Today is National Poetry Day founded in 1994 by British philanthropist and publisher William Sieghart. Although this “National” day is celebrated primarily in Britain, there is a definite case for making it a global celebration. The primary reason for this is that it is the birthday in 70 B.C. of the classical Roman poet Virgil, author of Rome’s national epic, the Aeneid. Virgil influenced the great Latin poet Ovid, as well as Dante, major Italian poet of the Middle Ages. In Dante’s epic poem the Divine Comedy, Dante features Virgil as his guide on his travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.
In his own epic, the Aeneid, Virgil traces the travels of the mythical hero Aeneas, a Trojan prince, who becomes Rome’s great hero and father. Before his death in 19 B.C., Virgil supposedly left instructions for the Aeneid to be burned. Emperor Augustus, however, wouldn’t allow it to be destroyed; instead, he ordered two of Virgil’s friends to edit it, and two years later it was published (1).
The purpose of National Poetry Day is to encourage the reading, writing, publishing, listening, and teaching of poetry; it’s also a nice day to plan ahead for spring when Poetry Month is celebrated. Each year organizers select a theme. This theme is not meant to be prescriptive, but it can help spark one’s memory of poems from the past as well as ignite imagination for creating new poems.
Here is a list of some of the themes from past years:
Song Lyrics, Fresh Voices, Journeys, Celebration, Britain, Food, The Future, Identity, Dreams, Work, Heroes and Heroines, Home, Games, Stars, Water, Remember, Light (2)
One excellent way to celebrate National Poetry Day is by putting together a thematic anthology of poetry or poetic prose. The word anthology in the original Greek meant to gather flowers: anthos “a flower” + logia “collecting.” Today we use the word metaphorically, the flowers being samples of the best verse by various writers gathered into one beautiful bouquet of a book.
Today’s Challenge: Beautiful Words Bound
What are some themes that you might select if you were putting together an anthology of prose or poetry? Brainstorm a list of possible themes. Then, select the one theme you like the best. Using word association, generate a list of words and phrases you associate with your theme. Use this list to identify some titles of published works you might include in an anthology or to generate some ideas for new works you might create for your anthology. Finally, write an introduction to your anthology, explaining why you picked your theme, why your theme is relevant and important, and what kinds of works you plan to put in your anthology. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)
Quotation of the Day: A well chosen anthology is a complete dispensary of medicine for the more common mental disorders, and may be used as much for prevention as cure. -Robert Graves