New poetry season on the BBC

Black roses: the killing of Sophie LancasterLast month author Robert Harris criticised the BBC for its lack of dedicated programming for books.

The BBC has now announced that a season of poetry-focused programmes to be screened on BBC4 . Themes include a profile of poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy , a special on Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene and a drama adaptation of Simon Armitage’s poem Black Roses, about the real murder of a 20-year-old girl by a gang of youths.

Radio 1Xtra is also working with Arts Council England to launch a “brand new scheme to reflect and enrich the UK’s growing spoken word scene, with a key pillar being to find and develop brand new performance poets”.

There’s also the BBC Proms Poetry Competition 2015, open for entries in June. The Poetry Society and the BBC work together on this. The winners, who will have to write a poem inspired by a piece of music from this year’s proms season, will read their poems at a live Proms Extra event at the Royal College of Music to be broadcast on BBC Radio 3. They will also receive a commission to write a new poem for BBC Radio 3 for National Poetry Day in October. BBC Radio 6 Music will also have Spoken Word Sessions around National Poetry Day. Listen to last year’s winners.



#FF Poem of the Week

Paper aeroplane: selected poems 1989-2014We love this poem, as frequenters of Poundland! It’s in the collection Paper Aeroplane: Selected Poems 1989-2014


Poundland by Simon Armitage

Came we then to the place abovementioned,
crossed its bristled threshold through robotic glass doors,
entered its furry heat, its flesh-toned fluorescent light.
Thus with wire-wrought baskets we voyaged,
and some with trolleys, back wheels flipping like trout tails,
cruised the narrow canyons twixt cascading shelves,
the prow of our journeying cleaving stale air.
Legion were the items that came tamely to hand:
five stainless steel teaspoons, ten corn-relief plasters,
the Busy Bear pedal bin liners fragranced with country lavender,
the Disney design calendar and diary set, three cans of Vimto,
cornucopia of potato-based snacks and balm for a sweet tooth,
toys and games, goods of Orient made, and of Cathay,
all under the clouded eye of CCTV,
beyond the hazard cone where serious chutney spillage had occurred.
Then emerged souls: the duty manager with a face like Doncaster,
mumbling, “For so much, what shall we give in return?”
The blood-stained employee of the month,
sobbing on a woolsack of fun-fur rugs,
many uniformed servers, spectral, drifting between aisles.
Then came Elpenor, our old friend Elpenor,
slumped and shrunken by the Seasonal Products display.
In strangled words I managed,
“How art thou come to these shady channels, into hell’s ravine?”
And he: “To loan sharks I owe/the bone and marrow of my all.”
Then Walt Whitman, enquiring politely of the delivery boy.
And from Special Occasions came forth Tiresias,
dead in life, alive in death, cider-scented and sock-less,
Oxfam-clad, shaving cuts to both cheeks, quoting the stock exchange.
And my own mother reaching out, slipping a tin of stewing steak
to the skirt pocket of her wedding dress,
blessed with a magician’s touch, practised in need.

But never until the valley widened at the gated brink
did we open our lips to fish out those corn-coloured coins,
those minted obols, hard-won tokens graced with our monarch’s head,
kept hidden beneath the tongue’s eel, blood-tasting,
both ornament and safeguard, of armour made.
And paid forthwith, then broke surface
and breathed extraordinary daylight into starved lungs,
steered for home through precincts and parks scalded by polar winds,
laden with whatnot, lightened of golden quids.

The poet, dramatist and broadcaster Simon Armitage is Professor of Poetry at the University of Sheffield. This new poem appears in Paper Aeroplane: Selected Poems 1989-2014