Laureate’s New Poem/World Poetry Day – Poetry News Roundup March 23rd

We begin the week here on My Poetic Side with a look at the Poet Laureate’s new poem, and this year’s World Poetry Day.

Poet Laureate Pens Coronavirus Poem

In his new poem about coronavirus Simon Armitage, the poet laureate takes a look at Eyam, the heroic village who put themselves into quarantine in 1665 in order to contain the spread of Black Death.

The poem, “Lockdown” looks at how people in Eyam, a small Derbyshire village took a range of selfless measures in order to stop the spread of the plague. They soaked money in vinegar they believed to kill the plague and left it out in exchange for medical supplies and food.

It also looks at the tale of two young lovers from different villages who met secretly despite the bans on movement. Despite meeting at a distance one of them eventually succumbed to the plague.

There are references in the poem to the works of Kālidāsa, a Sanskrit poet, which look at a man in exile who utilises a passing cloud in order to send his wife a message of comfort. The cloud is persuaded to take the message in what Armitage describes as a romantic, hopeful, gesture.

World Poetry Day in Isolation

21st March marked World Poetry Day, the day set aside by The United Nations to acknowledge “the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind.” The idea is that this is a day that makes it possible to help support the diversity that exists in linguistics, through expression in poetry and also a chance for those languages that are becoming increasingly endangered to be vocalised within their own community.

The year with the growth of the coronavirus pandemic poetry events all over the world were cancelled as, one by one, countries were advised to self-isolate or citizens were put into lockdown to help slow and stop the spread of the virus.

With no World Poetry Day events taking place you might think that this year the occasion would have slipped past unnoticed, but you would be wrong. Newspapers and publications in numerous countries came together, virtually, on the day in order to make poetry recommendations that might help people in the difficult weeks ahead.

One such publication urged readers to look at the iconic poems, the type of works that are well known and will continue to be so for many years to come. Their list included such works as Daffodils by William Wordsworth, Rudyard Kipling’s  If, A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Others published lists of works by poets that offered hope, and faith; Hard Times by Rabindranath Tagore and To Hope by John Keats were just two of the ones that appeared on the list.

Whilst it is true that there seems to be a poem for every occasion, sometimes reading is simply not enough. Many of the great poets wrote their best pieces whilst locked away from the rest of the world. The big question here is will we see some truly awe-inspiring poems emerging from the self-isolation of coronavirus.

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