NATIONAL Poetry Day

London A3

Be carried along on a wave of words was the invitation and who were we landlubbers to decline? It seemed only fitting that I should drag my 4-6pm A2 group away from Madame Bovary and heed the Sirens’ call as the Poetry Society and Southbank Centre celebrated National Poetry Day Live from the Clore Ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall.

The afternoon event was compered by John Hegley and Joelle Taylor and featured readings from poets including Simon Armitage, Patience Agbabi, Hannah Lowe, David Morley and John Wedgwood Clarke. The theme of the day was Water. Several new Poetry Society commissions were also premiered: a new film-poem by Alice Oswald and Chana Dubinski explored water’s most transient states, while poets including Liz Berry and Ian McMillan had travelled the nation’s canal network with film-maker Alastair Cook. The day ended with a special reading of sea poems by Simon Armitage (pictured below) and friends, relayed to the Clore Ballroom from on board a boat sailing down the Thames: a perfect conclusion to the day’s events.

For me the highlight was Armitage’s reading of a poem so fresh the ink cannot quite have dried (which is the only aqueous thing I can find to say about it!) Nonetheless, “Zodiac T-Shirt” is a great little number and really needs setting to music – look out for it in his forthcoming collection.

One of the students accompanying me was Kolya Stubbs, who went on to write the winning poem in the A level category of the MPW Poetry Competition, organized by librarians Tina and Roy. While new to the craft – he had not written any poetry prior to the poem which won the competition – he has forged a distinct style. I am sure he would agree that listening to a succession of poets take the stage and read from their poetry as though this was the most natural of human activities – which of course it is – inspired him and indeed all of those fortunate enough to attend.

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