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National Poetry Day 6th October

National Poetry Day 6th October

Today is National Poetry Day. An annual celebration whose aim is to celebrate excellence in poetry and to increase its audience. Poetry is a vital service, according to the statistics. The National Literacy Trust tells us that in 2020 66.5% of children and young people agreed that writing poetry made them feel better during lockdown. Furthermore, in the same year sales of poetry books rose by 33% in October. And a report by Runnymede Trust and Penguin Random House found that poetry is the most common way for secondary students to encounter a Black, Asian or other minority ethnic author.

The NPD was founded in 1994, but poetry itself is as old as humanity. It may, in fact, be our oldest form of artistic expression; it certainly predates literacy. The word poetry comes from the ancient Greek poieo meaning “I create”, and humans have been creating down the centuries, using poetry to articulate every emotion as well as to record oral histories, and important events, to entertain and to offer prayer.

Do you know your haiku from your limerick? Your ode from your epic? There are dozens of different types of poetry. You’ve probably had a go at a few of them yourself, and if you’d like to participate in this year’s celebration, see here:

Events – National Poetry Day

Library Resources for National Poetry Day

Of course, we have a huge range of poetry resources that you can access via LibrarySearch.

LibrarySearch Library Catalogue 

We have books on how to read it, how to write it, how the greats do it, and why it matters. We also have access to the Poetry Archive which houses recordings of poets reading their own work out loud. It features the works of contemporary poets alongside historic records of Seamus Heaney, W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot and many others.  Of course, we may be biased, but we believe that one of the best poems within the archive, is Library Ology, written and presented by Benjamin Zephaniah. You can listen to it here:

Library Ology – Poetry Archive

Or how about checking out Poets on Screen, a library of 879 video clips of poets reading their own and other poets’ work. We may be biased, but we love this tender and moving poem – The Keepsake – written and read here by Fleur Adcock (spoiler alert – it features witty librarian jargon).

The Keepsake Read by Fleur Adcock – Literature Online – ProQuest

Learn more about the power of reading in our post on International Literacy Day.

By Lesley McRobb

 

Image source: Unsplash Álvaro Serrano

The War Poets Collection: Siegfried Sassoon and Dr Brock

The War Poets Collection: Siegfried Sassoon and Dr Brock

We greatly value the Library’s War Poets Collection, housed at our Craiglockhart campus, and this week we’d like to highlight two anniversaries connected with the Collection. Read on to find out more about The War Poets Collection: Siegfried Sassoon and Dr Brock.

Siegfried Loraine Sassoon

Siegfried Loraine Sassoon was born in Kent on 8th September 1886 and signed up for active service on the very day the UK declared war on Germany – 4th August 1914. Sent to the Western Front, he soon earned himself the nickname “mad Jack”, such was his exceptional and reckless bravery on the battlefield. In fact, Sassoon’s actions were so inspiring that he was awarded the Military Cross in 1916.

Nevertheless, Sassoon developed a bitter and abiding opposition to the War and was threatened with court-martial for writing an anti-war declaration that was read out in Parliament. Afterwards, he was sent to Craiglockhart, then a military psychiatric hospital, for treatment for what was then known as shell shock.
It was at Craiglockhart that Sassoon met fellow poet Wilfred Owen in 1917. Through mutual encouragement, their poetry flourished, and today they’re regarded as two of the greatest artists to emerge from World War I.

Sassoon survived the Great War and continued writing for the rest of his life. We have copies of his collected poems which you can access by logging into LibrarySearch

John Arthur Brock

Local lad, John Arthur Brock was born on the 9th of September 1878 in Kirkliston, just outside Edinburgh. After qualifying as a medical doctor, he worked for spells in Vienna and Berlin before returning to his native city.

Dr Brock was one of the doctors who treated the soldiers at Craiglockhart Hospital for shellshock, or neurasthenia as he called it. The characteristics of neurasthenia, he believed, were “dissociation, disintegration and split personality” and the way to treat it was holistically, specifically by reintegrating patients with their environment and restoring community links. This often meant hard physical work.

In volume 60 (2005) of the Journal of the history of medicine and allied sciences, David Cantor quotes Siegfried Sassoon remembering that Dr Brock “pushed his patients out of bed in the dark cold mornings and marched them out for a walk before breakfast. Rumour has it that they bolted themselves into lavatories and bathrooms (the bolts had been removed) but he was wise to that”. (Department of Documents, Imperial War Museum, London).

Brock retained a life-long interest in the treatment of psychiatric illnesses. In 1925 he moved to North Queensferry and established a convalescent home for nervous patients.

The War Poets Collection further Information

To find out more about The War Poets Collection: Siegfried Sassoon and Dr Brock, visit the collection online on our special collections website. You can also visit the collection at our Craiglockhart Campus, but please check access times in advance.

Read more about the War Poets on our blog:

War Poets Collection: Remembering Siegfried Sassoon

The Poet and the Doctor, Craiglockhart War Hospital 1917 (War Poets Collection)

Let’s leave the last words of this piece to Sassoon:

Does it Matter?
Does it matter – losing your legs?…
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When the others come in from hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.

Does it matter – losing your sight? …
There’s such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.

Does it matter – those dreams from the pit? …
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And the people won’t say that you’re mad;
For they’ll know that you fought for your country
And no-one will worry a bit.

Collected Poems 1908-1956, Faber & Faber, 2002.

By Lesley McRobb

Scottish Traditions: Burn’s Night

Burns Night

Burns Night is a traditional celebration of Scotland’s national bard, or poet, Robert Burns. It is held on 25th January, Burns’s birthday, when Burns suppers are held. They consist of a meal, poetry recitals and songs. The first supper was held at Burns Cottage by his friends on 21st July 1801, the fifth anniversary of his death.

If you think that you don’t know any of Burns’s work, ask yourself if you have ever sung Auld Lang Syne on Hogmanay/New Year’s Eve or used the lines “My love is like a red, red rose” on a Valentine card. If you have then you are familiar with some of his best-known work. Burns wrote his first poem aged 15 and in his short life wrote a vast number of songs and poems that can be accessed here. He wrote in a light Scots dialect which was easier for those outside Scotland to understand and often wrote about very humble subjects, for example, his poem “To a Mouse” is inspired by the field mice Burns saw while ploughing on his farm.

The Life of Robert Burns

Burns was born on 25th January 1759 in Alloway south of Ayr, the son of poor tenant farmers. He received little regular schooling, but his father taught him to read and write along with arithmetic, history and geography. He was also taught Latin, French and maths by John Murdoch.

For much of his life Burns, like his father, was a tenant farmer, all the while writing poetry and songs. But he struggled to make a living from farming and when he was offered a position on a plantation in Jamaica, he decided to emigrate. He could not afford the passage and a friend suggested he try to publish some of his work to raise the funds. In 1786 Poems in the Scottish Dialect was published and became an immediate success. Later that year Burns left for Edinburgh to publish a second edition which again was successful and earned him a substantial sum of money. He was well received in Edinburgh, often a guest of aristocracy, and made many friends, some becoming sponsors.

In 1787 Burns returned to southwest Scotland taking a lease on a farm in Dumfriesshire, but he also trained as an exciseman in case the farm was unsuccessful. He gave up farming in 1791 and moved to Dumfries where he made contributions to several volumes of songs, sometimes adding his own lyrics to traditional folk melodies and composing his own melodies from fragments of tunes. He continued to write poetry too, some advocating reform such as “The Slaves Lament”.

He continued to work as an exciseman, often making long journeys on horseback in all weathers and this may have contributed to his ill-health at a rather young age for the time. On 21st July 1796 Burns died aged just 37.  His body lies in the Burns Mausoleum is St. Michael’s Kirkyard, Dumfries along with that of his wife at the time, Jean Armour.

Burns is renowned for having had many romantic relationships which resulted in several children being born, although not all survived infancy. Today over 900 people worldwide claim to be descendants of Burns.

Host your own Burns Night

Due to covid-19 restrictions, many Burn’s suppers will be cancelled this year, but you could host your own with your household.

Need some inspiration to host your own Burns Supper? Why not try out some Burns Night recipes here. Penguin books have a guide on how to run your night and for inspiration, you can listen to or read some of Burns’s work through our Library.

By Vivienne Hamilton

Learn about other World traditions on our blog by reading:

New Year Traditions from Around the World

Spanish Christmas Traditions

Remembrance Day and The Poppy

World War One, Remembrance Day and The Poppy

The battles of the First World War (WWI) devastated the countryside of Western Europe. One of the plants that survived the churned-up battlefields was the poppy. As the soldiers saw scarlet poppies bloom through the terrible destruction, they were encouraged to see that life could recover. One soldier, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was inspired to write the poem, In Flanders Fields, in the spring of 1915. 

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky 

The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie, 

 In Flanders fields

Take up our quarrel with the foe: 

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Subsequently, Since WW1 the poppy has become the universal emblem of remembrance, symbolising the sacrifices that soldiers in past wars made for us. 

The Selling of Poppies

In the United Kingdom, artificial poppies are sold by the Royal British Legion in the run-up to 11th November (Poppy Day). Importantly this is when the Armistice (an agreement to end the fighting) began at 11am on 11th November 1918. Furthermore, sales from the poppies go to providing financial, social and emotional support to British Armed Forces serving soldiers, former soldiers and their dependents. This year is the centenary of the UK Poppy Appeal. 

The original Poppy Days were created by Madame Guerin to raise funds for the French widows and orphans of the War. In 1921 she took samples of her artificial poppies to the Royal British Legion and proposed an Inter-Allied Poppy Day during which all WW1 allied countries use artificial poppies as an emblem of remembrance.

The poppies would be made by French widows and orphans and raise funds for the families of the fallen as well as survivors of the conflict. Although the idea was initially not well received by the British public, the WW1 British Army commander Earl Haig was keen, and after that, when the Royal British Legion held its first Poppy Day on 11th November 1921, it was a great success. Those first poppies were made in France, but from 1922 British veterans made the poppies at the Richmond factory which now employs 50 ex-servicemen all year round. In 1926 Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory in Edinburgh was established to produce poppies for Scotland. Over 5 million Scottish poppies are made by hand each year. 

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War Poets Collection: Remembering Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Sassoon

September is the time when we celebrate the acclaimed war poet Siegfried Sassoon.

Siegfried Sassoon was born 8th September 1886, and died in 1967, on September 1st. Sassoon was a talented poet, writer and soldier. He received the Military Cross for bravery during the First World War.

He wrote fervent pieces that spoke of compassion for his fellow soldiers, and his anger towards those he believed could have ended the war sooner but instead prolonged it.

Sassoon continued to write for the rest of his life, publishing many important works such as Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man and Memoirs of an Infantry Officer.

 

Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital (Now our Craiglockhart campus) during World War One. Here he met Wilfred Owen during his convalescence, and together they produced some of the finest war poetry ever written.

Craiglockhart War Hospital (old Hydropathic Hotel) photographs of Staff and patients

Craiglockhart War Hospital

You can visit our permanent exhibition area containing more than 600 unique items. It allows visitors to get an insight into war through the experiences of the poets. Access to the War Poets Collection remains limited due to social distancing, so if you would like to visit please contact us first.

The War Poets collection at Craiglockhart campus

Not only do we have many items in our permanent exhibit, but we also have a treasure trove of exciting new material. It has been loaned to Edinburgh Napier’s War Poets Collection for the period covering the Centenary of the First World War Armistice on November 11th. The new exhibits, which will be available for public viewing, include original photographs of celebrated war poet Siegfried Sassoon, work privately printed by him and an original of his famous war protest letter of July 1917. Read more about it here.

If you would like to read some of his works, here are some sources:

 

For Library Members

Siegfried Sassoon: poet’s pilgrimage

Siegfried Sassoon : (1886-1967)

Dr W. H. R. Rivers: Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves ‘fathering friend’

You can check out Librarysearch.napier.ac.uk for access to many more wonderful University materials

Online

10 Siegfried Sassoon Poems Everyone Should Read

The Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Sources

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/sassoon_siegfried.shtml

https://siegfriedsfellowship.wixsite.com/siegfriedsassoon

War Poets Collection

 

 

 

The Poet and the Doctor, Craiglockhart War Hospital 1917 (War Poets Collection)

Craiglockhart War Hospital March 1917  Image courtesy of Edinburgh Napier University

The month of March includes two important dates in the calendar for the War Poets Collection at Craiglockhart Campus, as we mark the birthday’s of the celebrated poet  Wilfred Owen (born 18th March 1893) and the eminent psychiatrist and anthropologist, Dr William Rivers (born 12th March 1864)

At our Craiglockhart campus, the original building was used as a military hospital during the First World War.  The hospital treated around 1801 officers, suffering mostly from neurasthenia  , or war neurosis, between 1916-1919. Neurasthenia was more commonly known at the time as shell shock.

Craiglockhart old frontage

Craiglockhart old frontage

Those of you who studied English literature at school may be familiar with Wilfred Owen, the WW1 soldier-poet, as his works are taught not only in the UK  but in many other countries around the world.  2nd Lt. Owen was to become one of the leading poets of the First World War.  He was treated at Craiglockhart War Hospital for shell shock during the summer months of 1917.  Wilfred was in the care of Dr (Capt.) Arthur Brock, who treated his patients using ergo-therapy, or the “work cure”.  More than a century later, the University’s Occupational Therapy students provide us with a contemporary link to Dr Brock’s work.

Wilfred Owen Bust. Sculpture by Anthony Padgett.

Many of Wilfred Owen’s  poems, such as Anthem for Doomed Youth and Dulce et Decorum Est  were drafted or composed whilst he was a patient and he edited six issues of the hospital magazine, The Hydra.  Wilfred Owen recovered his health and returned to the Front but was killed on active service on the 4th November 1918, just one week before the Armistice was declared.

Image of Hydra Magazine

The recently discovered missing copies of The Hydra magazine.

One of the most recognised names in English anthropology and psychiatry is that of Doctor William H R Rivers, born in Chatham, Kent on 12th March 1864.  William Rivers qualified as a doctor from the University of London and St Bartholomew’s Hospital at the tender age of twenty-two, the youngest graduate until recent times. You may recognise the hospital, as the Duke of Edinburgh was treated there for a heart problem recently. Rivers lectured at the University of Cambridge and was a polymath, being involved in the fields of ethnography, anthropology, medicine and psychiatry.

Dr Rivers joined the Royal Army Medical Corps during the First World War and was appointed Senior Psychiatrist at Craiglockhart War Hospital.  Dr (Capt.) Rivers was an extremely popular member of the medical team at the hospital, using dream analysis and the talking cures to help his patients. He is best known in literary circles as being the doctor who treated the poet Siegfried Sassoon at Craiglockhart. Dr Rivers returned to academia after the war but died in June 1922.

You can find out more about both these men in the War Poets Collection at Craiglockhart (University Covid-19 restrictions apply at the moment) or visit our website at www.napier.ac.uk/warpoets

By Catherine Walker

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