It is a fine and wonderful thing that, thanks to the Forward Arts Foundation, we now celebrate National Poetry Day. When I was teaching, I made full use of all the poster poems, postcards, teaching materials and websites which are available. I would encourage colleagues to include poetry in their lessons that day, and a wide range of departments would oblige. Everyone in the English department would do a poetry lesson. I would plan and give resources for the Key stage 3 one. I would run an annual competition (which I believe is still going) using the same theme, resulting in a school Poet Laureate. This fed into the Wirral Young Poet Laureate (which was started later), and the very first one was Holly Green, who won our school competition. She went on to read with Carol Ann Duffy – whose generous support of poet laureates everywhere is notable.
As a poet myself, I have had schools bookings on this day, as well as readings. I organised events around NPD. I have had poems featured on the NPD website and the poem cards, on the various different themes. I’ve also judged competitions on themes from NPD over the years, both in school and for the public. This year, the wonderful Liz Brownlee has made a range of poem films on the theme of light, and included one of mine in the mix. These films are on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXUgYbJlZyo
I am included in a feature on Ink Sweat and Tears, of poems about light. The feature runs from 8th-14 October with different poems appearing every day, so do check it out. http://www.inksweatandtears.co.uk/
Last year, some of my poet friends were made NPD ambassadors and it is fabulous to see them using their various talents to spread the poetry love. There is a free ebook of poems about light by the ambassadors which can be downloaded from Amazon Kindle.
Articles about them and by them currently feature in The Guardian.
NPD is not snobbish about poems: many of the ambassadors are children’s poets, an area often neglected in prizes and awards, yet children’s poems are as carefully crafted as those adults read, and often as profound.
This year’s National Poetry Day finds me writing and reading poetry at home, and finding citations for some chapters I have written for a Creative Writing handbook for teachers. Ever since I dedicated myself to poetry at the age of 15, after reading Graves’ The White Goddess, I have been sensible of the pleasure and joy it has brought to my life, the friends I have made through it and the places it has sent me. National Poetry Day helps to bring poetry into the lives of more people, not just those of us who aspire to create it. The hard work has gone on behind the scenes all year. Poetry is quotidian.
Happy National Poetry Day everyone!
Even the word is cool.
Some might think you bitter
but even though I shudder
your clean taste bewitches,
makes tongues dance.
You are a lantern filled
with yellow candlelight.
Your skin, faintly scented
is soothing balm to the weary.
To slice through your belly
Is to release the sharp tang
of your zest. Eager for release
it spurts up to perfume the air.
The blonde light made into taste
contained in the flask of your skin.
From Paper Patterns (Lapwing 2012)