Freedom! What does that word mean to you? National Poetry Day (Thursday, 28 September) has, this year, chosen ‘freedom’ as its theme. Freedom means many things to many people. Freedom to dream, to think, to question; freedom to speak, discover, invent. Freedom to love whoever you want to. And, with recent political events in mind, freedom of movement. As we’re all poetry lovers, we must mention free verse, or, to put it another way, freedom to experiment. We can, at least, all agree with John Barbour, the 14th century Scottish poet who wrote, ‘A! Fredome is a noble thing!’
The Scottish Poetry Library, as you’d expect, is celebrating National Poetry Day in style. We will, as in past years, be unveiling our beloved poetry postcards. Six, to be precise. Each postcard features a poem on the theme of ‘freedom’: ‘The Tradition’ by Kathleen Jamie, ‘An Tiona / the tin’ by Peter Mackay (translated by Ciaran Carson), lines from John Barbour’s epic The Bruce, ‘I Opened a Book’ by Julia Donaldson, an excerpt from Alec Finlay’s ‘The Book of Why’, and ‘Jack and Jill’ by that old favourite, ‘Anon’. Cards will be sent out to schools and libraries, and be available to collect (appropriately) for free from the SPL. You can read the poems here, and print out posters based on the postcards here.
Teachers! We’re not neglecting you. We have sets of teaching notes on each of this year’s NPD poems written by experienced poets and teachers Claire Askew and Georgi Gill, which can help you devise lessons and crosscurricular activities across your school.
We’ve also gathered into one page many of the key resources and activities on offer this year. In the UK, National Poetry Day is promoted by the Forward Arts Foundation, and we are one of the partner organisations across the UK. Explore their website here and sign up for emails to find out what's available! Special features include an event map showing all the NPD events taking place in the UK on 28 September.
You've asked for more recordings and media to go with the NPD poems, so this year we have picked out a selection of videos that expand on the theme, poems and poets featured, as well as further poems on the subject of ‘freedom’ for you to read and enjoy. We’ve also curated a number of our podcasts around the theme. Click here to hear Helen Mort on ‘freedom from sexism’, Andrew McMillan on ‘sexual freedom’, Juana Adcock and Arpád Kollár on ‘freedom of movement’, and more.
Talking of which, the SPL is involved with several events held on National Poetry Day, not the least of which is Don Paterson’s al fresco reading at the spectacular Jupiter Artland sculpture park, just outside Edinburgh (tickets can be bought online here). Former Edinburgh Makar Christine De Luca will launch a new collection, Edinburgh: Singing the City at the Scottish Poetry Library (click here for more details and to buy a ticket). Hugh McMillan will be reading at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.
So, start planning now. Just four weeks to go until the big day. How will you celebrate? We hope you find something on this page that gives you ideas. And, remember, in keeping with the theme, it’s all free.