Each year, National Poetry Day has a theme and for 2016, it’s ‘messages’. Actually, NPD is about sending a message every year – even if it’s the one moment in the year that you might casually put out your hand and pick up a card with a poem, the message is that there is a poem somewhere for you. This October (the 6th, to be exact) the theme is dedicated to ‘messages’, and we’re sending nearly 345,000 poem cards to all parts of Scotland and beyond to spread the word. There are 8 poems, including one in Gaelic and one in Scots, all by living poets, and ranging from emerging voice Louise Greig to the Scottish Makar, Jackie Kay. We have a page full of NPD resources on our website.
The cards themselves are lovely; designer Anna Parker of Fogbank Projects has done a beautiful job incorporating some hidden messages into the designs. Have a careful look, and you can see how repeated shapes reflect the poems’ themes, like the subtle mix of a voicemail icon and a football pattern merged into the background of W N Herbert’s poem ‘Answermachine’ (‘Eh amna here tae tak yir caa: / Eh’m mebbe aff at thi fitbaa, / Eh mebbe amna here at aa…’). Or – and I’m particularly chuffed with this one – Hugh McMillan’s ‘Letter’, describing a valentine sent by a sailor, where a whale’s tail is surrounded by waves. But look closer – the waves are actually made from the little wavy-lined pattern stamped on a franked letter. Louise Greig’s very, very short poem, a guileless invitation to a crocodiles’ tea, shows a pattern of charming teapots – right up until the last image of the pattern, where a crocodile has wriggled into line with the teapots, and is waiting for the unsuspecting visitor with a particularly toothy leer. Try downloading the PDF poster versions of each card, so you can have a closer look (and maybe print out the ones you like best).
The most exciting thing each year, and the thing that we like to get messages about, is how the poem cards are used. Glasgow’s Makar Jim Carruth, and staff at Glasgow Libraries, are working with Big Issue vendors and poetry volunteers to make Glasgow city centre ring with poems; they’ll be giving away thousands of the cards, too, to help let people know about all the things they can find in Glasgow’s libraries (and that you now don’t need a permanent address to get a borrower’s card). I love how they’re taking a welcoming, open message about libraries and books and poems out onto the streets of the biggest city in Scotland.
Or perhaps you’d prefer something a wee bit smaller? The very first Bookends Festival in Benderloch, Saturday 24th Sept to Saturday 1st Oct , can boast 50 percent of its speakers are poets (Kenneth Steven and Norman Bissell), and they say, ‘We are turning our wood lined village hall into a sumptuous reading room for the duration of the festival. It will be decked out with sofas and armchairs, and bookshelves laden with books….’ They’re sharing their delivery of 480 postcards with the primary school.
If you’re planning any kind of event to mark National Poetry Day, you can make sure you list it (if it’s a public event people can attend) on our SPL events diary of poetry around Scotland. And you can really put yourself on the map with National Poetry Day UK’s, er, map of all the things that are happening. And whatever you’re doing, please spread the message by telling us all, @ByLeavesWeLive and @PoetryDayUK, about #nationalpoetryday where you are.