September 28, 2017
National Poetry Day kicks off with the launch of a new BBC poetry and performance festival and report of a fresh boom in poetry book sales
Dr John Cooper Clarke, Kate Tempest, Hollie McNish and Simon Armitage line up alongside a host of poets and spoken-word artists ready to enjoy, discover and share poetry
12 BBC regions engage 12 poets to celebrate England’s neglected local words – in verse.
National Poetry Day, the world’s greatest celebration of poetry, will see a mass outbreak of verse today. The BBC is celebrating National Poetry Day across all its channels, as are Visit England, Art UK, Virgin Trains, Royal Mail, Twitter, the V&A and thousands of schools, libraries, pubs, bus routes, museums and railway stations: the celebrations will be impossible to ignore.
Poetry is booming! This year marked the best sales on record for poetry books in both volume and value: since January, sales are up by 10 per cent on the same period last year, driven by a new appetite for the work of living poets with strong online followings, including Rupi Kaur and Hollie McNish. Poetry, according to Nielsen BookScan, is now challenging prose on the bestseller lists, boosted by the popularity of both live and recorded performances and strong followings on Instagram and Twitter. In May, Manchester’s resilience under attack found voice in a much-shared spoken-word poem by “Longfella”, in June, thousands cheered Kate Tempest at Glastonbury: poetry, whether provocation or consolation, has never felt so present.
National Poetry Day also sees the launch of a major new four-day poetry festival (Contains Strong Language) in Hull 2017 UK City of Culture, a partnership with the BBC, Hull UK City of Culture, Humber Mouth, Arts Council England, British Council, National Poetry Day and other poetry organisations. The festival stars a line-up of 17 innovative poets, the Hull 17, and will feature more than 50 events across 8 venues, including performances by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, John Cooper Clarke, Kate Tempest and a mammoth washing line of poetry created from 2017 new poems about city landmarks written by Hull residents.
There will be hundreds of events across the UK and Ireland including many responding to the invitation to ‘share a poem’ on social media.
On board staff of Virgin Trains will be including poetry in their announcements on the day and Poet in the City presents Sound of the Underground: 9 poets across 5 London Underground stations reading poetry exploring this year’s theme of freedom and travel; while Royal Mail is postmarking millions of items of mail nationwide with National Poetry Day 28 September: an honour reserved only for special occasions and significant events.
Glasgow will mark the day with pop-up poetry events across the city; in Yorkshire, the number 59 bus route from Wakefield to Barnsley will be taken over by poets and musicians, while Bradford, Unesco City of Film, will feature poems on its Big Screen. St Pancras Station, the Old Vic Theatre, Soho’s L’Escargot restaurant and Cassandra Goad’s jewellery shop on Sloane Street are just four of many London venues putting poetry before the public in surprising and delightful ways.
Susannah Herbert, National Poetry Day says: “A poem gives people the freedom to play with words, to rub off the dull tarnish until they’re fresh as new pennies. That’s why the BBC’s push to get poets to celebrate the nation’s favourite local words has struck such a chord with the nation. Everyone who shares a poem today, whether in a tweet, a nursery rhyme or a note on the fridge, is pushing back against the deadening regime of prose and striking a blow for the imagination.”