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The Blagger's Guide To... National Poetry Day

Let verse take you to the stars and beyond

"Stars" will be the theme for this year's National Poetry Day – a day of verse, which will be celebrated all over the country this Thursday, 4 October. The aim is "to make poetry a part of everybody's life, every day," say the organisers. Don't panic though – the first poetry suggestion on their website is "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star", which was first published as a poem by Jane Taylor in Rhymes for the Nursery in 1806.

Here's a nice thought: a collapsing cloud of space gas under pressure makes a star. Language under pressure makes a poem.

Last year's National Poetry Day explored the theme of "Games". Some of the inspirational poems written for that occasion included "Goal" by Philip Gross, "Bad Light" by SJ Litherland, "Polo at Windsor" by Linda France, and "Three Boring Miles on the Exercise Bike" by The Barnsley Bard, Ian McMillan.

National Poetry Day Live is at London's Southbank Centre from 1-6pm, but events around the country can be found online (nationalpoetryday.co.uk).

This year, National Poetry Day is teaming up with a new online magazine, Aeon. Launching tomorrow, Aeon will publish an essay by a leading name every day. On National Poetry Day, instead of an essay, it will publish three new poems by the multi-award-winning poet Ruth Padel. However, readers of The Blagger's Guide don't have to wait until Thursday – here is an exclusive preview:



My mother is moving house. She’s ninety-one

and determined: words like sheltered

accommodation are coming at us from outer space

but it’s not like that, at least not yet. There are spare

rooms in the new home, she’ll have a small garden,

feed nuthatches, do her own cooking, grow shrubs.

Still, down the slope will be a sanatorium.

That’s the point. A clinic, an Alzheimer’s wing.

She doesn’t want to be a burden. In every room

is a vermilion string to pull if you fall over.


When I clear out her cupboards we find histories

woven in every blanket, like this scorch mark

made the winter the heating failed.

Should she sell the oversize kitchen clock

(which she still gets up on a ladder to wind

every Sunday, as my dad used to do)

to the blind piano tuner who took a shine

to it when he came to value the piano?

Or should it stay around in case one day

some grandchild might give it a home?


For the first time in her life she’ll live only

with things she has chosen. No husband or children

to consider, no furniture from aunts. She can sell,

she can give things away. Traumas of today,

contracts to exchange, dates of completion,

arguments over who’ll let the carpenter in

to the new place to measure up, will be forgotten

because forgetting is an issue let’s face it.

And she is, she is facing it. She’ll be three miles

from family but she’s going to an unknown zone.


Read this and two other National Poetry Day poems by Ruth Padel on Thursday at www.aeonmagazine.com