National Poetry Day 2012

Today (4 October) is National Poetry Day, celebrating British poetry in all its forms since 1994. What’s your favourite British poem?

National Poetry Day has engaged millions of people with poetry through a range of live events and web-based activities for young and old throughout the country. It’s a day for poetry readings, events, competitions, quizzes, exhibitions, commissions, creations, recitations and more, all planned and launched by the poets and poetry lovers of the UK.

Each year the day has a new theme. Stars is the theme for 2012’s National Poetry Day, featuring poems from Twinkle twinkle little star (first published as a poem by Jane Taylor in Rhymes for the Nursery in London in 1806) to Clear Night by Charles Wright.

You can find out more about National Poetry Day at the website or on Facebook, or follow the Tweets for updates and announcements.

We thought we’d have our own celebration in the BRITAIN offices this morning, and share our favourite British poems with you:

Julia McDonald, Marketing Executive
“I’m a sucker for A A Milne and can still remember when I finally found out what a mackintosh was…

Happiness – From When We Were Very Young

John had great big waterproof boots on,
John had a great big waterproof hat,
John had a great big waterproof mackintosh!
And that says John is that

Chloe Collyer, Senior Art Editor
“I’m going to have to go with Spike Milligan. My dad introduced me to his poems when I was really little and this one especially just reminds me of times of being silly happy when I was growing up…”

On the Ning Nang Nong
On the Ning Nang Nong
Where the Cows go Bong!
and the monkeys all say BOO!
There’s a Nong Nang Ning
Where the trees go Ping!

Josephine Price, Publishing Assistant
“This was definitely my all-time favourite at school, from Jenny Joseph:”


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.

Steve Pill, Editor, Artists & Illustrators

Ted Hughes

“I used to work with a guy called Ross Sutherland who was a member of the Poetry Boy Band and I always liked this one of his:”

Twelve Nudes

A teacher once told me that poetry aspires
to the simplicity of the nude.
To be naked, he said, was to speak without footnotes.
Though, in my opinion, a naked person
usually has more explaining to do than anyone.

Jessica Tooze, Deputy Editor, BRITAIN
“At this time of year I love the evocative melancholy of Ted Hughes – he effortlessly captures the essence of autumn.”

The Seven Sorrows

The first sorrow of autumn
Is the slow goodbye
Of the garden who stands so long in the evening –
A brown poppy head,
The stalk of a lily,
And still cannot go.

Holly Thacker, Publishing Executive
“It’s Dylan Thomas for me, and reading his poems and stories always makes me want to curl up with a hot toddy in front of the fire.”

A Winter’s Tale

It is a winter’s tale
That the snow blind twilight ferries over the lakes
And floating fields from the farm in the cup of the vales,
Gliding windless through the hand folded flakes,
The pale breath of cattle at the stealthy sail…

Martha Alexander, Features Writer, Artists & Illustrators

“Business Girls by John Betjeman is my all time favourite poem. When I first read it as a maudlin 15-year-old schoolgirl in rural North Yorkshire, I knew that this was what London would be like when I finally got there (rather than the bright lights and nightclubs of my rather more optimistic friends). And it was, really. It was autumn – a beautiful, sad season of change – and I would always lie in the bath at the back of the flat which was on a railway line, listening to the trains, reading crinkly paperbacks and avoiding getting out into the draught thinking ‘I am like one of those girls in the John Betjeman poem’, rather triumphantly, despite the gloom. People might think this poem conjures up a bleak dreariness but to me it sums up freedom.”

From the geyser ventilators
Autumn winds are blowing down
On a thousand business women
Having baths in Camden Town

What’s your favourite British poem? Tweet @BritainMagazine and let us know.