National Poetry Day takes place today (28th September) with the launch of a new BBC poetry and performance festival featuring Kate Tempest, Hollie McNish and Simon Armitage among others as poetry sales soar by 15% in volume.
The annual celebrations come as poetry sales are booming, with sales up by around a sixth in volume and value compared to this last year, according to Nielsen BookScan. Data has shown poetry has sold 611,990 books for £5.5m for the year to date (to 12th August), which is 15% up on 2016’s 531,788 books sold and 13% up on its value of £4.9m.
The day’s first ever dedicated book trade promotion will highlight 40 “inspiring” poetry books in four categories: anthologies, children’s poetry, current collections and poetry for book groups. The campaign’s aim is to “enable all to enjoy, discover and share poetry” with titles featuring William Sieghart’s The Poetry Pharmacy: Tried-and-True Prescriptions for the Mind, Heart and Soul (Penguin Press), Plum (Picador) by McNish and Milk and Honey (Andrews McMeel Publishing) by Rupi Kaur.
A four-day festival in Hull, 2017 UK City of Culture, boasts a line-up of 17 innovative poets featuring more than 50 events including performances from the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, John Cooper Clarke, Tempest, McNish and Armitage. There will also be a “mammoth washing line of poetry” created from 2017 new poems about city landmarks written by Hull residents.
Meanwhile the National Poetry Library in London is reportedly launching a “major new project” to collect the poetry of thousands of languages “in danger of dying of dying out” to ensure they survive for future generations, according to the Guardian.
National Poetry Day has also partnered with Macmillan Children’s Books to select 18 poets as official ambassadors, with responsibility for “igniting enthusiasm nationwide” through school visits, events, competitions and new works on the theme of ‘Freedom’. The new poems are available as a free e-book.
The BBC is celebrating National Poetry Day across all its channels and the event is also being marked by Visit England, Virgin Trains, Royal Mail, Twitter, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London’s West London as well as thousands of schools, libraries, pubs, bus routes, museums and railway stations.
For a second year running National Poetry Day has partnered with BBC Local Radio celebrating this year’s theme, ‘Freedom’, radio stations across England asked listeners to ‘Free the Word’ by nominating a distinctive local word that deserves to be better known nationally. The final selection was made with the help of lexicographers from the Oxford English Dictionary, “on the look-out” for new definitions and usages.
Susannah Herbert, executive director of National Poetry Day, believes the celebrations have “struck a chord” with the public. She said: “A poem gives people the freedom to play with words, to rub off the dull tarnish until they’re fresh as new pennies. That’s why the BBC’s push to get poets to celebrate the nation’s favourite local words has struck such a chord with the nation.”
National Poetry Day is co-ordinated by the Forward Arts Foundation, an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation that celebrates and promotes poetry.