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Today – 1st October is National Poetry Day

01 October 2020 Share


What's happening?

• HRH Prince of Wales shares favourite Wordsworth lines

• New Margaret Atwood poem launches nationwide competition

• Benjamin Zephaniah says: ‘Poetry saved my life’

• English Heritage turns to poetry to tell the Untold Stories of its 400 sites

• BBC Local Radio stations invite nation to upload poems, inspired by Kate Clanchy

• Cerys Matthews launches forthcoming album, with new poem by Belinda Zhawi

• The Poet Laureate Simon Armitage awards the first ever Laurel Prize

• 24-Hour Poetry Lock-In hosted on Instagram Live by leading BookTuber Leena Norms

Millions will unleash their inner poet today (Oct 1) as National Poetry Day invites the nation to share a poem, using their own words, or taking inspiration from new poetry by Margaret Atwood and lines of Wordsworth read by HRH The Prince of Wales.

Through its 40 local radio stations, the BBC is inviting millions of listeners to write and upload their own poems, inspired by a ‘poem in ten minutes’ masterclass by super-teacher Kate Clanchy, accompanied by five-year-old Nadim, the youngest of the young authors she has encouraged to find their own voices through poetry.

At 11am, artist Chris Riddell hosts a free Poetry Day Live Draw, with special guests Brian Bilston - Twitter’s favourite poet - and Foyle Young Poet Khushi Daryani.

The first ever 24-Hour Poetry Lock-In, a non-stop day-and-night online celebration of poetry, starting at noon, will be hosted on Instagram Live by leading BookTuber Leena Norms, with inspiring write-alongs, interviews and even a midnight feast. The Lock-In will feature Cerys Matthews previewing her new album - a poetry and music collaboration - plus poets Don Paterson, Nikita Gill and Inua Ellams, whose new titles feature on the 40-strong list of National Poetry Day books.

At 5pm, the Lock-In goes international for National Poetry Day’s Young Poets Showcase, when Rathbone Folio Prize-winner Raymond Antrobus will highlight the incredible poetry talent nurtured by teachers worldwide.

Susannah Herbert, Executive Director of the Forward Arts Foundation, the charity that has organised National Poetry Day each year since 1994, says: ‘This year has seen an unprecedented number of people discovering their inner poet during lockdown. Poetry offers an alternative to soundbites and statistics, a way of addressing what really matters, as individuals and as communities. A shared poem creates a space for true communication, with ourselves, our friends and family, and all those separated from us by distance or confinement.

‘The interactive National Poetry Day map features hundreds of poetry celebrations across the UK, led by local libraries, schools and bookshops: care homes are connecting with school children via Gyles Brandreth’s #PoetryTogether2020 initiative and English Heritage has seized on poetry to celebrate untold stories in an unprecedented link between National Poetry Day and Black History Month. Our theme this year is Vision and our invitation to all is to See It Like A Poet by finding the words to get us through a turbulent, uncertain time.’

More poetry books are due to be published around National Poetry Day than ever before, including new work by Michael Rosen, Jackie Morris and Robert McFarlane, Nikita Gill, and Inua Ellams, all on the 40-strong list of recommended poetry reads promoted via Waterstones and the Booksellers Association.

As National Poetry Day’s founder William Sieghart reflects: ‘Why is poetry so in demand? Because it provides us with an expression of how we feel, often more elegantly worded than we could manage ourselves, and gives us a sense of complicity, a sense of no longer being alone in our thoughts or our lives. At a time when most cultural venues have had to close their doors, poetry is thriving because it allows people to connect and communicate.’

Poet Benjamin Zephaniah agrees, saying: ‘National Poetry Day helps people discover poetry: it doesn’t just get them thinking about poetry, it gets them thinking about the world.‘

If I want to know what a woman’s life is like, say, where can I go? I could listen to the government and I’d get a bland version of it, or I could look at some statistics, but if I want to know what they feel like when they get up in the morning, and what they feel like when they have children, or what they feel that when they go to the bathroom, poetry will tell me a lot more. I could say, without sounding too dramatic, that poetry saved my life.’

Author Margaret Atwood, who has released a poem from her forthcoming collection Dearly especially for National Poetry Day, agrees, defining poetry as the core of her craft:‘

Poetry has always been central to my other forays into language. It opens doors for me into spaces that may later be found to contain stories.’

The National Poetry Day team, in partnership with Waterstones and Penguin Random House, now invites everyone to put forward their own creative response to Atwood’s poem for a chance to win a signed copy of Dearly. They can post a video performance of the poem, a picture or a short poem of their own, using #AtwoodNPD.

Atwood’s involvement, alongside that of other artists working in a wide range of artforms - music, performance, drama, art - demonstrates the flexibility and centrality of poetry to culture.

As Sieghart adds: ‘2020 may go down as the year of bubbles and screens as the pandemic continues to confine many to our homes, but it has also allowed us to increase the ways in which we can reach out to others, and for many more people to understand the healing power of poetry in the most difficult of times.’

Other initiatives taking place this year, as featured on National Poetry Day’s interactive map, include an exclusive reading from Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage and the shortlist announcement for the 2020 CLiPPA (Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award), the UK’s only award for published poetry for children.

Find more ways to #ShareAPoem on the NPD website

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