National Poetry Day, Britain’s national campaign for poetry, is holding its first dedicated trade promotion highlighting 40 "inspiring" poetry books across four categories: anthologies, children’s poetry, current collections and poetry for book groups.
Building up to National Poetry Day on 28th September, the campaign aims to help people to enjoy, discover and share poetry. It is supported by 19 publishers, from Penguin Random House, Bloomsbury and Macmillan to independents like Penned in the Margins and Burning Eye.
Among the 10 anthologies set to be championed by the campaign are The Poetry Pharmacy: Tried-and-True Prescriptions for the Mind, Heart and Soul (Penguin Press), in which William Sieghart, CBE, prescribes poems for the heart, mind and soul, a new anthology of contemporary Yorkshire Poetry (Valley Press), featuring a Barnsley haiku and a Bradford ghazal.
The children’s category includes Carnegie Medal winner Sarah Crossan’s Moonrise (Bloomsbury Children’s), a YA novel-in-verse set in Death Row, alongside Joseph Coelho’s collection Overheard in a Tower Block (Otter-Barry Books) and Allie Esiri’s follow-up to last year’s acclaimed A Poem for Every Night of the Year anthology, A Poem for Every Day of the Year (Macmillan Children’s).
The 'current collections' category includes Plum (Picador) by Hollie McNish next to new titles from Simon Armitage, Derek Walcott and comic satirist Elvis McGonagall, whose subjects range from zero-hours contracts to the Queen’s love of gangsta rap. Canadian Instapoet Rupi Kaur is meanwhile represented by her bestseller Milk and Honey (Andrews McMeel with Simon & Schuster) and Sophie Herxheimer, the Brixton artist behind National Poetry Day’s artwork, by Velkom to Inklandt: poems from my Grandmother’s Inklisch (Short Books).
Finally the poetry for bookgroups list includes Then Come Back: The Lost Poems of Pablo Neruda (Bloodaxe) from the Nobel Prize winning Chilean poet, Kate Tempest’s Let them Eat Chaos (Picador) and The Forward Book of Poetry 2018 which features the best of the year’s poetry, chosen by Andrew Marr and the judges of the Forward Prizes for Poetry.
Display packs include sets of collectable bookmarks featuring the 40 recommended poetry titles, which are now available to bookshops and libraries around the UK, via the Booksellers Association and wholesalers Bertrams and Gardners.
Susannah Herbert, executive director of National Poetry Day, said the range suggested poetry was for everyone. "There are tens of thousands ways into poetry – all different - and in recommending 40 contrasting books to bookshops and libraries we offer a wide range of starting points," she said. "Poetry can take the form of a self-help book, a young-adult novel, a chant, a play, a joke, a call to arms, high literature or just beguiling nonsense: it’s the chameleon of artforms. People who still think poetry is off-putting just haven’t met the right poem yet.”
Suzanne Baboneau, managing director, Adult Trade Division, Simon & Schuster UK, chimed the initiative would serve to help publishers "reach more readers" and celebrate the "wonderful art form”, while Meryl Halls of the Booksellers Association called it a "fantastic way to start the conversation about poetry in our everyday lives".
Halls added: "We want to make sure poetry lovers know that the best place to find old favourites and new inspiration is in their local bookshop. We are so pleased that NPD has created some wonderful point of sale materials to bring more readers to the wonders of the genre.”
Nessa Urquhart, Waterstones poetry buyer, said the genre was in "rude health". Last year, 2016's National Poetry Day ushered in annual sales of poetry books just under £10m for the first time since records began. In total according to Nielsen, 1.077 million books sold for £9.88m in 2016, and so far in 2017 the sector is up 13.9% to £4.5m, with 501,177 books sold. The growth is mostly being driven by the success of Instapoet Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey (Simon & Schuster), with sales of that title making up 7.7% of the entire sub-category.
"It is exciting to see poetry in rude health; spoken, published and – increasingly – shared online to new and existing audiences in reaction to our personal and shared experiences, said Urquhart.
The BBC is celebrating National Poetry Day across all its channels this year, as are Visit England and Art UK and thousands of schools, libraries, pubs, bus routes, museums and railway stations.
The BBC event will see the launch of a new four-day poetry festival "Contains Strong Language" in Hull 2017 UK City of Culture, a partnership with Hull UK City of Culture, Humber Mouth, National Poetry Day and other poetry organisations. The festival features a line-up of 17 poets, "the Hull 17", and will include more than 50 events across eight venues, including performances by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, John Cooper Clarke, Kate Tempest and "a washing line of poetry" created from 2017 new poems about city landmarks written by Hull residents.
For a second year running National Poetry Day has partnered with BBC Local Radio. Taking its cue from National Poetry Day’s 2017 theme – Freedom – BBC Local Radio stations across England have called on listeners to "Free the word" by nominating a distinctive local word that deserves to be better known nationally.
Visit England is focussing its "Literary Heroes" campaign on poets and poetry this September, commissioning poets Andrew McMillan and Remi Graves to rework classics for the 21st century, while Art UK, which hosts public art online, is offering £500 for a filmed poem about any picture in public ownership: the results will be shared on National Poetry Day.
As part of hundreds of events taking place across the UK and Ireland, over and above responding to the invitation to "share a poem" on social media, Glasgow will mark the day with pop-up poetry events across the city, while in Yorkshire, the number 59 bus route from Wakefield to Barnsley will be "taken over" by poets and musicians, and Bradford will feature poems on its Big Screen.