Poetry News

Winning Words wants to "carpet the nation in poetry"

By Harriet Staff

In a recent article for the Guardian, Sam Leith laments the fact that Yorkshire pudding and sausage each garner of a whole week of celebration in the UK while poetry receives a single day. But rather than drowning his sorrows with a plate of toad-in-the-hole, Leith points to what he sees as an encouraging development: the launch of a new project called Winning Words, established by William Sieghart, founder of the Forward Prizes for Poetry and National Poetry Day.

Winning Words aims to "carpet the nation in poetry." They'll be organizing a number of poetry installations throughout London's Olympic Park in the run-up to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, but their ambitions extend beyond that to the whole country. They hope citizens will create their own installations, embedding bits of poems into the landscape of their villages, towns, and cities. As Leith says, "Spraypaint a line from Miroslav Holub on your front door. Inscribe a William Carlos Williams on your wheelbarrow. Why not?"

We're all for plastering poems on pretty much any available surface (a variable pursuit that we've chronicled here and here. And, in a smaller way, here), but Leith touches briefly on an interesting question about the fragmentation of poems and how meaning can change when a line or even just a few words are pulled from the whole. He writes:

Of course, there is a risk of getting things mixed up with an out-of-context quote. The Tennyson line chosen for the heart of the Olympic Village – "To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield" – is, in the context of his poem Ulysses, hardly a feelgood slogan: it's the empty boast of a vainglorious old fart raging against senility.

Okay, so he might be a little hard on the old man, but it's an interesting point. Read more.

Originally Published: October 11th, 2011