National Poetry Day: the school fête

Here's one I prepared earlier. It's just wishful thinking.

Right, so this Thursday is National Poetry Day.

I have to confess, NPD always strikes me a little like Guy Fawkes night, people do so many things all over the country and there are so many OTHER parties, you can’t help missing something. In a different universe, it would be like the Millennium when they televised the New Year’s celebrations from all over the world…

But, as with New Year’s, there is a big central celebration. Like the Times Square of poetry. Apparently next year, I hear it’s moving outside London – but this year, for the third year running, the Poetry Society’s National Poetry Day Live is still very much at the Royal Festival Hall (in conjunction with the Southbank Centre of course).

The theme of National Poetry Day this year is Games. And NPD Live at the Festival Hall looks set to be a bit like a giant Poetry School Fête.


Now, before anyone objects, let me just say that I know we all have our reading habits. Reading is about sitting in a dark corner (with the light on) and getting inside your head, with a line in from the page. It’s very serious, intense, mysterious business. But this is the fête. It’s not the same as every day. And when you have a day out it can’t be ALL Geoffrey Hill (though I like to think at a real school fête he’d be first in line for the wet sponges. Him & JH Prynne).

So we’ve got poetry quizzes, and poetry Bingo, and a poetry drop-in surgery, and (I think) poem cupcakes. We’ve got the class prize – I mean, the Foyle Young Poets of the Year is going to be announced earlier that day, and the judges Glyn Maxwell & Imtiaz Dharker will be on hand all afternoon – and we’ve got the cool teachers: Simon Armitage will be along, as will Michael Rosen, Lemn Sissay, Jackie Kay, Laura Dockrill, & Philip Wells. We’ve got the old boys who went on to bigger things, with previous Foyle Young Poets Helen Mort (now signed by Chatto, I see!), and Richard O’Brien. Rising SLAMbassador stars will be there with Joelle Taylor – that’s the promising younger class, about to oust the Year 10s.

Unlike most school festivities, though, National Poetry Day has a poet in residence – so Jo Shapcott will be there too!

The school magazine will be there, in the form of  the launch of the new issue of Poetry Review (which also features a long poem by Glyn Maxwell) with head boy Ahren Warner. (Ahren’s on a roll, with a first collection out with Bloodaxe, following last year’s inaugural Donut pamphlet.)

And last but not least, Julia Bird will be running the tombola! Only it will be called a poembola, and I think there might be a make-your-own element…

Now the deal is this. I am going to be helping the Poetry Society out on the day, doing live tweeting and vox pops and social media stuff. There will be quizzes on the twitter, so if you can’t get into London – or out of the office – you might still be able to have some fun. I believe the indefatigable Paul McGrane, aka Mr Membership, is organising the quiz questions as we speak. And I’m not sure what else. But I do think that after all the recent difficult times in this corner of the poetry world, this is a great chance to get together and enjoy the day. And enjoy the Poetry Society. And enjoy the poets. And the games. And especially the live tweeting. #NPDLive.

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