World Poetry Day

Next Thursday, 21 March 2024

World Poetry Day is an international observance celebrated every year on March 21. It was established by UNESCO. The aim was to promote linguistic diversity and allow endangered languages to be heard. And what better way to do it than through one of the most beautiful forms of artistic expression: poetry?

World Poetry Day also promotes the teaching, reading, writing, and publishing of poetry, and encourages a dialogue between poetry and other forms of art. Its objective is to raise poetry back to its former status as one of the most appreciated and important forms of art.

Quote on Poetry by Robert FRost

History of World Poetry Day

UNESCO established March 21 as World Poetry Day in 1999, during the 30th General Conference in Paris. Unlike other UN and UNESCO observances, World Poetry Day does not celebrate different themes every year.

The Epic of Gilgamesh, dating back to the 3rd millennium BCE, is the oldest surviving epic poem. It originated in Sumer (present-day Iraq) and was written in cuneiform script on clay tablets, later transcribed onto papyrus. The poem revolves around a hero's quest for immortality.

Versions of the Epic of Gilgamesh exist from 1700 BCE to 127 BCE, with the Akkadian version, written between 1300 and 1000 BCE, being the most renowned. Another ancient poem, “The Love Song for Shu-Sin,” dating around 2000 BCE, is considered the oldest love poem and was performed during sacred marriage ceremonies. Additionally, the Classic of Poetry, also known as the Odes or Poetry, is an early collection of Chinese poems and songs containing 305 pieces from the 11th to the 7th century BCE.

This day was earlier celebrated on October 15. This was because Virgil, one of the greatest poets of Ancient Rome, was born on this day. In fact, many countries still celebrate Poetry Day on November 15. Countries such as the UK celebrate it on the first Thursday of October.

Why is World Poetry Day Celebrated?

Poetry is one of the oldest forms of art and literature known to men. It has always offered people a means to express themselves, their humanity, and their identity. Poetry allowed them to write about life, feelings, and thoughts.

Reading poetry enables us to find meaning in our experiences and existence, and to connect with others on a human level. Poetry is crucial for emotional development, not only in children but in adults too. It can help us look at things differently.

Poetry is a unique blend of language and forms such as rhythm, meter, and symbolism, that allow writers to evoke meaning and communicate ideas and feelings better than other artistic mediums. World Poetry Day celebrates all this! Poetry surpasses all linguistic barriers. It, therefore, promotes linguistic diversity and multiculturalism, allowing people to be heard.

By reviving the poetic oral tradition, and promoting poetry recitals, UNESCO aims to bring people closer together and connect them to the mutual feelings of humanity. Poetry talks about universal experiences to which many of us can relate. Poems that were written centuries ago are still relevant today. That is another one of poetry's beauties. 

And of course, World Poetry Day celebrates all poets: past and present: and honors their work, with the goal of inspiring future generations to try their hand at poetry, to stop it from becoming a dying art. 

Celebrated Global Poets

Poetry has a unique and interesting literary tradition that continues to have a huge impact and influence on other art forms. Every poet across the globe have their own distinct taste and voice and severe are internationally acclaimed. Here are some of the most renowned poets across the world?

  • William Shakespeare (1819-1892): His collection of poems, 'Leaves of Grass' is considered one of the most important pieces of American literature. 
  • Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941): Tagore, the Nobel laureate poet from India, infused his verses with profound spirituality and universal themes of love, nature, and human connection.
  • Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936): Kipling, the celebrated British poet, captivated readers with his rich storytelling, vivid imagery, and exploration of themes ranging from imperialism to the human spirit.
  • Sylvia Plath (1932-1963): Pioneer of confessional poetry. She is the first person to win a posthumous Pulitzer Prize. 
  • Maya Angelou (1951-2014): Recipient of over 54 prestigious awards. She is best known for her poem- 'Still I rise'. 
  • Dante Alighieri (1265-1321): He was an Italian poet of the Middle Ages, and he authored the Divine Comedy, pioneering the use of vernacular Italian in literature and influencing Western art profoundly. His vivid depictions of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven continue to inspire writers worldwide, earning him the title of “the Supreme Poet” in Italy.
  • W.B. Yeats (1865-1939):  Yeats, a towering figure of 20th-century literature, crafted verses that echo with Ireland's lore, mysticism, and allure.
  • Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207-1273): Jalāl al-Dīn Rumi's poetry reflects a deep exploration of love, spirituality, and the human experience, offering solace, inspiration, and insight to generations across the globe.

How to Celebrate World Poetry Day

On World Poetry Day government agencies, art organizations, communities, schools, and libraries usually organize some events to celebrate poetry and poets, such as readings, seminars, or lectures. See if there are any such events near you to connect with other poetry lovers. 

Why not try your hand at writing a poem? You don't have to show it to anyone, but it can ban an excellent way to let your feelings out. 

Promote and support poetry by attending a poetry recital, or even hosting your own poetry slam, giving budding poets the opportunity to be heard!

World Poetry Day
World Poetry Day

World Poetry Day - Next years

Friday, 21 March 2025

Saturday, 21 March 2026

Sunday, 21 March 2027

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