It might not be as glamorous as Valentine’s Day or as appetising as Easter (mmm, chocolate eggs), but World Poetry Day is an annual event that deserves a place in everyone’s calendars.
Celebrated every year on the 21st of March since 1999, World Poetry Day was proclaimed during UNESCO’s 30th session, and aims to celebrate and promote poetry readings, publishing and teaching, while also encouraging a healthy bit of writing for the artists in all of us.
The ‘World’ in the title of the festival isn’t just meant to signal its presence across the globe. The day also aims to support linguistic diversity, while offering endangered languages an appealing platform.
It might not be a coincidence that the official proclamation of the day occurred at around the same time spoken word performances started gaining popularity. While World Poetry Day celebrates all aspects of the art form, it especially encourages poetry recitals. This pays homage to the origin of poetry, which started life across the world as spoken art, but also looks to the future of the form. UNESCO hopes that poetry recitals will discourage the view of poetry as an outdated art form only taken seriously by academics, but will once again be open to wider audiences across the world.
There is no one way to celebrate World Poetry Day, though many cities across the globe host specialised readings or events aimed toward a wider public than poetry recitals might usually attract. Last year, Nottingham Trent University hosted a celebration of women’s poetry at their Clifton Library, but the event was also available to live-stream, overcoming geographical boundaries and making itself available all over the world.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 might be dampening many in-person events, but there are plenty of ways to celebrate World Poetry Day in quarantine. I’ll be reading some of my favourite poets (who at the minute are Jay Bernard and Tony Harrison), checking out slam poetry on Youtube and browsing ZARF’s substantial backlog. I’ll be cooped up in London, but that won’t stop me from checking out the works of Nottingham’s local DIY Poets to celebrate art from our city.
Wherever you are, we hope you make some time for yourself and indulge in some poetry this 21st of March — you might even be inspired to set up a live stream reading with your friends!
And if you’re looking for something uplifting amongst all the chaos in the world, CNN dedicated some airtime for ‘Lockdown’, a poem by Brother Richard Hendrick which explores the brighter side of despair.
This post was written by Matteo Everett
@MatteoEverett1 is a freelance content creator for Citylife, and has previously written for the Nottingham Post and Explore Politics. He’s also the founder and editor of Trapocul. Matteo edited Impact Magazine from 2016-2017, and has published poetry under the name Teo Eve in 404 Ink Magazine and the ‘Voices’ poetry blog. His microstory, ‘To Be Seen’, is one of the winners of UNESCO Nottingham City of Literature’s ‘MyVoice’ competition.