It is National Poetry Day on the 8 October and to celebrate in our blog this week we will be featuring a Poet of the Day. On the day (8 October) why not come to the Northern Poetry Library to celebrate National Poetry Day and see the launch of its new website and digital platform. Find out about the major Arts Council grant the Northern Poetry Library has been awarded and the exciting poetry residencies taking place across Northumberland this autumn. Also celebrating will be a trio of poets from Stannington-based Red Squirrel Press: Ellen Phethean, Kathleen Kenny and Tom Kelly, plus a few surprise guests. Admission is free but contact Morpeth Library to reserve a ticket!
Poet of the Day
Day 1 - Jackie Kay
Jackie was born in 1961 to a Scottish mother and Nigerian father but was adopted and brought up by a white couple in Glasgow. This mixed parentage and upbringing inspired her first poetry collection ‘The Adoption Papers’, which was commended for the Forward Poetry Prize and won the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year. Jackie’s subsequent poetry collections continue to explore cultural and sexual identity, and the complications of love.
She is deeply influenced by the Scottish traditions of balladeering and music, as well as the rhythms of jazz and blues music. The political activism of her adoptive father also comes through strongly in her work.
Finding herself often pigeonholed according to her colour, sexuality and nationality, Jackie has written in a variety of forms and genres to avoid categorisation as a writer. So as well as her poetry, she has successfully written children’s stories , short stories and memoir.
Check out her work in the Northern Poetry Library:
‘The Adoption Papers’
For more information on Jackie Kay visit www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk and www.poetryarchive.org
Day 2 - W H Auden
One of the giants of twentieth century British poetry, W H Auden is nowadays still best-known for his poem ‘Funeral Blues’ ('Stop all the clocks….’) which featured in the film ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’. But what is perhaps not so well known is that Auden had a lifelong passion for the wild and remote moors of the North Pennines. Growing up in Birmingham, he was always drawn to industrial landscapes. He spent many childhood holidays roaming the lead mines of Northumberland and Durham and at one time wanted to be a mining engineer.
Auden moved to the United States in 1939 and became an American citizen. But throughout his life he revisited the ruined lead mines and peat burns of the North Pennines in his poetry, and in person when he could. Rookhope, Alston Moor and Allendale all feature heavily in poems such as ‘New Year Letter’ and ‘Amor Loci’.
Find out more at:
Day 3 - Gillian Clarke
Gillian Clarke is one of contemporary poetry’s most influential figures, becoming the third National Poet of Wales in 2008 and receiving the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2011. In 1990 she founded the respected Ty Newydd writers’ centre in North Wales. Although brought up in a Welsh-speaking household, English was considered to be a more ‘educated’ language and Gillian didn’t learn Welsh until her teens.
She is not afraid to write about current topics and news stories but always with a mind to the rich heritage of Welsh poetry going back to the Dark Ages. She feels passionately that poetry should be accessible for everyone throughout out their life and puts this into practice by regularly giving poetry readings and appearing at festivals. In 2012 a seasonal poem ‘Home’ was displayed in John Lewis’ Christmas window.
Find out more at:
Day 4 - Jacob Polley
Born in 1975, Jacob Polley represents a new generation of British poets. Born in Carlisle, he recently moved across the Pennines and now lives and works in Newcastle. His three poetry collections to date have all been acclaimed and Jacob has twice been shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize .
Jacob’s poetry is restrained in its use of language but vivid in its use of metaphor and exploring his Cumbrian upbringing. It can be compared to Ted Hughes’ poetry in its affinity with the natural world but is also focussed on contemporary human concerns. It is underpinned by a fascination with supernatural forces and human malevolence, which is translated into atmospheric descriptions of the eerie and the uncanny.
Jacob’s three collections are all in the Northern Poetry Library:
Find out more at;
Day 5 - Ruth Fainlight
Ruth Fainlight is one of Britain’s most distinguished modern poets and perhaps not as well-known as she should be. Born in the US to European Jewish parents, Fainlight moved to Britain at the age of 15 and throughout her life has explored feelings of exile and otherness in her work. She also homes in on the minutiae of everyday life and transmutes them into universal experiences.
Fainlight was a close friend of Sylvia Plath’s towards the end of Plath’s life and their poetry shares a connection. Fainlight’s poems are often autobiographical, recalling objects and memories from childhood. More recently they have, perhaps inevitably, focussed more on ageing and loss.
These collections are available from the Northern Poetry Library:
New & Collected Poems
Find out more at
- By: My Library
- Category: Blog