UK National Poetry Day
Poetry is the clear expression of mixed feelings.
– W.H. Auden
The Power of Poetry
Poetry is a kind of alchemy. It has this unique ability to take the complex, messy, joyful, painful thoughts and feelings that we all experience as human beings, and crystallise them down into ink on a page. These lines and squiggles of a poem have a strange magic- they resonate with us in a way that, when you read a really powerful one, can make your hair stand on end, and a shiver go up your spine.
Poetry helps us make sense of ourselves, and make sense of the world. Theoretical physicist Robert Oppenheimer, considered by many to be the ‘father of the atomic bomb,’ could not fully express his guilt and pain over the terrible, awesome power of what he had helped to create simply through megaton yield figures or fission chain criticality parameters. Instead, he elected to reference poetic verse from the Hindu religious text the Bhagavad Gita – ‘I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.’
Poetry can be rumination on human nature, it can be whimsical and fun escapism, it can transport us to other times and places, and it can help us to appreciate the world from other perspectives. In short, poetry is powerful. It is for all of us, and for many around the world, it is part of human culture that should be celebrated.
The History of National Poetry Day
In celebration of all things poetic, the UK’s National Poetry Day was established in 1994 by British entrepreneur and philanthropist William Sieghart. The event takes place on the first Thursday in October each year in collaboration with the UK Arts Council, and aims to demonstrate that ‘poetry has a place in everybody’s lives.’ Whether this is rhythmic chanting for children, to advertising jingles, to the lyrical verse of the Romantics, poetry has a universal appeal, and part of the mission of National Poetry Day is to recognise and promote that.
Since 1999, each year has loosely been themed, on topics ranging from ‘dreams’ to ‘journeys’ to ‘food,’ and the theme for 2020 is ‘vision’. This is, however, open to interpretation, so budding poets can engage with this topic however they see fit!
The event encourages the love of language in all aspects of life – at school, at work, even during the commute on the bus.
Events and Activities
National Poetry Day consists of a range of activities and events, including displaying poetry on billboards, broadcasting readings from well-known public figures such as Prince Charles, and promoting the writing, reading and sharing of poetry in schools. Teachers are provided with classroom resources, children are encouraged to enter poetry competitions, and anybody can take part in public readings of their favourite poems, or even ‘poem karaoke!’
National Poetry Day is a chance for everyone to get involved.
For ideas on how to join in the celebration of all things poetry, visit www.nationalpoetryday.co.uk.
Poetry’s power is invisible and intangible, but it’s there.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
– Christina Rossetti