In 2021, Arkbound published Tangled Yet Coiled, a poetry collection by the talented Tom Burgess who, most kindly, has donated his profits to Word Forest. Now we are excited to share news of a new project – musician and composer Joe Will, a friend of Tom’s, has set one of his poems to music. Here’s what they told us about the inspiration behind their collaboration.
For the January 2024 release of ‘Like Trying To Speak’, Tom and I wanted to share a little of the background to the journey that we have gone on to write and produce this track.
Tom and I were together around last Christmas with old and dear friends, when the idea occurred to me to suggest putting some of his poetry to music. I thought it would be an interesting project to try and a good way to spend some time together now we no longer live in the same place. Tom was keen and promised to share some poems with me.
Reading Tom’s words ‘Can I hold your gaze?’, which feature in this track, struck me between the eyes almost physically. As a father of two young boys, it woke me up to a totally different perspective. In twenty years’ time, I want them to know that I did all I could to help build a better and more promising future for them, not just based on my reassurances but by the evidence they see as they grow up.
It’s not as if I was totally apathetic before regarding climate change – I’ve cycle commuted for the majority of my life and been an enthusiastic recycler, admittedly only with what I could do easily at home. However, I had grown despondent, I felt I couldn’t do more, and that my little changes probably weren’t really helping after all next to the status quo and so much refusal to engage with the reality of the climate crisis. I felt I had to contribute more to the change, and realised I could use my music to help.
I loved the attitude and tenacity I found within his words, so contacted Tom immediately and told him we had to start with ‘Like Trying To Speak’ – the message of the poem needed to be shared more widely, in the hope it would strike others as it had me. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Tom and attempting to bring his words to life even further with my music. I hope and pray it now takes flight and creates yet more change.
I, for one, have found its message has inspired changes in my personal life. Whilst we’ve been working on it, I’ve taken on chairing the new environment committee at the hospital where I work, striving both to influence and inspire change there, and hopefully to empower and embolden the staff to make further changes in their lives outside of work. I’m seeking to change and influence attitudes in other communities I am part of, for instance within my church. I feel like this project has kickstarted my journey of shedding apathy and advocating for change in the ways I can.
Glasgow COP had recently taken place, I’d just watched ‘Don’t Look Up’. It was another Christmas holiday seemingly designed to numb us from the pace of climate breakdown instead of reminding us of the ‘hosanna at the heart of the atom’ as the philosopher John Moriarty puts it. My daughter had recently turned one and been releasing a new fresher flow into my heart. Despite this, my spirit was restless and dwindling. The silence in my soul was a void, not a wellspring. I sat down to write; ‘Like Trying To Speak’ is what came through. I then put it up on my blog and didn’t give it a second thought. When Joe approached me asking about a collaboration of words and music, I sent it to him. I was so encouraged by how it landed with him and his motivation to give it new energy. The process of recording it was healing too. The anger, confusion and sadness was so locked in that trying to speak it out with conviction for the mic felt raw and stuck. Through Joe’s curiosity, compassion and conversation I was helped to align myself a little with these brutal realities and speak. My hope is that it might invite a few more people to lift their heads out of the melee and draw a deep breath. Perhaps a few might even be aided to see themselves and our culture differently, more wholly, and introduce that wholeness back into their worlds.
‘Like Trying To Speak’; lyrics by Tom Burgess, music by Joe Will. Produced and released by Herald Music Productions. You can listen to it by clicking through to the website.
It is also available on Spotify and other streaming platforms.
Other links you might like to check out:
Facebook: Herald Music Productions
Joe’s Facebook: Joe Will
Tom’s blog: Contrival
Joe Will, Tom Burgess and the Team