Human Rights Poetry


Human Rights Poetry by Ashby McGowan

Ashby McGowan





I write animal rights and human rights poetry. I also write environmental and nature poetry. My multi-voice poetry is on a linked WordPress site. This site will feature my solo voice human rights poetry.

All poems are copyright of Ashby McGowan. Anyone can use the poems on this site as long as they give me a credit at the performance and the event is not used to exploit humans or animals. I want to see other people perform my poems. And I want to set up multi-voice poetry groups around the World.

As well as writing human rights poetry, I have written a play which is an audience participation Peace Treaty. This has had a lot of praise and two showings of first scenes at human rights events. I am looking for a theatre group to perform it in its entirety. I have spent many years researching Peace treaties and I believe that actors and audiences would gain a lot by being part of an “actual” peace process. Email me if you are interested in this.

I am an animal rights and human rights activist. I also write plays and prose.


POETRY       Over the last ten years I have occasionally written and performed poems for the Hidden City public events in Glasgow organised by confab (artistic director: Rachel Jury; phone: 07811 394 058; email:; address: conFAB, PO Box 16888, Glasgow, G11 9EQ.) Funding has been from various sources (most often via Glasgow District Council).

For example: on Sunday 24th July, 2011: I was commissioned to write and perform two Poems as part of a conFAB event at the Merchant City Festival in Glasgow-performed at the Panopticon. These films are on the confab website.

During 2008, one of my Human Rights Poems was featured by the United Nations and they emailed it around the World to all their contacts (twice). Saliha Vinatier-Bouima of the U.N. said, “Thank you for your beautiful poem”.  This was my poetic version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I have used this as an audience participation piece (with members of the audience doing every second verse). It has always proved a powerful piece for audience members to take part in.

My poem, A whirpool is not a circle appeared in Weyfarers issue 110 (June 2011). And a prose poem of mine (Cleansed) appeared in the Summer 2011issue of the Web based Journal, Gone Lawn. My first multi-voice Poem to be printed, Daybreak, was published (Autumn 2011) in the Print Journal Turbulence (Issue 7).

I am trying to find ways to get the ordinary public more interested in Poetry (and so have spoken on National Radio about my idea for Poetry Karaoke).

Video clips of my solo voice are on (My first conFAB event – which was in 2008)   (Refugee Week 2010) (Doing a vampire poem at the Merchant City Festival, 2011 [The recording is very quiet]);

And at Monosyllabic:  

On the 23rd June 2012, I performed single voice poetry and multi-voice poetry (as a part in Chromatic Voices 2) during the Ripple Effect show at Govanhill Baths.

During October 2012, I had a poem that was also an art piece exhibited at the Museum of Religion: as part of a Seeds of Thought Exhibition.

The Gael (a poem) was published in Far Off Places Issue 1 in March 2013.

I performed two poems at a Suicide Prevention Day event at the Gartnavel Hospital, Glasgow on the 10th September, 2013. Christine Tait wrote to me on behalf of the Celebration of Life Planning Group to say, “Your participation was a moving and inspirational contribution to the day”.

On 28th November 2013, the Poem Crow was published on e-zine Open Mouse (

Commissioned by Streetland to host a performance and talk about human rights poetry: as part of their Festival in Govanhill on June 7th, 2014.

Two poems (one of which is multi-voice) are accepted by the Newsboy Team for the Commonwealth event on the main stage at the Tron Theatre. On stage 25th July, 2014.

16th August 2014, One of my poems (Muraho) that was performed at Newsboy is shown at the Scottish Parliament Café. This is part of the Festival of Politics.

13th September, I was on the Bill at the Fundraiser for Palestine (and other human rights issues) organised by Colonel Mustard. Took place at the River Nightclub.

On 23rd October, 2014, I was at Aloud 7 at the Queen Margaret Union (at Glasgow University).  [The recording is a bit dark]


5th November 2014, two poems performed at the Light Out Listening Group event at the Old Hairdressers in Glasgow. The link to them is: They are at 42.50 on a high quality recording.

On 20th November 2014 I performed at Aloud 8 at the Queen Margaret Union:  Unfortunately some drunks decided to disrupt a poetry night and you can hear their shouts.

30th December 2014, performed seven poems as part of (the Charity Group) Philanthrobeats’ The Christmas Truce event. Held in the Flying Duck.

The Spring 2015 Issue (Issue 9) of Poet and Geek magazine used my poem, Leaf.

On Tuesday, 20th January, I performed my poem Gone Lawn as part of the Lights Out Listening Group 20thJanuary2015


The U.N. poem, Heart of Glasgow, and The politician’s truth were all used as part of, the Poems Against War event featured in my multi-voice site.




When he first came to the village, he was a stranger to us all,

But he soon became my friend, this man so thin and tall.

Often, under clouds full of rain we waited,

Till it battered down upon his roof, which was zinc and corrugated

Firecracker rain fell down from the sky,

But we sat there together, safe and dry


With just a few vegetables, he made soup that was tasty and good

I was just as poor as he, but on certain special days I would

Bring along some foreign beer, that smelt of yeast,

And while we laughed at the radio, we each had a feast


From village to village, we watched the smoke, and the rumours, spread

It was a fine evening when we left his house and fled

Ten miles to walk, to the town where his family stayed,

But, on either side of the road, dead bodies had been laid

We walked on in silence, on into the night

Till we came to a checkpoint, that was noisy and bright

My real friends where there, and their weapons dripped red

They came up to me, and one of them said,

“Is he one of us? One of our kind?”

I laughed, “I’ve brought you a Tutsi. Are you blind?”


And so it was that I came to own this fine zinc roof

What? You would have done the same.




The Politician’s Truth


I read somewhere that our Politicians spoke the Truth about Iraq. If that is so, then that truth was but:



the fading memory


of a ghost that never came


seen through a dirty mirror

on a foggy,











Such a hardy tree, this olive tree

A fierce sun burning each living thing,

No rain for months,

Yet it survives,

Branches and trunk twisting in the hot air


Symbol of a people’s strength

Symbol of Peace,


In this chaos troubled World


Source of the sacred oil,

That blesses, that nourishes.


Look, where the trees all stand,

Scattered about the hillside

For a thousand years that grove,

Has withstood every invader


In the morning, they stole away the underground stream,

Tried to kill a people’s dream

At noon, they set fire to the branches,

But still the old gnarled trunk remained

In the evening, the bulldozer came


Deep roots are not strong enough to withstand,

A hate so fierce


Such a fragile tree, this olive tree

Lying broken, dead,

In the long cold night





A poem based on the UNITED NATIONS’


This Document was compiled in 1948 and in the Author’s (of this poem’s) opinion, is one of the most important Documents ever written. It has changed the world for the better. This poem was written for International Human Rights Day 2007 and is meant to inspire people to look at the original U.N. Document. Only the first twenty points are dealt with: to keep the poem of a size that is capable of remembering.

I wrote to the United Nations and they E-Mailed this Poem around the world (twice) as part of their 60th Anniversary Celebrations (for the Original Document.)




All humans born free, and equal in rights

So people can love, and people not fight



Let there be, no discrimination, throughout the human nation

Equal, so elation, and not cruel domination



No person or state, with gun or knife

Can take away your freedom, take away your life



Let no one be cursed by all of the pains

That come from Slavery, and are worn with its chains



Torture must never be used as a tool

For it is, inhuman, degrading and cruel


6, 7, 8

To each of you, I tell you true

That the Law must stand tall, beside each of you



No state should try to use might

To arrest or detain, without any right



All accused, every one and everywhere

Are entitled to a hearing, that is public and fair



All must be presumed innocent and clean

Until, by public trial, their guilt is plainly seen




Each letter you read, each word that you write,

Should all be kept private, for that is your right



In your own country, you can always stay

Or choose another, if that is your way



You can flee from violence, flee from hate

And find safe Asylum in another state



Your nationality is yours, forever to treasure

Or change it for another, as is your pleasure



Whatever your religion, marriage is your choice

Equal in rights, you both can rejoice



To own your property, that is quite fair

And if you have a partner, with them you can share



Your religion, your beliefs, are for you to decide

Your comfort and solace, a deep source of pride



No one can hold dominion

Over your freedom of opinion



In peaceful assembly you all may gather

Or stay apart, if you would rather






Don’t seek to Die



I have seen, as you now see it, the path ahead, looking endless, without hope

So I know how hard it can be, in life, just trying to cope,

Climbing a hill that forces you on to your knees,

No matter how hard it is, struggle on, please!

Look for goodness in each thing that you find

Find meaning in the day-to-day grind

For this world needs you,

And the things that you do

Don’t seek to die


Sometimes, facing the day ahead can seem like an impossible task

But there are friends out there, to walk with you, you just need to ask

There are gifts and abilities that you can find,

If you search deeply enough, within your own mind

I have stood where you now stand,

So I feel I can offer my hand,

Don’t seek to Die


Wrongs you have done,

But you’re not the only one

Try to do all you can to help those you once left in pain,

But, eventually, you must walk on, being cleansed by the rain

You feel have been let down, by a lover or friend,

Most of us will feel like that before our life’s end

Find things that you can do, and do them the best that you can

Reach out to each woman, give respect to each man

And please, don’t seek to die


You have so much to offer along the way

We need people like you in this world, so stay

You have your own unique way of seeing

You are alert to the suffering felt by each being

Your compassion should be seen as a cause of elation,

Not something to be punished by isolation

We are all Islands, it seems,

Separated by our own selfish dreams,

But, if you just think for a moment, you will agree with me:

Every Island is joined, each to the other, under the sea

Don’t seek to die


Things will not be better when you have, “gone away”

Your friends will be grieving through each night and each day

Find meaning somewhere: in doing good,

In Art, or religion, or even your food

Mostly, find meaning in what you do

And, whatever you do,

Don’t seek to die








19 ships go sailing

A sailing down the Clyde

And each shall catch its cargo

Dark cargo, deep inside


Look, all around, at Glasgow’s finest buildings

Built by its Merchants rich and grand

Their wealth came from the use of slaves

Whose blood nourished the land


19 ships go sailing

The slaves have work to do

Tobacco and sugar plantations

Need the strongest men, and women too


And an African sun

Still shines on us today

It illuminates our memories

And the things we do and say


19 planes go flying

To war torn Congo, far away

To steal minerals for our mobile phones

Such things happen-every day!


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