Today on March the 21st, we’re celebrating World Poetry Day. Poetry is a remarkable thing - regardless of age, it is accessible to everyone. If you’re thinking ‘poetry doesn’t appeal to me’, I can guarantee that’s because you haven’t yet found ‘your’ poetry – the kind with a subject and style that speaks directly to you, that you feel reverberate throughout your whole body, and that you find yourself needing to read again and again.
Young children might relish the amusing rhyming joy of Michael Rosen or Dr Seuss, whereas a teen may relate to the teenage angst of Xiomara from 'The Poet X'. The universality of poetry is precisely that which differentiates it – it comes from the heart and soul of the poet, and as a consequence it touches the heart and soul of those readers that identify with it.
Both the writing and reading of poetry can be a wonderfully cathartic experience. Whilst words can describe a feeling, a poem can show you.
Writing poetry gives us a chance to explore and express our deepest emotions; using metaphors and similes, rhyme and metre, to say something in the most unique of ways. The options are endless; you can go for free verse, the full structure or even a beautiful depiction of a concrete poem, conveying so much more than just words on a page.
A captivating example of concrete poetry is ‘The Mouse’s Tale’ by Lewis Carroll.
'A Poem For Every Day of the Year' showcases it beautifully:
Reading poetry on the other hand, can make you feel seen, heard; a reminder that you are not the only one whose feelings are a tangled web of complexity. I briefly touched on 'The Poet X' earlier, but I’ll use this as an example because I so wholeheartedly adore this novel-in-verse. When you’re a teenager, it’s easy to feel like no one really understands you, which is why books like this are so important. Lines such as:
‘When your body takes up more room than your voice
You are always the target of well-aimed rumours’
will resonate with school-age children everywhere – those who are still trying to find their voices and speak up for themselves.
As well as telling a narrative, other styles of poetry have the ability to transcend verbal meaning in the traditional sense; how many times have you read a verse which does not, objectively, have a clear meaning, and yet an emotional picture has been drawn in your mind which you can so clearly articulate?
Here is a quote from Rumi’s poem ‘There is a Field’ – presented in 'Poems to Live Your Life By' – it offers a great example:
‘When the soul lies down in that grass
The world is too full to talk about.’
For him, poetry was a personal art that connected him with his spirituality, and thus his work had a lingering impact on those who read it.
When it comes to children, poetry is still new and exciting - what they know of it usually comes from funny rhymes and stories. A child’s early exposure to even simple poetry opens up an entirely new use of language, at a time in their development where they are best placed to engage with and learn from it. In fact, most children are probably already reading poetry in the form of their favourite rhyming stories.
As this day is for celebrating what poetry means to all of us, we'd love to know what it means to you. If you'd like to send us a message telling us your favourite poem, we would be very pleased to hear it.
Below, as always, is a selection of our favourite titles:
Now We are Six, A.A. Milne - Currently available
The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo - Currently available
Poems To Live Your Life By, Chris Riddell - Currently available