National Poetry Day: mixed messages

Perhaps you missed National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day? Never mind, that was way back in January, which feels like decades ago in 2016. 

Since then there have been days to commemorate war, wish for peace, clean the beach, hug a friend.  There is a day for every conceivable (literally) human activity but in October there is one that claims particular attention in this section of Sceptical Scot.

It’s National Poetry Day on Thursday 6 October and across the UK people of all ages are celebrating with spoken and written word, as travellers by train and bus to Glasgow will discover.

The Day began in 1994, an initiative of the Forward Arts Foundation, aiming to celebrate poetry and widen its audience, and each year that has poets and associated bodies of many shapes and sizes grappling with a different theme. In 2010, for example, it was Home, last year it was Light and in 2016 it is Messages.   

Text, tweet, email, meme, memo, postcard, telephone call. A message can be almost anything you like. On National Poetry Day paradoxically it’s also a chance to cut through the noise of all those messages in the hyper-connected world that Imtiaz Dharker evokes in her poem.

The city I am in has lost
its volume control.
Every person in the place
is tuned to maximum.


Poetry is everywhere

The message theme is a gift for schools, libraries and poetry gatherings of all kinds. Track through #NationalPoetryDay events and you will find students at Buckie High School, Moray, are writing poems to put in bottles round the school. Milne’s High School in Moray looks forward to a visit from Jackie Kay, Scotland’s Makar, working with highers pupils from across the county.

From early morning in Glasgow, poetry will break out at Queen Street, Central Station and Buchanan Bus Station as Glasgow Libraries have teamed up with the Big Issue. And their message – in printed cards and performance poetry – is that both poetry and libraries matter.

In Cumbernauld poetry will be served with tea and cakes. In Aberdeen there will be no sitting back – the audience gets to write their own at an autumnal message poetry workshop at Seventeen in Belmont Street.  In Edinburgh Dr Poem prescribes a remedy for any ailment at the Central Library.  And of course as usual the Scottish Poetry Library will be out in force handing out thousands of postcards to passers by in the Royal Mile.

And if you are stuck at home or at work there’s still a chance to take part in the many virtual events happening online. Dundee is seizing the day to launch an online forum for family carers throughout Scotland to join the monthly voice and visuals sessions in Dundee.

There’s likely to be something happening wherever you live. Just look for #NationalPoetryDay hashtag.

Poster of Jackie Kay's poem beginning Nothing can be hidden from Lochaline Stores

PS: Was it patronising to single out National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day? There is a bewildering choice of ‘awareness days’ in the calendar, supporting causes great, small and intentionally trivial.  There is even a Euro Day on 1 January.  Bubble Wrap hosts a ‘Young Inventor’ award that encourages them to ‘find ways to use Bubble Wrap outside of packaging’. Is there a poem in there somewhere? Surely!

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