Take a break and read a poem today…

Today is National Poetry Day in Britain. Here in the US we have National Poetry Month in April, and as part of that there’s a Poem in Your Pocket Day – April 18th next year, and I’ll try to remind you…

The theme for this year’s National Poetry Day is stars, which I like, because one of my sons has turned out to be an astrophysicist – nothing to do with me, needless to say. I’m all about the liberal arts, so poems about stars are perfect.

There are poetry events all over, including a big one in London where they’ll give people a chance to visit one of the Poetry Peace Camp inspired by Deborah Warner’s commission for London 2012 Festival: Artichoke’s Peace Camp. There’s a rolling programme of free readings by top poets, including Dannie Abse, Christopher Reid and Helen Mort.

Kelly Grovier

They’re not being parochial about this either, and are including American poets in their recommendations. You can hear Kelly Grovier reading his poem, The Stars, by clicking here. (I’d reprint it, but I don’t want to infringe on copyright.) So here’s my out-of-copyright choice about stars:

In The Train

By James Thomson

                                                                 As we rush, as we rush in the Train,

                                                                 The trees and houses go wheeling back,

                                                                 But the Starry heavens above the plain

                                                                 Come flying on our track.

                                                                All the beautiful stars of the sky,

                                                                 The silver doves of the forest of Night,

                                                                 Over the dull earth swarm and fly,

                                                                 Companions of our flight.

                                                                 He will rush ever on without fear;

                                                                Let the goal be far, the flight be fleet!

                                                                While the earth slips from our feet!

It’s an old poem – the poet died in 1886, but it still resonates for me. Well, perhaps not when I’m on the train to New York City 🙂

Do you have a favorite?

Poetry Peace Camp in Britain – until July 22

I usually write my own stuff, but this project has so much to write about that I knew I’d be better off letting the Peace Camp website and Fiona Shaw’s video introduction speak for themselves. I’ve added my own comments at the bottom of this post.

Something extraordinary is happening this year as part of the London 2012 Festival. Inspired by the Olympic Truce, whose roots date back to Ancient Greece, renowned director Deborah Warner has been commissioned to create a coastal installation encircling the UK in collaboration with actor Fiona Shaw.

Eight murmuring, glowing encampments will appear simultaneously at some of our most beautiful and remote coastal locations, from County Antrim to the tip of Cornwall, from the Isle of Lewis to the Sussex cliffs. Designed to be visited between dusk and dawn, Peace Camp is a poignant exploration of love poetry and a celebration of the extraordinary variety and beauty of our (British) coastline.

Alongside the live installations, the project will also paint an audible portrait of the nation with the creation of a virtual Peace Camp online. The people of the UK are invited to nominate and record their favourite love poems and submit their own messages, creating an online anthology that celebrates our languages, dialects and accents as well as our rich poetic tradition.

GC: Back to me: This project is funded by Artichoke, an amazing organisation in itself; it creates public space arts projects all over Britain. And this Poetry Peace Camp is an extraordinary concept, partly because it encourages everyone to participate. You can upload a poem of your own, record yourself reading a favourite love poem, suggest a poem or volunteer. The idea is eventually to create an online anthology of love poetry – and what could be better than that? I do urge you to visit the site and find out more about it. If you do, let me know what your favorite love poem is – and did you add it?

How I wish I could visit one of these encampments (see photo above)  overlooking the British coast and listen to the quiet murmur of love poetry, but maybe they’ll do it again next year.