Creativity and Spirituality with Joel McKerrow

On Returning Home


Every time I leave for a few days and then return my daughter hears me from wherever she might be in the house and she squeals and she runs, headfirst, she runs, straight at me, she runs and all I can do to not burst in that moment is take her in my arms and kiss her squishy cheeks and run my hand through her hair and laugh with her laughter. My daughter splits a moment in two. This is what it seems. She strikes the mundane until it flows with magic.

I am exhausted and the plane ride has been long and the landing is never fun, but none of this holds a dime when she leaps into my arms and the moment is struck, like bell, like gong and I am undone and I try not to burst but I do and the moon does too and the stars are all screaming and I wonder if this is how God would be, how eternity feels, how deep the substance of life and love that is waiting for us in every moment, should we choose to open our arms and hearts to her.



A Tooth-Ache and the Fragility of Existence.


All it takes is an infected wisdom tooth to remind oneself of the fragility of existence. 

So many things kept in equilibrium and when the smallest of these realities succumbs to an off-balance kilter than the whole system is struck down. Just one tiny tooth digging through where it should not and my body cannot shake the pain. My whole self is set upon.

Most often I forget my body, until something begins to hurt. Until headache. Until toothache. I forget my body like we forget the earth, until something begins to hurt. Until Hurricane. Until fire. Until the equilibrium is off kilter.

So we drug up to push past the pain. All week I have performed in New Zealand through throbbing wisdom tooth pain numbed by nurofen and persistence. A friend suggested I just cancel the gigs, but it is not in my nature. I push through regardless. Have always done so. I figure someone, somewhere must need to hear my message and how could I let a sore tooth stop this from happening. My calling holds more weight than my succumbing to the pain. This is the justification. Perhaps I just hold too high a notion of what I bring to the world, perhaps it is only those who choose to persist through pain who reach their destination, or perhaps the drivenness of my ego just needs to take a break.

This earth has no drug to ease her pain. No Nurofen. No antibiotic. But she does have persistence. More so than both you or I. She continues to push through regardless, just as she has done for aeons. Hopeful that someone too will need to hear her message, hoping that someone too will take notice. 

The beginning of this week was spent with Anna Jane. She fights for this earth. Has felt her pain. Feels it inside and all over. She names the reality and points us to the rotting tooth. Forces us to realise that we have eaten too much sugar. She has given her life to such a cause. To the restoration. To the declaration. To making sure we do not numb the pain, but try to find the cause of what ails us.

It is the end of the week and Hannah takes me out upon a jetty and it was beauty and blue and calm water holy. But from the jetty we could see the mountain. Towering above the water. And she tells me of the force who came and massacred the Maori men here. And then the women of the village who refused to be tortured and slaughtered by them so they took their children up to the heights of the mountain and they threw themselves from its cliff and their blood stained the stones beneath. Blood between her teeth. The infection in the mouth of this world is worse than I ever realised. We spit blood out with the bile.

And I tell the crowds who come to see me speak all week of the nameless ones. Those caught in a system. The nearly 25 million currently enslaved in forced exploitation. The nameless ones. The 4.5 million of these who are sex slaves, raped every night. The nameless ones. The 25, 200 new slaves that are made every day in our world. The nameless ones. That is 1 new person who becomes a slave every 4 seconds. The nameless ones. I tell them that every nameless one still has a name.

I am surprised the earth has not spun off its axis, has not given up on humanity and the atrocities that we commit. In truth, there is so much more than a tooth ache here. There is a cancer. There is a fracture down the centre. But still, she perseveres. She pushes through the pain. We persevere because there is no alternative. We have only one race. We have only one earth. And it is Hannah and it is Anna Jane and it is all those nameless, who have a name, who remind me now to not ignore the pain, not to numb the pain, not to run the other way. It is time to face the monster we have made. It is time to get our dentist on. It is the only way we may see this body become whole again, healed again. This body. Our body.

Every part. Every system that keeps her running.

This body. Our body.


Photo Credit (photo of me): Amani AlShaali

Brand new LIVE album for FREE!!!!

hollowed out lungs album cover.jpg

GET IT HERE for FREE!!!!!!

Recorded LIVE at the launch night of Hollowed Out Lungs (The Book). This is a performative exploration of loss, pain, anger, doubt, hope, creativity and beginning again. Accompanied by Meena Shamaly on piano and long-time collaborator Richelle Boer on guitars and female vocals, once again Joel McKerrow pushes the performance poetry envelope in fascinating directions…

NEW POETRY FILM…and special announcement for you all…

Friends, it is with much excitement I bring to you my latest poetry video…

It came together as a collaboration with my friend Joy Prouty and her family. And my special announcement that comes with this video is that Joy and I will be releasing a podcast series soon all about creativity.


Well, it’s about creativity, but it’s not just about creativity, it’s about how creativity speaks into the deep parts of who we are. It’s about how we see our world and how we see ourselves and how we can begin to use our creativity to find freedom.

Joy is a USA based photographer, filmmaker and speaker of truth. She is a tree whose roots run deep. A bird whose wings span wide. The sacred coats her life and drips from her fingers like rain, like redemption, like love, like storms, like rivers. This is Joy. Checkout her INSTAGRAM.

I’ll be putting it up on this blog when we release the podcast. So stay tuned….!!!

Thankyou Joshua Tree


There is something in the air around here. In the desert. In the place we gather to string together our dislocated lives into some kind of community. I notice it softly at first. The rumblings. The stirring. A sense of providence or simply substance. It is the deeper stuff. And how it calls to each of us with its coaxing. I listen. To the sound of 100 people excitedly talking. The beginning of a week, but I know it is the beginning of much more for many of them. It is one of those moments.

The Joshua Trees reach out like dislocated bodies wanting to shake your hand. The desert sand is dirty. The wind picks up. The sky begins to grumble. A lightning flash. We are standing in the middle of the National Park and the clouds are gathering around us like they are deciding what to do, how ferocious to become. Their rumblings turn louder and we walk a little faster as the rain falls a little harder. A friend is slightly panicked. Another is in glee. And me, I am feeling it again, the rumbling outside, the coaxing, the stirring, it is a noise that I hear inside. Flashes of lightning and the desert is getting darker and the rain begins to fall in torrent. There is still too far to go on our walk and the night is soon to come and so we decide to turn back. I turn around and then around again and I turn my face up to the rain and I am turning in a circle and the Joshua Tree’s are all reaching higher and this is one of those moments.


She holds my hand as she tells me of her mother and another wipes away a tear as she tells me of the years of a broken back and chronic pain. He stands up in front of us all and says that he would have jumped if a picture that Brooke created hadn’t come to his mind. Brooke holds him as he finishes. Brooke holds so many. She has really large hands. I know they feel tired sometimes. The day before this one and one man told me of his loneliness. Another of his choice to believe in himself. She screamed out that she should be adored. He yelled of his courage. She called to the sky that she was worthwhile. And in all the stories that crept from once closed mouths I realised, this was one of those moments.

We came running. She called us. The night sky was alive she said. And we doubted. But only for a moment. We walked out into the open and above us the world was exploding into colour. A rainbow in the dead of night. A rocket soaring through the sky. I stood with tears in my eye. Of all the things I never expected this. Childhood dreams exploding supernova in the sky. It was one of those moments.


He placed fingers to keys and began to play. I didn’t notice at first. In conversation about nothing in particular until his voice called out sweet over all the other sounds and it held within it a passion and a pain and a man who wished he could be more than all he felt he was. And it was there again. The stirring. And I wasn’t the only one to feel it. Within moments there was the planning of a filming and a group of people stood behind him as he sang his song the next morning, the camera capturing this song that was more than a song. It just so happened to be, one of those moments.

An early morning rise before the sun had even begun its revolution and I was walking through the desert to a camera that was waiting to shoot me 360 degree. The camera was a friend and we both stood side by side to watch the rise. And I spoke the words of my poem and the camera caught them well and it is new technology and virtual reality and I am pleading to the camera and to the world that beneath the darkness their lies beauty and I rise to the peak of the poem and the desert carries the sound all the way to the sun and I come to the end of the poem just as the sun dances over the horizon and it is all the glory of the new day and I tell the people to remain, to slow down, to the see the beauty. It was a moment.


I give so many awkward activities to my students and now I am the one walking in circles amidst a thrall of bodies doing the same. Brooke tells us to stop and stand beside someone and there is a woman in front of me who turns and Brooke tells us to look the other in the eye and to be seen and to try and see and she is looking at me, seeing me, straight through me, into me and I know she feels the same. Tears are brimming for both of us. A circle wraps around us. We are but two amidst the 100 and I wonder at the amount of circles falling over these couples tonight. One of those moments.

He put his hand upon my shoulder and it was one simple gesture but it was enough. A moment.

She danced in the dusty twilight. A moment.

He wondered what the point of it all was, if it wasn’t changing the world. A moment.

She gave me a note, in a book, it made me cry. A moment.

He rose so high and graceful, his hand in just the right position for this photo. A moment.

She looked at me. It was all she needed to do. A moment.

The stars. A moment. The light on the floor. A moment. The monkeys in my brain. A moment. A poem. A moment. One more moment. Another…

Piece by piece and and story by story and person by person the community that was to last only three short days came together and stitched thread around one another. And now I have left and it is back to a plane ride and tomorrow a whole new group of friends to be made and students to teach and I am exhausted already, but I know something that, at least for this moment, blows away the exhaustion. It is the realising that I get to do this. That we get to do this. That this is life. It is one connection and another and a moment and another and a coaxing and a stirring and a dreaming and a believing and a fighting for the truth that we each are worth all this beauty and all this substance. And whether this feeling and this community and this beauty lasts a moment or a lifetime, it was something that I can open my mouth and say, ‘I was there for that. I held those moments.  Or in actuality. They held me. Each of us. Held.

There is something in the air around here. In the desert. In the place we gather to string together our dislocated lives into some kind of community…


Thankyou to my incredible friend Brooke Shaden and all the outstanding ones who worked their butts off to put this on. Thankyou to all the new people who I got to meet for trusting me with your stories. Thankyou to all the old friends for holding me. Thankyou to the cherished ones who spoke into my life this weekend in so many important ways.

Thankyou Joshua Tree.





Hollowed Out Lungs OUT NOW


You can ORDER now your copy of this beautiful work of poetry by Joel McKerrow and Zoe Boyle to be sent to most places in the world.

Order HERE 
(do it now to get a free copy of Joel’s THESE WANDERING FEET ALBUM)

An excerpt from the Foreword by Anna McGahan

“Hollowed Out Lungs holds the breath of two people – Joel and Zoe – working out their days, watching their God, learning their bodies, and loving their families. They traverse identity through encounters with strangers and friends. They dissect the very big things and very small things, calling on the simplicity of nature, of death, of children, of love. In an act of wild sacrifice, they have turned themselves inside out – their furiously working bodily organs spilling out onto these pages. They are in process, and they are proud of it. As you read the insides of these poets, may their holy mess enter into your holy mess. May they get under your skin and into your system. May they fill you with desire, anger, grief and pure joy.”


After FIVE years, a new book…

Friends, it has been five years since I released a book of poetry. It’s time for that to change. Over the last few years I have given myself the creative challenge of writing a poem everyday. Most of the time I have been able to keep this discipline up. Most of the time the writing is crap and the poems are woeful. But, the only way to write great poetry is to write tonnes and tonnes of crap poetry.

So I spent the last little little while sorting through all that writing that I have done and selecting a number of poems to come together as my new book: HOLLOWED OUT LUNGS.

I will be announcing a lot more about it over the coming weeks before it comes out at the end of June. For now…I just wanted to let you know about it. And here below is the written words of one of the poems and you can go and check it out as a video HERE.




The Helplessness of the White-Saviour.

I was fifteen when I first saw a woman struck hard across the face. She was in the marketplace in Port Moresby, PNG. I had sat down, an inquisitive teenager and how I loved talking with people and hearing their stories. This day, it was her husband or her partner, who walked over and, ignoring me in mid-sentence, he grabbed her ear and smashed her face with his fist. I still remember the blood. I still remember her being dragged away by the other women in the market. I still remember staring at the man who was double my size and double my age and I a tall, lanky red-headed, freckly white boy who could do nothing. I froze. A fly in a web. The man laughed. He turned and walked away. I shook for days.

What I remember most: The utter helplessness.


The very same trip I was in Madang. In the hotel there was a girl. A pretty girl. The same age as I. A national. We talked. Every night we talked. Looking out at the world and the ocean and part of me wanted to kiss her. I never once saw her during the day. So all I remember is moonlight white on brown skin. Her face always slightly hidden. She always slightly hidden.

On the final night of my stay I sat listening to a CD on my discman and I saw her out by the water looking out to the sea. Next to her was a man fishing. I watched for a while until he left. I came to her slowly. She would not look up at me. Not this night. Tears streaked down her face. I hoped it was because I was leaving the next day. It was not.  Not really. The tears were there because she had to stay. The tears were there because every night she would go from our conversation back to the reason she was there at the hotel. The fisherman. A French man. The chef of the hotel. She was this mans play thing. A sexual object for him to rape every night. This was her story. She could not leave. It broke me.

I had not known this. Not until this final night as her story spilt out intermingled with the tears. Both stained my skin. I tried to rub them away. They would not leave. My brain tried to rub her away. Literally, I did not remember this experience. It was not part of my conscious memory bank. Not until a few months ago. Twenty years later. I walked on the sand by the sea, with a warm breeze and a familiar smell and a song that played through my headphones. It was the very same song that I had played her that night. I had given her my headphones and let her listen to the CD in my discman, to a song that I felt would help. The fractured attempt of a fifteen year old boy to comfort a girl going through something he could never understand. Now twenty years later and the song and the ocean and the smell it all opened the shadowed doorway of memory and this girl came tumbling out and I fell on my knees in the sand weeping for her. I could see it all once more. I could feel it all once more. I remembered the rage. How I wanted to destroy that man. I remembered crying myself to sleep that night.

What I remember most: The utter helplessness.


It is amazing how an event one cannot even recall can shape them so decidedly. I have no doubt that both these experiences of utter helplessness shaped my passion for doing what I can to help people. In both the good and the bad ways. My heart for justice and for walking alongside people in their woundedness. My rescuing, knight-in-shining-armour self who takes on his shoulders burdens too heavy. I have helped a lot of people in my life. But I must acknowledge that much of this help that I gave, that I still now give, is so that I do not have to feel such helplessness again. I am still making up for the boy who froze in the market place. For the boy who liked a girl he had just met and left her as a sex slave. I help so that I do not have to feel helpless again. It is amazing how an event one cannot even recall can shape them so decidedly.

And I wonder if this is not the case for all of us rescuers. All of us with our saviour-complexes. All of us who try to help the world. I wonder if this is not the same for all the men who try to save the damsel in distress. Are we not just trying to save ourselves from the helpless. Do we not fear it so much that we do anything to run from it. That we would name them as helpless so we don’t have to feel helpless. That we would not have to feel so small. So we stand tall. We talk too loudly. Walk too proudly. Set our posture as larger. The desire to stand out. Stand up. Stand proud. We take up too much space. Demand that the world look at our glorious monuments. Demand that they build us our monuments. Shrines to the white-saviour, to the Knight-in-shining armour, to the rescuer. Look at me helping all these poor wretched souls, look at how we bought these savages into civility, look at how men run the world. This is me. I am too big for my boots. Take up too much space. Stand out. Stand up. Stand proud. But perhaps it’s time to take a knee. Stop trying to rescue the world when I am just trying to rescue me. Time to not be seen. To sit in the dust with those who sit in the dust and just listen. Learn. Trust in the dignity of a strong people who have weathered more storms than I have smelt. Let them teach these ignorant eyes what determination really means.

Friends, I have hurt too many people trying not to feel so helpless. To each of them I say, I am sorry. I am not sure if I can ever be rid of this motivation. I wonder if it is a thorn in my flesh for the rest of my days. The stains of her tears cannot be wiped away. But even so, I shall do whatever I can to lessen the grip of such motivation upon me. Starting with remembering her. Starting with forgiving myself. Starting with lowering myself and not believing I have all the answers and all the solutions. Starting with allowing myself to feel incapable again. I am allowed to be incompetent at many things. I do not have to succeed. I do not have to change the world. You do not have to change the world. Let us embrace all that we lack and find a grace within it.

Please join me there, all you competent peoples. All you rescuers. All you achievers. Remember when you were helpless. Do not deny it. Do not run from it. Embrace it. There is much we may learn from it.

My name is Joel McKerrow.

I was fifteen when I first saw a woman struck hard across the face.

I was fifteen when I left behind a girl who was a sex-slave.

I am now thirty five.

These things do not leave us.


Photo by Candace Smith Photography.

Something that we might call God.

There is a restlessness,
A disquiet on the inside.
A whisper.

There is a fire. Or at least a flame.
The chase for God or something that we might call God.

There is a hoping. A knowing
that gnaws
and claws
and still it holds you.

Rekindle her. I beg of you.
Choose this presence over your pageantry.
Listen to the silent stories,
the ones hidden between
the lines you let them read.

This is not a problem to solve.
This is not a life that you have to have together.
Your surrender,
it may be the best thing you could do right now.
A peace in a sea of confusion and calling.
And don’t they say that grace
makes beauty from the ugly.

So begin with the beauty and the beautiful.
Stare at it like you stare at the flame.
The day will come when you shall find yourself
once more burning.

Look deep into the world
and the word shall look deep into you
and somewhere in the stare between,
this is where she waits, God.
Or something that we might call God.


How to Break Free (nearly)…

His business suit gives away his profession but not his calling, not his burning, not what the little one inside desires.

His beard is a shift and a hollow. The first place that brown becomes grey and it tells him these years are waning on and on through the starch light of history.

His beard is a shift of ageing. I know this ageing, like he knows this ageing. His beard gives it all away. Tells me that five fingers grip his spine and twist it backward and he cannot feel this, but his face knows it.

He wears fluoro green socks. Beneath the cuff of his suit I see them. Fluorescent green and a splash of red. His rebellion against the system, against the office, against the ageing. The history of a man who never spread his wings and couldn’t see the the ocean through the window.

But I wonder how many times it called him. I wonder how many times he stood on its edge and felt the surge wrap around bare ankles, green and red socks tossed wild onto the beach behind him. To stare to the horizon like he’s about to dive in. But he stops. Turns a weary shoulder away from the waves. He is tempted to leave the socks behind, but in the last moment he snatches them up, puts them on his feet, trudges up the sand and onto the path and down the road and into the train and I see him sit there now dreaming of sailing ships, one hand folded neatly over the other. Composure.

The train slows and I know that he exits and he walks to the building and into the lift and into the office and to the desk to turn on the computer and catch a glimpse of himself in the black computer screen and the shift of his ageing beard shall scare him. And he shall spend the day counting the money of rich people wishing he could see the ocean from his office.