National Poetry Day – Thursday 7th October 2021

Are you Wilde about Kipling? Does Sappho beat fast your wings? Do you rage against the dying of the light? Whatever your poetic preference, or if you just want to find out more, the CWU Equality, Education & Development department invites you into the breach…

“Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, come and join the CWU Poets Club,” urges the union’s training & education co-ordinator Paul Dovey, adding: “We meet every Thursday by Zoom from 5pm until 7pm and it’s open to all CWU members, so just contact me for details.”

The club was established by the department last year following the success of the union’s poetry course, which sparked requests for more from participants and others.

“We get inspiration from listening to all types of verse, some of them classics and others more modern but most of all we’re about writing and each week we set ourselves a couple of challenges,” Paul explains.

“So, there’s Wordsworth and Byron as well as Pam Ayres, John Cooper Clarke and Benjamin Zephaniah for example.”

Poetry is too often thought of as something of a niche interest or even by some as an elitist pastime, but these are notions that the union is keen to dispel and Paul points to his favourite poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, as someone whose words are still today widely used to inspire our movement and cites the well-known political slogan ‘for the many not the few’, which was inspired by the last stanza (verse) of Shelley’s Mask of Anarchy.

`Rise like Lions after slumber

In unvanquishable number–

Shake your chains to earth like dew                       

Which in sleep had fallen on you–

Ye are many — they are few’

“That poem was written in angry response to the 1819 Peterloo Massacre and my favourite poem is Shelly’s Ozymandias, which is about the self-importance of the powerful and how their power doesn’t last as long as they like to think.” Paul says.

“In the 20th century,” he continues, “poetry has inspired, and been inspired by, other struggles, such as black American writer Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise.”

‘Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise’

Contemporary poetry is still challenging injustice today and, on 7th October 2021, to mark National Poetry Day, the CWU Poets Club is going to be joined by London-based spoken word artist and community organiser Potent Whisper, whose work has ranged from subjects such as defending our NHS to opposing the nuclear arms industry.

“It’s going to be great to have him with us for a Spoken Word Workshop and we’re also marking NPD with a video of our own club members’ performances and recitals,” says Paul.

“So, the game’s afoot, follow your spirit and please join us.

“As Potent Whisper himself says, we’re ‘Changing the world – one rhyme at a time’.”

  • For further details, please contact Paul Dovey
  • Our members have produced a collection of their poems, which can be downloaded here. The book is free but we are encouraging everyone who downloads it to make a donation to CWUHA.