Poem Julia-Beth Harris in honour of 50 years ARQ

Poetic opening ARQ-conference

On 28 and 29 September 2023, the international ARQ conference 'Trauma, crisis and conflict: connecting research and practice' took place at the Gooiland Event Venue in Hilversum. The poetic opening was provided by author Julia-Beth Harris, with musical accompaniment by Martijn van Ditshuizen. Read the poem here.

ARQ 50th Anniversary Poetry

Brace yourselves for what I am about to say
Though no amount of bracing can take my grief away
It is by divine order that we are gathered here today

ARQ, celebrating 50 years is an honour
Five decades of unpicking conflict, crisis, and trauma

A conflict is a clash

Opposing forces collide and combust
Until all that’s left is ash
A powdery grey layer of fragility
A score that is kept in the body
As the smoke of battles clear
Today we celebrate those who lent an ear
A hand
Their hearts
To help silent sufferers towards new starts

A crisis is a boiling point
A late stage of danger in a sequence of events
It was on Second World War survivors that ARQ’s early years were spent
Building knowledge case by case
Time ticked on as Crisis changed its face
From relief work on disasters like MH17, to the world’s refugees misplaced
2023 feels like a slowly boiling cauldron cooking the human race
Heat rises from the earth’s core to the surface
Cracking old ground and revealing new purpose
How can we embrace inevitable transformation?
How can we turn data and psychological research into more than a conversation?

I am South African
And this alone comes with joys and traumas of its own
Returning to The Netherlands after a trip home
I shared stories of visits with my post-apartheid family
29 years into democracy
The people are still to be found in various states of anxiety
There are critical cracks in society
My kin could fill a journal as a study in psychotraumatology

They said I was brave

Brave to search for my missing father
Brave to track down my estranged sister
But was I really that brave?
Or was it simply necessary to visit her grave
After everything she gave at least one of us had to come
I was the one

And was I really that brave?
Or was it simply necessary to know when to stop giving
To accept that the death of something doesn’t mean you stop living

And was I really that brave?
Or was it simply necessary
To rise above the debris of shattered legacy
Step up and say – I guess it’s me
I guess it’s me
I guess it’s me
I am an apple from a tree
I am an apple from a tree 
With roots that run like children to the earth’s boiling core
I make my way back up the trunk and sprout out as green leaves
I’m new and I still grieve
Reborn through the core
I don’t need my psychosomatic symptoms anymore

ARQ celebrating 50 years of service is an honour
Five decades of unpicking conflict, crisis, and trauma
Brace yourselves for the knowledge you’ll share today
Though no amount of knowledge can take grief away
It is the practice that transforms pain into peace
It is the practice of knowledge that offers relief
Acknowledging grief as a normal response to loss - 
With a hand on someone’s shoulder
Creating a community in which to shelter
Rain clouds burst over turbulent seas
Showering down over grateful cheeks
Practitioners, thank you for your work helping people to release

Words: Julia-Beth Harris
Music: Martijn van Ditshuizen

Gedicht Juli-Beth Harris


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