As children, one of the first poems we learn starts out, “Roses are red/Violets are blue…” Even as children, poetry causes us to pause and bask in the beauty of language. National Poetry Day occurs annually in the U.K. and Ireland on a Thursday in late September or early October. This year’s events are set for October 3 and focus on the theme of change. Admittedly, poetry is different things to different people. It can be whimsical or angry, sensitive or quiet. Most of all, poetry is most effective when read out loud for others to share.
National Poetry Day timeline
First female U.K. Poet Laureate appointed
Carol Ann Duffy, the first female and openly gay poet laureate in the U.K., took her place of literary prominence, ending 400 years of male dominance.
National Poetry Day was created
William Sieghart of the Forward Arts Foundation launched National Poetry Day in a British campaign to promote the benefits of poetry using public performances by leading poets.
Allen Ginsberg Recited "Howl" in San Francisco
Radical Beat poet Allen Ginsberg's epic poem, "Howl," exploded onto the poetry scene in San Francisco and revolutionized spoken word all over the world.
- 11th century
"Beowulf" makes literary history
The ancient tale of Beowulf is the oldest surviving epic poem written in Old English with almost 3,200 alliterative lines.
- 2100 BC
The "Epic of Gilgamesh" was the first written poem
The "Epic of Gilgamesh"was a series of Sumerian poems and has the distinction of being the first written poem in the world.
National Poetry Day Activities
Attend a poetry workshop
National Poetry Day presents poets in unusual settings. You can attend a "Poetry as Therapy" group or be part of a "Poems in the Kitchen" setting while sipping a cup of tea and munching a scone. Libraries, bookshops, hospitals, and public transit are all preparing events to excite everyone about the fun of poetry.
Take the stage
How about belting out a poem during Poetry Karaoke? National Poetry Day has a plethora of activities for those who want to do more than sit quietly on the sidelines. Take a number and spit your poem during a poetry slam. A song is merely a poem set to music so try that too.
Involve the children
One of the big goals of the National Poetry Day events is to expose young people to the power of poetry. Both reading and writing poetry are creative ways to involve children early in literature. National Poetry Day makes it cool to hang out in the library for a day of activities centered on the spoken word. Organize or attend the various children's literary festivals that are in store.
5 (non-rhyming) Reasons We Love Poetry
Three of the coolest poets of all time are also best-sellers starting with Shakespeare, followed by Lao-Tzu and Kahlil Gibran.
It’s okay to break the rules
Seventeenth century poet John Dryden is the father of the oft-ignored grammatical rule which makes it a no-no to end a sentence with a preposition.
You can do it anywhere
Sir Walter Scott penned “Marmion," his most famous poem, while riding his horse.
It’s not for everybody
Metrophobia is the fear of poetry while metromania is the compulsive need to write it.
Sometimes it’s ideal for long-winded people
The world’s longest poem is the Mahabharata of India containing about 1.8 million words.
Why We Love National Poetry Day
Poetry inspires us to observe the world we live in and to think about the roles we play. Poetry allows us to bravely share our innermost feelings even during times when we don't feel especially courageous. National Poetry Day provides a snapshot of a particular moment in time that encourages us to be more than we think we are. It reminds us of the common bonds we share as human beings.
It's a story
Poetry lets us tell a story, whether it's our own or someone else's. Since the dawn of time, cultures around the world have related tales about their heroes with poems recounting valor or dishonorable death. Poems reveal a society's values — what's held dear and which values are detrimental to the whole. Poems speak to an individual's personal journey, detailing everything one sees and hears along the way.
It's not bound by rules
Poems do not have to rhyme. e.e. cummings, for example, threw out traditional punctuation — seeing it as a hindrance to free poetic expression. National Poetry Day creates an open forum for new poets, young poets, established poets, and renegade poets to shake off the conventions of language and freely express outrageous opinions or feelings in a totally loving, safe space.