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Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
Poet extols verse's 'healing' quality
Motion launched a contest for children from 37,000 schools
Motion launched a contest for children from 37,000 schools
Poetry is the best way to express emotions in times of trouble such as the US attacks, Poet Laureate Andrew Motion has said on National Poetry Day.

"It is both the distillation of ourselves, and the means by which we most memorably reach out to the world," he said on Thursday.

Poetry... is the form best suited to expressing moments of crisis and intensity in our lives

Andrew Motion
Motion was launching one of the world's biggest ever poetry competitions, asking children from 37,000 schools across the UK to compose verse to commemorate the Queen's Golden Jubilee.

Other events to mark National Poetry Day include a poetry marathon, headed by Sir Paul McCartney.

Some 1,000 balloons bearing the words of The Owl and the Pussy-Cat - voted the country's best-loved children's poem - were released into the London skies.

Motion said the events of recent weeks could form an "important part" of the competition's subject.

"Poetry, with its unique opportunities for compression and long perspectives, is the form best suited to expressing moments of crisis and intensity in our lives, as well as the form which allows us to have fun, to play games, to let our imaginations off the leash," he said.

"But however compelling and urgent these events are, they won't be the whole subject."

He wants the entries to reflect how the country has changed and how the UK identity has been formed over the last 50 years.

McCartney: Topped bill for poetry reading marathon
McCartney: Topped bill for poetry reading marathon
"Wars and griefs were always going to be a part of that story, alongside pleasures and gains."

Motion said the competition to write a poem about the Queen was on a different scale to most verse contests.

"It's certainly the biggest I've ever heard of - probably the biggest poetry competition the world has ever seen," he said.

About 111,000 entries - which will all be stored in the Royal Archives - are expected. The best fifty will be published in a booklet.

The winner will be chosen by a panel headed by Motion and will be presented with a medal by the Queen.

Motion has also written a new poem which was broadcast as part of Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Top 10 children's poems
1. The Owl and the Pussy-Cat by Edward Lear
2. Matilda by Hilaire Belloc
3. Don't by Michael Rosen
4. Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll
5. On the Ning Nang Nong by Spike Milligan
6. Talking Turkeys!! by Benjamin Zephaniah
7. Macavity, The Mystery Cat by T.S. Eliot
8. The King's Breakfast by A.A. Milne
9. Please Mrs Butler by Allan Ahlberg
10. Down Vith the Children! Do Them In! by Roald Dahl
BBC Radio 4 has been celebrating National Poetry Day with specially commissioned poems on the theme of journeys, including readings by Edwin Morgan, Pascale Petit and Lavinia Greenlaw.

Sir Paul McCartney was due to take to the West End stage to read his own verse as part of a "poetry reading marathon".

Appearing alongside him at London's Queens Theatre will be Frieda Hughes, Adrian Mitchell, Inge Elsa Laird and Tom Pickard, as well as jazz musicians Ruth Vaughn and Keith Waithe.

National Poetry Day, the theme of which this year is journeys, also sees the publication of a special 10th anniversary edition of The Forward Book of Poetry, Poems of the Decade.

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat by Edward Lear was revealed as the nation's favourite children's poem on Wednesday, beating classics like Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky and AA Milne's The King's Breakfast.

BBC Radio 4 has commissioned 10 new poemsNew verse
BBC Radio 4 celebrates Poetry Day
See also:

04 Oct 01 | UK
Reflecting on the attacks
04 Oct 01 | Talking Point
What's your favourite poem?
04 Oct 01 | Arts
Diving, by Andrew Motion
24 Sep 01 | Arts
Big Break Diaries: The poet
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