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!
The 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.
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 …
Or, Judy Johnson:
Listen to which footsteps
on the heart’s risers
produce a squeak
and which treads
(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.