“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” — Writer Elizabeth Barrett Browning dedicated this iconic poem to her husband Robert Browning but her famous sonnet could just as easily declare love for poetry itself. We can all do that on World Poetry Day, on March 21. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) founded this day in 1999. Poetry uses rhythms and imagery to elicit emotion and the imagination of the reader. Poetry can rhyme, using what are called meters of long and short syllables. Some poetry, written in what’s called ‘free verse,’ doesn’t employ rhyme or meters. Poems are broken into stanzas, which are like paragraphs, and can be up to 12 lines long. We believe the first known poem appeared 4,000 years ago in Babylon. Today, countless types of poems are available to enjoy, including haikus, limericks, sonnets, and ballads.
History of World Poetry Day
Poetry is a beautiful form of expression. No other type of literature creates such a plethora of feelings and emotions as the abstraction of poetry. The earliest poetry is believed to have surfaced with the “Epic of Gilgamesh” some time during 2000 B.C., but it is likely that poetry existed even before the spread of literacy. Different types of poetry have trended during different eras, and undergone transformations. From sonnets to rap lyrics, the core purpose of poetry remains the same — to explore the human condition and invoke emotion through words. Poetry resonates with the existential dilemmas of mankind, exhuming ideas from deep within.
World Poetry Day is celebrated every year on March 21, celebrating a linguistic expression that people from all cultures can identify with. Poetry can be found in the history of every nation, and brings us together under shared values and common humanity. The most basic of poems have the power to stir dialogue.
The day was proposed and adopted by UNESCO in 1999, on the occasion of its 30th General Conference held in Paris to “give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements.” The organization hoped to inspire the celebration of poetry all over the world, preserve endangered languages, and stimulate poetic expression through this day. Poets, both past and present, are honored, and oral traditions of reciting poetry are revived. Reading, writing, and teaching poetry are encouraged, and converged with other mediums of expression such as music, dance, painting, and more.
World Poetry Day timeline
The “Epic of Gilgamesh” is among the earliest works of documented poetry.
Francesco Petrarca’s writings are some of the most famous early ‘sonnets.’
UNESCO marks March 21 as World Poetry Day at its 30th General Conference in Paris.
The first World Poetry Day is held.
World Poetry Day FAQs
How do we celebrate World Poetry Day?
World Poetry Day is celebrated all over the world with poetry festivals and events, online and offline. People also post and talk about poetry and their favorite poets today. UNESCO offers social media kits and other resources to help people learn more about poetry.
What day is National Poetry Day?
National Poetry Day in the U.K. is celebrated on a Thursday in late September or early October.
Is April National Poetry Month?
Yes, every year April is set aside for National Poetry Month.
How to Observe World Poetry Day
Write a poem
What better way to celebrate and promote poetry than by writing one of your own poems? If you don’t know where to start, try something small first. A haiku is a simple, three-line poem of five, then seven, then five syllables. Haikus can be funny or serious and typically focus on nature. Once you’ve got the hang of that, try your hand at free verse. A poem to your secret love, perhaps?
Visit the American Poetry Museum
Check out the American Poetry Museum in Washington, D.C, a building dedicated to celebrating poetry all year long! It was founded in 2004 and is known as one of the first of its kind to collect and feature poetry. The museum offers special exhibits to learn about the art form and famous poets, and hosts events and workshops for patrons to learn even more.
Host a poetry slam
Gather up your most literary friends for a night of fun and rhymes. Turn your living room into a makeshift coffee shop and prepare to give snaps to the performers. Friends can read one of their own works or one of their favorites from another author. No need for prizes (unless you want to get competitive!) — just get together to share in the celebration of poetry.
5 Famous Quotes About Poetry
"A poet’s work to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it from going to sleep."
“Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.”
“Always be a poet, even in prose.”
“Poets are shameless with their experiences: they exploit them.”
“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity.”
Why World Poetry Day is Important
Poems are for everyone!
Sometimes people are hesitant to try out poetry, thinking it can be hard to understand. But have no fear — there’s a poem out there for you! Thinking about simplifying your life and taking some time to relax? Read the works of Henry David Thoreau. Need to read something about triumph and overcoming adversity? Try Maya Angelou. Need something a little silly to remind you of your childhood? Check out Shel Silverstein: “If you’re a bird, be an early early bird. But if you’re a worm, sleep late.”
Poetry is all around us!
Are you a big fan of music? Then you’re a secret poetry fan! The cadence and rhythms of poetry are just like those of your favorite pop song or rap. With a few extra beats and melodies behind them, songs convey emotional messages and meanings, just like poetry. They even employ a lot of the same writing devices like metaphors and alliteration.
It starts a new generation of poetry lovers
On World Poetry Day, teachers and classrooms around the world take time to celebrate poems and poets and get their students excited about the writing style. Poetry competitions, poetry slams, and readings are held to let new and emerging poets try out their work and showcase their talents!
World Poetry Day dates