Books

Read this exclusive poem about homelessness by Ian McMillan

The poem, titled A Shakespearean Sonnet About Doors, paints a haunting picture of what life without a home can look like.

Tents in Butler Place in London, ont far from the houses of parliament

Tents on the street in London. Image: shakespearesmonkey/Flickr

Renowned English poet Ian McMillan has written an exclusive poem for The Big Issue to coincide with National Poetry Day and our campaign to stop mass homelessness.

Ian McMillan stands on a pedestal looking up at the sky

The combination of the £20-a-week universal credit cut, rising fuel prices and the ongoing impact of the Covid crisis risks pushing hundreds of thousands of people into poverty and homelessness, according to dozens of campaign groups and researchers.

“4.3 million people are behind on household bills and 564,000 people are in rent arrears,” said Lord Bird ahead of the cut. “We have reached the cliff edge of a mass homelessness crisis.

“The end of furlough has already put over a million people not only at risk of losing their jobs, but also their homes. £20 a week could be the difference between affording the rent or becoming homeless.”

The universal credit reduction will be the biggest overnight cut to social security since the Second World War, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The Big Issue’s Stop Mass Homelessness campaign, led by Lord Bird, launched in July this year in response to spiralling debts and soaring poverty which threatens to push thousands into homelessness this autumn.

And Ian McMillan’s poem, titled A Shakespearean Sonnet About Doors, paints a haunting picture of what that life can look like.

“The world must respond to this simple truth: Let’s all have a door. Let’s all have a roof,” reads the final line.

To sign the petition and learn more about The Big Issue’s campaign visit the Stop Mass Homelessness campaign page.

Read McMillan’s poem, exclusive to The Big Issue, below.

A Shakespearean Sonnet About Doors by Ian McMillan

It’s not much to ask. Just a door to lock.
A door that won’t break when someone kicks it.
Door with a keyhole. Respond to that knock
Or not. My choice. It’s broke so let’s fix it:
The world, I mean. Not the door. That’s ok.
It’s my door, to my room. Look: here’s the key.
The world, though. That’s different. Somewhere to stay
Is what we all need. Somewhere to be me
And not just someone you blithely ignore
When you see me sleeping on the street.
Let’s begin with this. A door. Just a door
To start with. A door. Food. Then light and heat.
The world must respond to this simple truth:
Let’s all have a door. Let’s all have a roof

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