National Poetry Day launches in UK, but Americans get in on the fun

Colleagues, journalists, former students and many others came together to celebrate poet and novelist James Dickey's 70th birthday in 1993. (Photo: Indie Art South)

At first I thought it was a mistake because I’ve covered National Poetry Month stories for a long time. In the US, April is the month we celebrate poetry. As I read through posts on the Twitter cesspool, I realized the Brits celebrate the genre differently. Turns out today, October 4, is National Poetry Day in the United Kingdom. It also turns out I found some nice poems nestled in a lot of lame verses. 

My favorite so far is “Batman’s Aff His Nut” posted by @robertflorence. Reading the poem, I thought of Jared Rush of Rush Entertainment. Jared is a personal friend and a big fan of Batman. What I really liked about the poem is its honesty. The poem comprises a conversation between Batman and the poem’s speaker, and this is an excerpt I found delightful:

“Mate, I’m worried aboot ye
I know your ma and da died
But everybody’s ma and da dies
And we’re no aw runnin aboot
Hookin muggers and
Kickin psychopaths in the baws.”
And that was when Batman went
“Aye, but do you ever feel like it?”

On the Twitter hashtag for National Poetry Day, there are some haiku and the predictable political rants. There’re a couple of “Roses are red/Violets are blue” riffs I wish the aspiring poets had spared us. Yes, they are that bad.

Other than implosions of “Roses are red,” the Haiku form is one of the most abused, I think, because it’s often used in the classroom to inspire non-poets to write 17 syllables of verse only your mom would be proud of.

One haiku that has stayed with me, however, is a poem by Taniguchi Buson. I read it years ago. I remember it still—this is my favorite translation:

“The piercing chill I feel:

      my dead wife’s comb, in our bedroom,

          under my heel…”

If you’re into haiku, the Haiku Foundation features a great essay on the form.

Poetry is often forgotten by most Americans until a special occasion arises. I wrote about that recently as we looked for verses to include in my younger daughter’s wedding ceremony. This hasn’t always been the case. In times past, poetry was part of everyday life, in part, because everyday people could understand it. I believe the impact of fine arts writing mills has been very negative when it comes to poetry because the universities who benefit from those ‘creative writing’ mills are focused on revenue rather than talent and value of the products produced by the graduates.

I have more favorite poems than I could list here, and I read new poems I like every day. My fellow writer Jayne Jaudon Ferrer maintains the Your Daily Poem website, and I get a new poem in my mailbox (for free) every single day. Jayne enjoys all manner of poems—I like that. I never know what to expect.

Poetry was a big factor in how my life worked out. Because of poetry, I chose the university I attended. As a teen, I discovered the early poems of James Dickey. I was so taken, I ignored scholarship opportunities—there were far fewer of them when I was young—in order to attend the university where he taught. Mr. Dickey and I kept up with each other off and on until his death. When I learned he was in the hospital, I also learned my mom was one of the medical staff attending him. I asked her to please take good care of him and she did. I attended his 70th birthday gala in 1993. I still remember that night, and I still remember his caring enough to encourage me to keep writing. Many who saw the film Deliverance had no idea Dickey first established himself as an astoundingly successful poet.

Soon I’ll have a feature up about another of my favorite poets, Jennifer Reeser.

Another poet whose work I love is Rod Borisade. His spoken word rises to the level of poetry on the page. In my opinion, he is the best spoken word poet in the nation.

On Twitter you can read all manner of attempts at poetry in honor of National Poetry Day. Most entries are best ignored. There are a few nuggets in the mix, though. To our friends across the pond, thanks for calling attention to poetry. That’s always a good thing.

Something to say? Do it here.