National Poetry Day 2015

London F14

We are now in our third year of attending the National Poetry Day at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The format is a simple one involving a series of readings and it always seems to have a revelatory effect on English students: clearly, hearing living poets reading their poems is a more dramatic and energising experience than silently reading in books the words of poets who are (often) long dead. We recover at events like this at once a truer but also more primitive conception of the poet as the bard figure of the tribe and when Patience Agbabi brought the session to a close with “A Refugee’s Tale” we were reminded of poetry’s status as the most immediate medium to explore contemporary events.

The other effect of having a number of poets read from their work is the way it confirms the variety of the medium. Contemporary British poetry is in good shape on the evidence of this event. Karen McCarthy-Woolf read from her collection An Aviary of Small Birds which dealt both heartbreakingly and courageously with the death of her baby, whereas Michael Symmons Roberts read poems from his most recent collection, Drysalter, that were at once much less confessional and much more formal.

The theme of this year’s Poetry Day is ‘Light’; those of the last two years have been ‘Water’ and ‘Memory’, respectively. As ever, MPW participates in National Poetry Day by organising a competition for entrants at three levels: GCSE students, AS/A level students and Staff.

Richard Martin