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.
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.
Written poetry apparently surfaced around 2000 BCE. 'Epic of Gilgamesh' is considered to be the oldest poetry that originated in Mesopotamia.
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 in a different way.
Poetry is a unique blend of language and form 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 American Poets
The United States has a rich literary tradition that continues to have a big impact and influence on other arts. American poets in particular have a distinctly American voice, and many are internationally acclaimed. Here are some of the most famous American poets, do you know any of their work?
Walt Whitman (1819-1892): His collection of poems, 'Leaves of Grass' is considered one of the most important pieces of American literature.
Robert Frost (1874-1963): Frost won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry four times!
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886): One of the most celebrated American poets, whose work unfortunately only gained recognition after her death.
TS Eliot (1888-1965): The leader of the Modernist movement in poetry. He is the author of 'The Waste Land'.
Langston Hughes (1901-1967): Leader of the Harlem Renaissance and Civil Rights activist.
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963): Pioneer of confessional poetry. She is the first person to win a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849): Best known for his three poems- 'To Helen', 'The Raven', and 'Annabel Lee'.
Charles Bukowski (1920-1994): Best known for his poems depicting urban life and the exploited section of American society.
Maya Angelou (1951-2014): Recipient of over 54 prestigious awards. She is best known for her poem- 'Still I rise'.
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.
Want to learn more about American poetry? Research some American poets and their work or, better yet, if you are close to Washington DC, pay a visit to the American Poetry Museum.
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!