Spending time with Dean Atta is good for your health

Dean Atta at St John's Wood Library, November 2015I have said this before and I am saying it again: even if libraries had no health and wellbeing information events or indeed other events they have been evaluated as having a positive effect on our lives, improving our mental and emotional wellbeing, making us feel secure, rooted in tradition and spoiled with free access to hard copy and ebooks, free wifi and computer use, English classes, computer classes and so on…

On top of this we have our regular health check sessions, stop smoking clinics and health information stalls on stress and sleep, healthy eating and increasing physical activity, sexual health information, read aloud bibliotherapy groups and book groups.

Our author events are always popular. We recently had the opportunity to invite performance poet Dean Atta to come to three libraries and talk about his new work, at the moment entitled ‘The Black Flamingo – thoughts on race and sexuality, poetry by Dean Atta’.

I am nobody's nigger by Dean AttaDean’s mother is from Cyprus, his father is Jamaican and his poetry first came to public attention when he wrote I am Nobody’s Nigger and shared it by iphone, becoming known as ‘the iphone poet’. His impassioned work, inspired by reaction  to the murder of Stephen Lawrence, soon led to a publishing deal. The title is ironic as the poem draws our attention to the way ‘the N word’ is used in media, ostensibly to be cool, but ultimately for gain.

In the session last week at St John’s Wood Library, Dean read the title poem and others among them Mother Tongue in which he explores the question “Where are you from?” so often asked of, and to the bemusement of, a mixed race born Londoner!

Dean Atta at St John's Wood Library, November 2015

Dean also read poems from his new work, some dealing with depression, one in which he is brutally honest about his real reaction, how he really feels inside, on occasion when someone gushes about his lovely lovely smile. He does indeed have a lovely smile and was so open and encouraging when members of the audience shared their own experiences and views..

Dean is vegan and practices yoga daily, which he says helps keep low mood at bay, though sometimes going for a brisk walk, or writing, or yoga doesn’t help and, surrendering, he sits with his feelings with mindfulness.

As Ivana, the librarian at St John’s Wood Library said afterwards, it was a very special poetry reading. Dean is honest and funny and, even when sharing very personal feelings, has a quiet dignity and peace that is truly inspiring. Dean Atta is definitely good for our health, and we look forward to seeing him at more library events and workshops next year, for poetry and for real conversations!

[Kate]

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