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National Poetry Month

NPMWith April come the longer evenings, milder afternoons and the scent of newly sprung daffodils…what better excuse to engage your poetic side! If the spring awaiting is not reason enough then how about the fact that April is National Poetry Month.

National Poetry Month, held every April, is a time when schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets throughout the UK join forces in paying tribute to the stocks of great poetry that sit on our bookshelves and the rich history that their melodious words tell.

Did you also know that on 18th April 2013 the US is celebrating ‘Poem in your Pocket Day’? All you need to do is chose your favourite poem, and on the big day carry this poem around with you to share with family, friends and colleagues. Why not help bring this tradition to the UK and spread the word of some of your favourite poets.

Here at Bloomsbury Reader we thought we would take the liberty of sharing with you the work of some of our very own poets. The likes of Cecil Day Lewis, Martin Armstrong and Edith Sitwell, will enliven your senses and help start the quest for your poem of choice to be folded up neatly in your pocket on 18th April.

The Bird-Catcher by Martin Armstrong

This beautiful collection of poems tells tales of blossoming springs and fruitful summers; in Honey Harvest Armstrong depicts Spring with the overweight apple blossom nodding on their branches and the sweet honey filling our shelves, and in Spanish Vintage we are almost able to taste the plump purple grapes of August as we follow their journey through the seasons, maturing in the dark bodegas ready to be sipped when the time is just right.

Biography: Martin Armstrong 1882 – 1974) was an English writer and poet. He was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and educated at Charterhouse and Pembroke College, Cambridge. He served in World War I in the British Army in France as a Private in the Artists’ Rifles. He was commissioned into the Middlesex Regiment in 1915 and promoted Lieutenant in 1916. He was included in the final Georgian Poetry anthology.

In 1929 he married writer Jessie McDonald, after she had divorced Conrad Aiken, making Armstrong the stepfather of the young Joan Aiken. He appears in disguised form as a character in Conrad Aiken’s Ushant.

Pegasus and Other Poems by C. Day Lewis

Originally published in 1957, this collection shows how much his style had changed after having distanced himself from Auden. In 1951, he became only the second living writer (after TS Eliot) to be featured in the popular series of ‘Penguin Poets’ paperbacks. In his introduction, he wrote: ‘Looking back over my verse of the last 20 years, I was struck by its lack of development – in the sense of one poetic phase emerging recognizably from the previous one and leading inevitably to the next: it would all be much tidier and more in accordance with critical specifications, were this not so. But my verse seems to me a series of fresh beginnings rather than a continuous line.’

Biography: Cecil Day-Lewis (1904-1972) was an Irish-born poet. He was Poet Laureate for Britain from 1968 until his death in 1972 and, under the pseudonym Nicholas Blake, a mystery writer. He is the father of actor Daniel Day-Lewis and documentary filmmaker and television chef Tamasin Day-Lewis. He wrote twenty detective novels as Nicholas Blake, most of them featuring Nigel Strangeways, a charming amateur sleuth who uses literary references to solve mysteries.

Gardeners and Astronomers by Edith Sitwell

The constant themes of the great poet, Birth, Death, Pity and Indignation, the unity of life, the re-birth that is brought by Spring, and the necessity for choice that informs all sentient life, are the core of this collection of poems by Dr. Edith Sitwell.

The poet’s awareness of the atomic age into which mankind has emerged renders more poignant and moving her assurance of the spiritual pattern behind the material facades. She knows that: “… we live now in the age of the terrible Furies Changed into Butterflies, and of the Butterfly-weather, gilding the hopeless heart:” yet for her “Through the rough Ape-dust the gold fires of the spirit spring like the wild-beast fires upon the branches, The little and the great, The shadow of the crooked and the straight Complete each other.”

Biography: Edith Sitwell (1887-1964) was born into an aristocratic family and, along with her brothers, Osbert and Sacheverell, had a significant impact on the artistic life of the 20s. She encountered the work of the French symbolists, Rimbaud in particular, early in her writing life and became a champion of the modernist movement, editing six editions of the controversial magazine Wheels. She remained a crusading force against philistinism and conservatism throughout her life and her legacy lies as much in her unstinting support of other artists as it does in her own poetry.

You can also share your poem selection on Twitter by using the hashtag #pocketpoem.

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