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Day of the Poets

October 2nd is National Poetry Day. The theme is Remember. Sam Bennett takes a look at what it's all about
I very much enjoyed reading something my dad had written for my mum’s 50th birthday. I should point out Dad also took Mum to Venice (just in case you thought he was cheap)

Whether it’s been Inspector Morse reciting A. E. Housman, a Smiths song or an academic assignment, poetry has often featured in my life. I’m thrilled that this is the case. I’m just as thrilled that my work at the moment involves engaging with a collection of poems, including David Harmer’s ‘Not Just You, Me As Well’ which paints a harrowing picture of bullying, and Aaron Smith’s ‘The first time’ which depicts, among other things, the fire lighting antics of the speaker. The reason for this? October 2nd is National Poetry Day.


The theme for NPD 2014 is Remember


I have been delving into poems that the Remember theme could apply to, but I have not limited myself to published works. Actually, I may not have restricted myself to poetry either! I very much enjoyed reading something my dad had written for my mum’s 50th birthday. One line read: “I remember trying to wipe super-glu off your hands in the kitchen at Herga Court after you’d tried to repair Freddie’s rear-view mirror. Holding your hands, it took a long time, I made sure of that”. I should point out Dad also took Mum to Venice (just in case you thought he was cheap).

Of course as 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of World War One and has been decorated with events that recall the Great War, Remember is certainly a fitting theme for this year’s National Poetry Day. Thanks to the World War One poets, there is a significant amount of poetry about the First World War. The conflict was at times presented in a romanticized way; part of Julian Grenfell’s ‘Into Battle’ reads: “The fighting man shall from the sun, Take warmth, and life from the glowing earth”. Other work was more brutal, as in Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’: “The white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin; If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood, Come gargling from the
froth-corrupted lungs” (‘Dulce et Decorum Est’).

Owen once wrote, in a draft preface to a book of his poetry, “These elegies are to this generation in no sense consolatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is warn”. Perhaps if we were to write an original Remember poem, it could express an opinion on whether Owen’s warnings had an effect.

This year National Poetry Day will see a school poetry competition at London’s North Bridge House Senior School. The prize giving for the John Betjeman Poetry Competition will also be taking place at St Pancras International railway station, for more details on this competition, visit betjemanpoetrycompetition.com.

You can get involved in NPD now, just tweet your own Remember poem using #nationalpoetryday or put it on facebook.com/PoetryDayUK. You can find out about holding your own poetry event, as well as more about NPD, at forwardartsfoundation.org/national-poetry-day.

- Sam Bennett

Top Image: An Oxford Blackwell's bestseller: Moontide by Niall Campbell (Image Credit: Blackwell's)

Below: An Oxford Blackwell's bestseller: Soul Food: Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds edited by Neil Astley and Pamela Robertson-Pearce (Image Credit: Blackwell's)