we look
Craving the likes we get on Facebook
Mask is now trending on Instagram
PPE vendors are sending us spam

Here’s the question we dare not ask
What’s going on behind the mask?
Are you smiling or is that a sneer
What is hiding beneath the cloth veneer

With the Niqab still banned in Denmark and France
How can they continue this prejudiced stance
If everyone is asked to cover their face
How can we accept it’s not about race

Frustration and anger are being displayed
It’s no wonder that you’re afraid
He only hits you where it can’t be seen
Now the mask is a bruises screen

You use the mask to cover your fears
But your eyes are showing, and I can see your tears
And if the mask here to stay
I am sure there will be more to say.

-Peter VSL Service User




Covid 19 has been a testing time for me.
I lost close friends loved ones and family.
The 3rd April is the day that made me really sad.
Due to Covid 19 that was the day I lost my dad.
Memories of funny stories being told and the good times we had.
You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone so they say.
Dad I miss you in each and every way.
Tears ran like a river,
the heartache and pain no one can measure.
Your love and your kindness I will always treasure.
Mum was on holiday in Barbados the day of your passing
and due to Covid 19, Virgin said there would be no planes leaving.
Mum missed your funeral service although you weren’t together,
she would have loved to have been there as you provided her with a son and a daughter.
I used to be in a band and lost two members
and in my heart Alfie and Pete will always be remembered.
And after sadness and tears comes joy and pleasure
in the birth of my niece little Asia.
Such a bundle of happiness in this time is what I need.
Though she gets extremely loud when she wants her feed.
I still have good friends, loved ones and family.
I have my music to guide me through life’s journey.
I care, I love, and I still have my mind.
That’s all I need to guide me through this testing time. 

Patrick- VSL Service User


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