Happy National Poetry Day! Like Christmas, it comes but once a year, but unlike Christmas it won’t make you fat or bankrupt. Yes, it’s the day when everyone in Britain, from prince to pauper, thanks the gods of poetry for sharing the gift of words that rhyme.
As you’d expect, the Scottish Poetry Library is marking the day in style. This year’s theme is ‘messages’ – and our message to you today is to assure you we shall be marking the day in the style it deserves. In addition to tweeting lines of poetry about ‘messages’ of various sorts, we are giving away eight different poetry cards which illustrate in different ways the theme. You’ll find poems by the likes of Jackie Kay, W.N. Herbert, Imtiaz Dharker and more on our cards. You can pick up the cards from our premises or send us a SAE. We’ve also sent out around 323,000 cards in total around Scotland, with cards delivered to all 32 Scottish library authorities and sent out to approximately 800 Scottish schools. We also have a page full of resources for schools on this very website.
Today also sees National Poet for Scotland or Makar Jackie Kay reveal her first tour as National Poet. She is announcing details of the first leg of a tour that will, over five years, take her the length and breadth of Scotland. The tour, to be called Ferlie Leed, begins with an emphasis on the highlands and islands; places that have long intrigued the Makar or which she has personal connections with. 'Ferlie Leed' is a Scots expression meaning ‘wondrous talk’, which could double as a description of poetry itself.
Over the five years of her term as the National Poet for Scotland, Kay will every spring and autumn unveil the next stage of a tour that will take her to obscure and unusual places as well as larger venues and festivals. Kay will write a short verse about each place; at the end of her term, she will have produced a long poem about Scotland, based on each place she has visited.
The tour dates for the first leg are
• 30 October: Dunoon Literary festival
• 3 November: Appearance at Taigh Chearsabhagh, Lochmoddy, North Uist
• 5 November: Appearance at An Lanntair, Faclan Festival, Stornoway, Lewis
• 16 November: Reading at Mareel Arts Centre, Lerwick, Shetland
• 17 November: School workshop, Anderson High, Lerwick
• 15-19 November: in Shetland
Many of the places Kay plans to visit over the five years are places with personal connections. She says of Dunoon, ‘My parents were involved in the anti-Polaris demonstrations and were arrested in the early sixties in Dunoon. One night in jail for my Dad and for my Mum they locked the overflow in the Catholic Church (no room left in the prison).’
Speaking of her tour, Kay says, ‘I'm hoping to meet other poets and poetry lovers, young and old; people who maybe have never come to a poetry reading before. I'm really very excited about visiting Uist and Lewis for the first time. Islands are like stanzas – poetry hopefully crosses land and sea. I hope the weather isn't blowing up an absolute hoolie – but I like the idea of going to Shetland and Lewis and Uist at the back end of the year. You can get to know a place better in the winter. All aboard the Makarship!’
However you’re planning to spend National Poetry Day, the SPL hopes you have fun. And remember, folks – poetry isn’t just for NPD, it’s for life.