‘Freedom’: what does the word mean to you? The theme of 2017’s National Poetry Day asks that question through the prism of verse and to celebrate the occasion we’ve asked some of Faber’s dedicated poetry readers to choose a poet, poem or book of poetry that encapsulates, for them, ideas of freedom. Here is their selection.
Lavinia Singer, Poetry Editorial Assistant
Two standout organisations in the UK that do so much to free the voices of the imprisoned are English PEN and the Koestler Trust. This edition from the latter celebrates the best poetry from the 2016 and 2017 Koestler Awards (an art awards scheme for offenders, secure patients and detainees). With a foreword by Benjamin Zephaniah.
Joey Connelly, Faber Academy
Larkin’s constantly aware of the soft constraints on freedom – our own anxiety, the claustrophobia of the parochially-minded English. But, set against that, he finds small moments of dazzling release, like that sudden ‘million-petalled flower / Of being here’ from ‘The Old Fools’.
In poem ‘XX’ from The North Ship a desire for freedom from his body and his gender coincides with a desire for freedom for the encroaching rules of poetic form: ‘Damn all explanatory rhymes! / To be that girl!’
Niriksha Bharadia, Marketing Executive
At the 2016 presidential primary, a young black woman staged a silent protest by reading this book – Citizen by Claudia Rankine.
Powerful, riveting, rage-inducing, perceptive, emotional, important. I would urge everyone to read this book; the essay on Serena Williams is especially memorable. Reading this was cathartic.
Emmie Francis, Assistant Editor
My mother sends this to me in a little note card every so often (always near September and October, though). For me, it’s a little nod to the idea of renewal and the freedom to start again, even in autumn when leaves are falling and yet the colours become brighter and more burnt.
Hannah Marshall, Arts Marketing Manager
A film about freedom and poetry and a film full of poetry about freedom (oppression and injustice). In Slam Saul Williams plays Ray, a young black man who is incarcerated on a petty drugs charge and is swallowed by the US criminal justice system. His talent as a spoken word poet is Ray’s escape, both metaphorically and literally. The poems of Williams and his co-star Sonja Sohn, such as ‘Sha-Clack-Clack’ and ‘Run Free’, are as relevant now as they were in the late nineties.
Ella Griffiths, Editorial Assistant
I love this poem’s buoyant, kinetic, and exhilarating sense of the unique freedom you feel when walking around a city – the delicious snapshots of everything and anything – and how it explores improvisation as a kind of liberty.