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Behind the scenes at the Scottish Poetry Library

The Thursday Post for NPD: Changing Room Poetry

When we discovered that this year’s National Poetry Day (Thursday, October 4) had as its theme ‘change’, we racked our brain to think up unique and imaginative ways to mark the occasion. Regular readers of the blog will know already that we’ve chosen six poems that dramatise in different ways the theme of change – and you can read about that and see the poem-postcards illustrating each poem here.

But we wanted to go further.

The mission statement of the Scottish Poetry Library is ‘to bring people and poetry together’. There are several ways to do that, but for National Poetry Day we wanted to try something subtle: something that captured the theme but which you almost only see out of the corner of your eye, to begin with.

Which is when we hit upon the idea of poems on gym mirrors. Gyms, where we change our clothes and, for some of us, how we look.

We are pleased to announce a partnership with Glasgow Sport that will place a poem printed on a transparency on mirrors in 21 gyms and 12 swimming pools in Glasgow.

The poem is one of the six National Poetry Day poems, Colin Herd’s ‘Meadowbank Changing Manifesto’, which begins by mulling over changing badminton’s name and ends, as manifestos do, with a call to change the world:

We need another word
for badminton. If everyone’s
comfortable calling squash
squash, at least for the meantime,
we should consider the following
suggestions: swish, jumpwhack,
trainersqueek shimmyracket,
weirdsport, hurrystyles, nothockey….

Read the entire poem here.

Glasgow Sport (part of Glasgow Life) operates one of the most extensive leisure operations in the UK with 32 leisure facilities and a significant outdoor leisure estate including the Emirates Arena and Tollcross Swimming Centre. The dedicated Sports Development and Physical Activity Team promote sport from grassroots level through the elite athletes.

Colin Herd’s ‘Meadowbank Changing Manifesto’ will be viewable on the windows and mirrors across these leisure facilities, including Kelvin Hall where the National Library of Scotland also has a base. The transparencies will be mounted on changing room mirrors from National Poetry Day.

Herd says, ‘I wrote this poem for Meadowbank, where I used to play badminton, a sports facility that has now been closed in Edinburgh. Local gyms and local libraries are twin bastions of keeping us experimental, dynamic and creative. It's exciting to see them mixed in this way. I really just hope that this poem makes people smile. Hopefully they’ll start reading some contemporary poetry on their exercise bike or listening to the By Leaves We Live podcast on their rowing machine!’

The transparency was designed by Steven McGregor and can be seen in the image at the top of the blog.

If you see a poem on a Glasgow Sport gym mirror, do take a pic and tweet us it remembering to copy in @byleaveswelive and @glasgow_sport and to use the hashtag #poetryforachange and / or #nationalpoetryday. Also, really important: don’t capture anyone else in the photo who hasn’t given you permission.

If you want a copy of Colin Herd’s poem, it can be read here or you can pick up a copy of a postcard with the poem on it from the Scottish Poetry Library and other libraries from October 4 onwards.

And one more thing – we’re holding a National Poetry Day celebration starting 7pm, Thursday, October 4, featuring a headline set from Forward Prize-winner Vahni Capildeo, supported by Iain Morrison. Plus, you can enjoy a reading of a set of Doctor Who poems: who better represents change than the wandering Time Lord? Best of all, the celebration is FREE! Reserve a ticket online here.

Category: National Poetry Day