National Poetry Day and BBC team up with OED to unearth local words for poems
National Poetry Day and the BBC are joining forces to seek out and celebrate the nation’s great local words in 12 specially commissioned poems – one for each of the 12 BBC regions in England.
National Poetry Day’s 2017 theme is Freedom. BBC Local Radio across England is calling on listeners to nominate a truly distinctive local word that deserves to be better known nationally. The 12 chosen words will each be offered to a local poet as the creative spark for a new poem, to be broadcast on the BBC on National Poetry Day, 28 September.
Across BBC local radio, on social media, and in interviews and discussions, people are invited to recommend a word that is used by local people but not yet known by the nation at large, and to post post them online with #freetheword as the hashtag.
The words suggested will be considered for inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary. The search embraces dialect, slang and idiom – any word that makes visitors do a double-take and ask what is meant. The ideal word will be striking and give a flavour of the place and local identity. It can be ancient or newly imported, just as long as it is regularly used by people locally and deserves wider circulation.
Ian McMillan, poet and presenter of BBC’s The Verb, has nominated the word “brussen”, as Barnsley’s gift to poetry and the OED. BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Radio Cymru (the Welsh-language station) are also taking part and will be calling for their own local words to provide the inspiration for a poem for National Poetry Day.
Susannah Herbert, executive director of National Poetry Day, said: “National Poetry Day is truly national when it’s truly local. The distinctive words and figures of speech used in different regions have inspired poets for centuries, from Chaucer and Shakespeare to Daljit Nagra and Liz Berry – and a poem is still a great way to get a favourite expression before a wide audience. These new poems will draw on words handed down by grandparents and picked up in street markets: we’re hungry to hear how the nation speaks when it’s at home.”
Michael Proffitt, chief editor, Oxford English Dictionary, said: “A national event about regional language is a great way for the OED to learn more about the distinctive, evocative, and poetic words and phrases that people use now, some of which have yet to appear in the dictionary.”
Last year on National Poetry Day the BBC’s 40 local radio stations marked National Poetry Day by each broadcasting a poem about a local landmark commissioned from 40 local poets in a lyrical mapping of the English landscape.