National Poetry Day



Of all the written forms, poetry tends to be the one that scares people most. I’ve written before that I believe a lot of that comes down to the way it (and literature more broadly) has been taught in schools, with too much emphasis on what the poet meant, rather than asking ‘how does the sound of it make you feel’?


It is an acquired fear – children love to play with sound, as the great Dr Seuss knew only too well – and I suspect for many this emphasis has left them feeling foolish, the thought process going something like this: ‘I don’t know what the poet meant’ – ‘I don’t understand this poem’ – ‘I don’t understand poetry’ – ‘Poetry is hard’ – ‘I don’t like poetry’.


I know I’ve felt all these things. And yet, something keeps drawing me back to it and I think that something is about playfulness and puzzles – how do I express the things I want to express without actually telling you exactly what I mean? After all, where’s the fun in that?


Literature of all varieties is a two-way act – it’s not just about what the writer wrote, it’s about what the reader sees and feels. The more I read and try to improve my own, the more I believe that the barrier between writer and reader is, in fact, at its thinnest in poetry – so long as you stop worrying about what it means.


Which is why I am very excited that the ridiculously talented poet Lucy Furlong over at Seethingography has asked my all the sins co-editor Sinead Keegan and me to be a part of her National Poetry Day (UK) celebrations on 6th October.


National Poetry Day was set up by the Forward Arts Foundation to celebrate excellence in poetry and widen its audience. Its goal? To promote the enjoyment, discovery and sharing of poetry.


This year’s theme is ‘messages’ and Lucy will be running an afternoon of fab workshops designed to get kids and adults alike creating their own poetic messages. There is absolutely no need to be a poet. This is about discovering the joyous nature of poetry and showing how it really is very simple to start. If you’re local – or even if you’re not and fancy a little visit down to Surbiton – come along and join us.


Here’s all the info you need:


Location: Museum of Futures, 117 Brighton Road, Surbiton

When: Thursday 6th October


From 3pm: after-school family writing activities. Have a go at Poetry Lucky Dip, or write a haiku to your dog, or a poem to yourself in the future...there will be plenty of things to try in a relaxed setting, with help on hand should you need it.


If you or your kids would like to bring a favourite poem to read and share, or would like to read the poems you have written there will be a chance to do that too!


After 5pm: pop in on your way home from work or drop by to take part in activities for generating messages of all kinds using various poetical techniques: an ode to your favourite sandwich; a thank you to the postman; a sonnet to a freshwater Sardine; a cut-up poem to the person who carved you up on Tolworth roundabout yesterday... See what you can come up with and bring friends – there will be collaborative writing activities too.


From 7.30pm: there will be a chance to read the work you have written, come and share favourite poems, or bring your own poems to read.


There’s more information to come and you can keep up-to-date via the Facebook page.


Think you don’t like/can’t write poetry? You haven’t met Lucy Furlong:
Lucy is a qualified creative writing teacher. She has taught poetry and creative writing to people aged 4 – 74. She is a Forward prize nominated poet, and her work has been widely published, and she performs her work nationally. Her poetry map, Amniotic City, was featured in The Guardian and her pamphlet , clew, was published by Hesterglock Press in 2015. Her latest poetry map, Over the Fields, was published in September last year.