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World Poetry Day 2018

March 21, 2018

Did you realise that today, March 21, is World Poetry Day? I’m not asking this to catch you out but more because I wonder how well promoted it is – particularly here in Australia? I must say that, as in previous years, I’ve heard very little about it. Perhaps, though, if I went to my local public library, they might be promoting it? You never know.

I have mentioned this day before, including dedicating a Monday Musings post to it in 2016, when I gave a brief explanation of the Day. It was designated for 21 March by UNESCO in 1999, but has been celebrated for much much longer, often in October to align with the birthday of the birth of the Roman poet Virgil. Its aim is to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world. There is, as I wrote back in 2016, a Facebook Page for World Poetry Day, but the posts there are an eclectic bunch.

I enjoy poetry, but I don’t write a lot about it here. However, most years I write a few posts and I have a small book by a Tasmania poet on my TBR now that I hope to get to soon.

Now though, I’ll just share a three Australian initiatives I discovered via our good friend Google, and which cover us almost from cradle to grave!

Reading Australia

Leah A, Ten silly poems by a ten year oldThe Australian Copyright Agency’s wonderful Reading Australia, which I’ve mentioned before, is doing its bit. In late February it announced that it would spend “the entire month featuring the diversity and brilliance of our Australian poets, contemporary and classic.” They list five works for primary school students, including a picture book featuring a poem by Australian classic balladist Banjo Paterson, and five for secondary students, including a verse novel I don’t know by Steven Herrick, and works by well-known Australian poets Robert Adamson, Judith Wright, Bruce Dawe and Kenneth Slessor.  For each work, they provide teaching resources, along the lines of this one for Judith Wright’s Collected poems.

They also provide an “extra reading list” for those who want to explore further. This includes a verse novel for primary students, Bully on the Bus by Kathryn Apel, which won the 2015 Australian Family Therapists’ Award in the Young Readers/Picture Book category, and the now classic feminist anthology Mother, I’m rooted from 1975, comprising works from over 150 poets. They say about that that “You’d be hard-pressed to find a collection of poetry that so completely represents the diverse spectrum of being a woman.”

The website doesn’t make clear how they are making this is a month-long focus, but it’s a start – particularly for teachers who are uncomfortable with or unconfident about teaching poetry.

Coffs Harbour Regional Museum

Google also revealed that the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum (up there on the NSW mid-north coast) is celebrating  the day with an event they’re calling Celebrating World Poetry Day with a Rime and an Open Poetic Mic. The word “Rime” comes from their feature poem – Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – for their. The event, which has a sea theme, comprises an art exhibition named for Coleridge’s poem; a conversation between a poet and the exhibition’s artist; and the open mic session for people “to perform an original or much regarded poem – under 4 minutes please bards” (and sea-themed of course).

What I particularly like about this is that it’s example of the way regional museums and galleries work hard to actively engage their communities in culture, rather than simply present static exhibitions.

Golden Carers

You can probably guess what Golden Carers is – and you’d be right. Based in Brisbane, Australia, its tagline is “Supporting carers of the elderly worldwide since 2007”. The organisation caters for “Diversional Therapists, Recreation Therapists and other caregivers of the elderly, including volunteers”, but to get full access you need to pay. Fair enough.

Wonderfully, they have a page for the 2018 World Poetry Day, and provide a list of activity ideas which look doable for non-experts. The ideas include:

  • Ten Tips for Celebrating World Poetry Day
  • Poetry in Popular Song
  • Poets and Poems Quiz
  • Funny Poems by Roald Dahl
  • Multicultural Poems
  • Share Your Poems

There are resources for all the listed activities, behind the pay wall.

Before I conclude, I’d like to share some lines from a couple of poets* (one Australian, one not). Who would not benefit from thinking and talking about what Emily Dickinson has to say:

If I can stop one Heart from breaking
I shall not live in vain …
(Emily Dickinson)

Or, Judy Johnson:

Listen to which footsteps

on the heart’s risers
produce a squeak

and which treads
are noiseless.

(Judy Johnson, from “Words, after an absence”)

And now, back to the UN and its aims for denoting this day:

One of the main objectives of the Day is to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities.

The observance of World Poetry Day is also meant to encourage a return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, to promote the teaching of poetry, to restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, and to support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media, so that the art of poetry will no longer be considered an outdated form of art, but one which enables society as a whole to regain and assert its identity.

What a comprehensive goal! I wonder if they are doing anything to measure whether or not the Day is achieving anything.

Happy World Poetry Day everyone!

* Emily Dickinson, from The School of Life’s boxed set, 20 poems; Judy Johnson, from Prayers of a secular world.

33 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2018 10:22

    I think I know the verse novel by Steven Herrick: he wrote Do-wrong Ron which my year 5 & 6 students loved and The Simple Gift – which isn’t suitable for primary school children but still a very fine free verse novel.

  2. March 21, 2018 18:29

    I think ‘Happy poetry day’ flicked my grumpy switch. I am trying to think of my least favourite form of this my least favourite art and I think it might by poems inflicted on us by novelists using the excuse of a (usually soppy female) poetry writing protagonist.

    • March 21, 2018 20:17

      Oh Bill! Now I’m going to try to find a novel with a MALE protagonist writing poetry. (I’m sure I’ve read one just recently!!)

  3. March 21, 2018 19:25

    Thanks for sharing the poetry that you posted. I may have been vaguely aware of the day based upon a few things that I saw on Twitter. I love the idea of reading poetry aloud so I like the fact that one of the goals of the day is to encourage that. Endangered languages are another subject. I know mostly about that issue based upon some radio interviews that I have heard with last linguistics. It is such a loss to humanity when a language disappears. Anything that encourages the use of them is a good thing.

    • March 21, 2018 20:25

      I love what you say Brian – about reading aloud, and lost languages. There’s a lot of work going on over here in trying to revive Australian Aboriginal languages. It’s so important – but just hearing about the process is also fascinating.

  4. March 21, 2018 19:59

    World Poetry Day completely passed me by! Although watching the news this morning (fires and floods in NSW and the clean-up after fires in Victoria, I spouted a bit of “Of droughts and flooding rains,” to my husband…

    • March 21, 2018 20:29

      I love, Rose, how often lines of poetry spring to my mind at all sorts of times – it sounds like they do for you too.

      • March 21, 2018 21:15

        I’ve got a few favourites that pop out sometimes! Bits and pieces of The Banjo mostly 🙂

        • March 21, 2018 21:27

          Haha, he features quite a bit for me too – but there are a few others, including of course Shakespeare.

  5. March 21, 2018 20:01

    Am about to start reading Dorothea Mackellar’s diaries… looking forward to them too 🙂

    • March 21, 2018 20:30

      Oh they will be interesting Rose. I look forward to seeing your post (or posts?) on them.

  6. March 21, 2018 20:08

    I didn’t know it was World Poetry Day, but it is nice to know. I will read some poetry tonight. Today is also the Autumn Equinox. I found a lovely poem by Jacqueline Nash – Autumn Equinox.
    Happy World Poetry Day to you, Sue.

    • March 21, 2018 20:36

      Oh no, Meg, don’t remind me, I’m dreading “the chill of Winter’s call”!! Seriously though, thanks – and I’m going to read some poetry tonight too.

      • ian darling permalink
        March 21, 2018 20:59

        Not been an awful lot about WPD over here but there does seem to be a bit of a buzz about poetry sales and a hunger for poetry both to read and to hear. Its good news that poetry seems to be less of a marginal literary form.

        • March 21, 2018 21:26

          That’s interesting Ian re there being a buzz about poetry sales in your area. I haven’t heard that here – but there is some interest in events like poetry slams and poetry readings.

  7. March 21, 2018 23:42

    Thanks for drawing the day to my attention. In response, I had to rush out a review of Canberra poet, Andrew McDonald’s latest poetry book, Night Music.

  8. March 22, 2018 02:11

    This is a fascinating post – you’ve gone everywhere!

    Thanks for the reminder about today. I’ve given you a shout-out on my own post.

  9. October 16, 2020 04:42

    Sue, I need some help:
    Can you tell me where Fiona Hile was born?
    I’m reading her poems Novelties (2013).

    • October 16, 2020 22:26

      Hi Nancy, I’m afraid I can’t tell you definitively but she seems to have studied in Melbourne and many references to her mention Melbourne, so if I had to guess I’d say Melbourne, or elsewhere in Victoria, but it is just a guess I’m afraid. Hope you are enjoying the book.

      • October 17, 2020 00:03

        Thanks, and I visited your blog this morning because I needed nmaes of poets from the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Reading poetry….a lot!

        • October 17, 2020 07:51

          Western Australia. I assume you have John Kinsella and Tracy Ryan?

  10. October 17, 2020 20:00

    Tracy Ryan, yes I ordered her book the Water Bearer.
    I know nothing about JK….will look him up on Google.
    Enjoying Penelope Lapland’s book ….so much.
    “Things I’ve Thought To Tell You Since I Saw You Last.
    Thanks so much for the feedback 🙂

    • October 17, 2020 21:00

      Excellent, Nancy. I have one of hers (but can’t put my finger on it right now) after hearing her at a poetry reading. John Kinsella is her partner, and probably better known.

    • October 17, 2020 21:19

      Nancy, if you’re interested, I’ve put up a couple of Kinsella reviews –
      is poetry (The other is literary SF).

      • October 17, 2020 23:54

        Thank you so much…I’ll have a look! You and Sue have been so helpful!
        Trivia question. I’m reading Penelope Layland’s elegiac poem collection (2018)…can you tell me if her private loss (child, parents, husband) has influenced her writing. She does not mention in the book…but to write poems as she does….you must have experienced grief.

        • October 18, 2020 00:03

          Hi Nancy, it’s midnight where Sue is and I’m afraid I am a complete ignoramus when it comes to poetry.

        • October 18, 2020 08:43

          Interestingly, I have a friend who recently worked with Penelope Layland-really liked her. But we didn’t discuss her personal life or poetry. Layland lives in my city. I first knew of her as a columnist in our newspaper here.

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