Updated: Nov 13, 2021
National Poetry Day, in 2021 was on Thursday 7th March 2021. It was an annual event that, this year made me think of a fantastic poetical experience that I saw on TV at the beginning of the year.
On Wednesday 20th January 2021, in the middle of a world-wide pandemic called Covid-19; a Mr Joe Biden, became the 46th President of the United States of America.
His inauguration gave me a glimpse of someone who is relatively new to us all. She is vibrant and extremely noteworthy and touched me in ways that is definitely needed right now.
The person I'm talking about is America's first-ever National Poet Laureate; Miss Amanda Gorman.
She is just what is needed to secure my thoughts that poetry rocks!
As she stood on a podium in Washington D.C, surrounded by dignitaries and V.I.P's; she began to wax lyrically...
She looked resplendent in her fantastic yellow coat and shiny red headband; she was for me a literal and metaphorical symbol of a bright and positive beacon; full of hope in a world where things seem so uncertain right now. It was clear that this woman meant business. I was mesmerised by her words; her dignity and the message she conveyed to us through the spoken word that is poetry.
In her poem; The Hill We Climb she spoke her words so eloquently;
"When day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade?...We've braved the belly of the beast. We've learned that quiet isn't always peace"
Her words felt so relevant, so poignant and resonated with me a great deal. This was only a small peak of the glittering jewel that is Ms Gorman. I won't grace you anymore with my humdrum interpretation of her poem. It's worth much more than that.
I implore you to watch her perform it online and experience for yourself what I'm talking about, by clicking the link below:
It's clear that Amanda Gorman's world is on the uprise and I'm really looking forward to seeing what she does in the near future...
Aside from this; I love the fact that in the states, poetry and the spoken word is so often promoted as a way of expression and in the world of education. American poets and essayists such as Maya Angelou and Edgar Allen Poe are studied and held in high regard, before and well after a student leaves education and enters the world of work. Poetry there; seems to be a way of life.
Even, The Simpsons cartoon, has done a rendition of the American poet, Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven, in an episode where they make a whole drama out of his poem.
This genius interpretation of The Raven, sees Bart as The Raven and Homer suffering the relentless torment of Bart when he keeps repeating the word; "Nevermore"
"Quoth the Raven, Nevermore"
It's perfectly narrated by the American actor; James Earl Jones, who is renowned for his many acting and theatre plaudits, in an episode entitled; The Treehouse of Horror https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLiXjaPqSyYhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treehouse_of_Horror_(The_Simpsons_episode)
This episode always makes me chuckle!
Maya Angelou, was an American poet, writer, and civil rights activist who has always been my muse for the longest time and her words continue to influence my life long after her passing in 2014. https://www.mayaangelou.com/
Her poetry is held in high regard which demonstrates for me a natural and candid look at life and always gives you a positive way of thinking and looking at the world.
That's how poetry works. The power of the spoken word has the ability to launch you into deep thought, make you laugh and make you think.
I absolutely love Oprah Winfrey's performance of Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou. She nails Angelou's words with perfection. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTR-2kRCXj4
However, when I look at how poetry is portrayed over here in the UK, it's often considered to be a genre not for the masses. Usually it's only given precedent if you are studying it for an exam usually at school; or generally people berate poetry and act as if it's the posh relative who is just showing off with words that don't always make sense; never mind rhyme.
While National Poetry Day is a great thing, I wish I could see poetry in the UK promoted beyond just a day or two. (How many of us knew that it was World Poetry Day on Sunday 21 March 2021 this year?)
Last year; (in 2020), I loved seeing the Nationwide Building Society Ads, which featured down to earth people performing endearing, funny and sometimes thought-provoking short pieces of poetry; all with a theme designed to promote the home and the said company in an historical way.
Mingled in between all of these ads was Birmingham's Poet Laureate (from 2012-2013); Stephen Morrison-Burke, who wrote and performed his poem written for the ad in 2018, called The Birth of the Building Society. If I blinked at the beginning of the ad, I would have missed who it was by and even I didn't realise this short, lovely poem was performed by a former Poet Laureate who is so talented.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hbra7YyrNd4 Stephen Morrison-Burke Nationwide Ad.
After I saw Stephen Morrison-Burke perform this poem, I wanted to know more about this great spoken word poet and explore more hidden gems he had created. I then found on YouTube, his performance of a poem entitled; Wish List. This poem speaks volumes and communicates a reality in a way that hits the soul. You'll find him performing it here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-Ww-ZwFSQs
Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that poetry doesn't exist in the UK, I'm just saying it needs more accolades and more recognition and it should be VALUED as a crucial way to express our feelings, when other gestures seem to be impenetrable in hitting the truth and capturing the moment.
Indeed, it always brightens my day if I'm on the tube and greeted by one of the Poems on the Underground often displayed above my head. I believe now, more than ever; poetry is such a crucial way to lift our spirits and capture the moments when mere words won't do.
Dame Carol Ann Duffy was the UK's Poet Laureate for ten years and her poems currently feature on many a GCSE and A-Level English Literature exam paper. She has given us a collection of poems that hits the Zeitgeist so perfectly and gives us so much food for thought.
Indeed, her poem Prayer; seems perfectly apt right now in life during these covid times and forms the January 2021 collection of; Poems on the Underground, which quotes on its website:
"Poetry has never seemed more necessary to us as a source of hope and consolation".
I'm inclined to agree with this statement.
"Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer utters itself...Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth enters our hearts" Carol Ann Duffy