I was asked to write a short piece about National Poetry Day for the National Poetry Day Website.

I’ll save you a click by posting it here but do have a look and see what other people are doing to celebrate this auspicious date.

As Reader in Residence at the Scottish Poetry Library, I naturally read quite a few poems but when I heard about the Heroes and Heroines theme for National Poetry Day, I confess I first imagined Batman crouched on a concrete gargoyle, whispering a terse, dark haiku. Spider-man swinging through the air, somersaulting, sprouting a double-rhymed sestina! Iron-Man’s armour on the fritz reciting Language Poems like Ron Silliman – “Wallpaper demonstrates peeling” – The Black Widow quoting from Anna Akhmatova! Heroes! Heroines! Poetry! Finally, something for the fan-boy in me. Alas, I was told that the theme would not involve super-heroes, but normal, everyday heroes, like firemen, teachers, our parents.
I guess I should be thankful as I can only think of a single poem that even mentions my beloved Spider-Man. (Matthew Dickman‘s beautiful “Love”.) And Daredevil, it seems, has not made the red leap into our poetry collections. Thankfully, poetry is very good at finding heroes and heroines in our un-costumed, real-lives. Okay, it’s rare for Don Paterson to stop a mugging or for Vicki Feaver to catch an old man who’s fallen off a bridge during an epic battle, but our poets are masters of the subtle, the details, their lens captures the Martha Kents, and Aunt Mays. So, I’m excited about looking at and promoting the quiet, powerful heroes of my favourite poems. I think of U.A. Fanthorpe and her Atlas, of Wendell Berry and his farmland clearing.
It is no surprise that our poets have similar heroes and I am always grateful to see them set down. In poetry, we are reminded of neighbours who helped us in the garden, mothers who hung our shirts when we were young, friends who call by to see if we’re okay, our brothers, co-workers, sometimes lovers. Poets remind us to pause, to love our local heroes, the people in our lives who prevent loneliness and share our burdens of loss and fear. And maybe these are small things, compared to stopping death-rays, but they are not insignificant.
I’m looking forward to getting out into Edinburgh’s Poetry Garden in St. Andrew’s Square where we’ll be handing out NPD cards and other favourite poems about heroes to commuters and lunch-breakers on October 8th. I’ll also be doing a month of events at the Stockbridge Library, so do watch this space.
Further, the SPL has a host of other exciting events to celebrate National Poetry day such as distributing hundreds of thousands of ‘heroes and heroines’-themed poem postcards to schools, libraries, bookshops and arts venues around Scotland, with accompanying lesson plans on our education website; people will be able to send these cards online as well. There’s our annual ‘By Leaves We Live’ small press fair in the run-up to NPD (26 September) and we’ll be launching our ‘Carry a Poem’ campaign, too. So watch the website – log into Facebook and Twitter – to keep up to date.

We’ll have a full day of free events, workshops, readings and more at the SPL. So, put October 8th in your diary and come along!

And here’s Ron Silliman talking crazy!