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National Poetry Day

We take a look at National Poetry Day, what it is and our top five styles of poetry.

What is National Poetry Day?

National Poetry Day was started in 1994 by the charity, Forward Arts Foundation. The aim is simple; a day dedicated to inspiring people throughout the UK to discover, read and enjoy poems in their various forms.

There are a number of ways to celebrate the day. You could visualise your favourite poem as a classroom display, perform it in front of your class or school, or simply read it aloud. The choice is yours.

When is National Poetry Day?

Each year, National Poetry Day is celebrated at the beginning of October.

When is National Poetry Day in 2019?

Thursday 3rd October.

2019 is a special year, as it is National Poetry Day’s 25th anniversary.

What Is the Theme of National Poetry Day?

The theme changes every year with the aim of inspiring people of all ages to write poetry about something new.

Past themes have included: 
2018: Change
2017: Freedom
2016: Messages
2015: Light
2014: Remember
2013: Water, water everywhere
2012: Stars
2011: Games
2010: Home
2009: Heroes and Heroines
2008: Work
2007: Dreams
2006: Identity
2005: The Future
2004: Food
2003: Britain
2002: Celebration
2001: Journeys
2000: Fresh Voices
1999: Song Lyrics

What is the Theme of 2019’s National Poetry Day?

This year’s theme is ‘Truth’.

Whilst the topic seems broad, it all depends on you. You could write a poem about telling the truth, what truth means to you or your poem could be about a lie, where your audience has to decide if it is true or not.

What is a ‘Poem’?

The definition of a ‘poem’ from the Oxford English Dictionary is
a piece of writing in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by particular attention to diction (sometimes involving rhyme), rhythm, and imagery.

What Are the Different Types of Poem?

Poetry takes many forms and these can differ across different cultures around the world, but here are our top five forms of poetry, with some examples of how they are written.

1. Limerick

Not to be confused with the city in Ireland, a ‘limerick’ is a type of poem that is meant to be humorous and is written over five lines.

There are a couple of rules to remember when writing a limerick.

  1. The first, second, and fifth lines should have between seven and ten syllables. They also need to rhyme and keep the same verbal rhythm.
  2. The third and fourth lines are a little different from the first, second and fifth lines. They only need between five and seven syllables; but they still need to keep the same rhyme and rhythm.

Example Limerick

This limerick was written by Edward Lear, a famous British poet from the 1700s.

There was an Old Man with a beard
Who said, “It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen, four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!”

2. Haiku

The Haiku (or Hokku) originated in Japan in the 17th century. This is a short poem consisting of three lines and 17 syllables, and should only take five to six seconds to read.

The rules for writing a Haiku are simple:

Example Haiku

This Haiku is based on the school run:

Hand in hand they stand
Big sister little brother
Off to school they go

3. Sonnet

The word ‘sonnet” comes from the Italian “sonetto”, which means “little song” or “small lyric”.

There are a few rules to remember when writing a sonnet:

For example, line one and three, line two and four, line three and five, and so on rhyme. There are a number of different rhyming schemes which can be used when writing a sonnet, so don’t worry if it doesn’t match the rule above. The sonnet is can be quite adaptable.

Example Sonnets

The first example is written by the world-famous William Shakespeare, and is simply titled ‘Sonnet 1’.

From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty’s rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed’st thy light’s flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.
Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content,
And, tender churl, mak’st waste in niggarding.
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee.

In this example, Shakespeare has written his sonnet in the following way. Each letter number corresponds to the lines that rhyme, and follows ABAB / CDCD / EFEF / GG.

In this second example, written by Edmund Spenser, the rhyming pattern differs from the one used by Sir William Shakespeare. This sonnet is titled Amoretti.

What guile is this, that those her golden tresses
She doth attire under a net of gold;
And with sly skill so cunningly them dresses,
That which is gold or hair, may scarce be told?
Is it that men’s frail eyes, which gaze too bold,
She may entangle in that golden snare;
And being caught may craftily enfold
Their weaker hearts, which are not yet well aware?
Take heed therefore, mine eyes, how ye do stare
Henceforth too rashly on that guileful net,
In which if ever ye entrapped are,
Out of her bands ye by no means shall get.
Folly it were for any being free,
To covet fetters, though they golden be!

In this example, Sir Edmund Spenser has written his sonnet in the following way. Each number corresponds to the lines that rhyme and follows ABAB / BCBC / CDCD / EE.

4. Acrostic

In its simplest form, an acrostic poem is where the first letter of each line spells out a word or phrase. Once the poem is written, the word can be read vertically.

Whilst the origins of the acrostic poem are not known, they have been written for thousands of years, with some poems dating back to ancient Greece.

The more challenging variations of the acrostic poem include:

Example Acrostic Poem

Here is an example of an acrostic poem we have written for our very own character, Stig.

School is where I love to be,
Together with all my friends.
I have written this poem for you,
Go! Write one back for me!

5. Free Verse

The last type of poem in our top five is the free verse poem. Unlike the other forms of poetry we have looked at, this is the most open form of poetry.

The rules for a free verse poem are simple – you just express yourself, there are no rules.

There is no rhyming scheme, rhythm or formal structure to a free verse poem, so you are free to write this poem in your own way.

Example Free Verse Poem

This example is from the father of the free verse, Walt Whitman, who was an influential American poet from the 19th century.

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

If you have an EducationCity account, why not take a look at our Forms of Poetry Topic Tool (#12287-#12289) and see some more great examples?

Forms of Poetry Topic Tool

Write your own poem

Now that you know a little bit more about National Poetry Day, why not get writing and rhyming?

Write a form of poetry about anything you want!

It could be a Haiku about your favourite EducationCity character, an ode to your pet parrot or a sonnet about socks – the canvas is blank and waiting for your rhymes and prose. All poems are welcome, both silly and serious, so let your imagination soar and put pen to paper!

Top Tips to Get You Started 

Things to Explore

Remember to share your poem with your classmates, teachers, parents, neighbours and your pets! Inspire them to have a go themselves.

If you would like some help or guidance on writing your own poem, why not take a look at our Stamina for Writing 2 Learn Screen (#22316) to get you started?

Stamina for Writing 2 Learn Screen
Learn Screen focusing on poetry

Not already a subscriber and want to take a look at some of the resources mentioned in this blog? Take a free trial here!

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