On March 21, World Poetry Day celebrates one of the most appreciated forms of expression. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed this day in 1999, to “support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities.”
World Poetry Day promotes the reading, writing and teaching of poetry, merges poetry and other art forms, and raises the visibility of poetry in the media. As a poet, I know it is a beautiful form of expression. No other type of literature creates an abundance of feelings and emotions. Different types of poetry have trended during different eras. From sonnets to rap lyrics, the core purpose of poetry remains the same – to explore the human condition and invoke emotion through words.
The truth is, poetry is not everyone’s cup of tea. Many people find it confusing, unrelatable, and even boring. It doesn’t help that most people’s first introduction to poetry was probably a forced assignment during an English class. You were given a poem and asked to analyze the meaning of it and probably didn’t where to start. It was a struggle back then, but maybe somewhere in the mix, it might have gotten you thinking. How can these words carry so much hidden meaning, or how can a sentence sound one way but mean another?
For example, Sylvia Plath’s Daddy, a confessional poem addressed to her late father, reads like a playful nursery rhyme, yet gives us a dark, disturbing picture of a girl attempting to rid herself of her father’s oppressive presence in her life. It reflects the complicated relationship that Plath had with her father before he passed when she was just eight years old.
Another example is Ego Tripping by Nikki Giovanni. The first time I read this poem, I couldn’t believe how bold and unapologetic it was. The poem is an anthem for Black women. It is meant to inspire pride in their lives. The rhythm of each line takes hold of your attention and won’t let go. To hear Giovanni read this poem – Oh my goodness!
As John Keats wrote in a letter, “we hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us.” In other words, he’s saying that poetry seems to get worse the more it seems interested in lecturing and instructing us, usually about things that we already know and agree with.
However, I do believe that poetry has social and political uses. The usefulness of poetry has less to do with delivering messages and more to do with what poems can do to our language. This pulls us into a different type of awareness.
When things happen in the world, people turn to poets to express the universal feeling, whether good or terrible. It is powerful when a poem finds its way to the biggest issues in our social lives. It can be simple, complex, challenge traditional ideas, and has been used as one of our most powerful mouthpieces for activism and change.
Amanda Gorman’s Inaugural poem, The Hill We Climb, is a prime example of how poetry can so powerfully be used to command the world’s attention. Its significance was a combination of the current political and social climate we were in, her powerful delivery of the poem, and the deep urgency we, as a country, had for change.
How can you celebrate World Poetry Day? Here are a few ways:
Read a poem
A great resource for a wide selection of poems is Poets.org. You can sign up to receive a poem delivered to your inbox daily.
Write a poem
For poets, this is a great time to submit your work to competitions or even on social media for others to enjoy. Poets & Writers magazine provides an extensive list of publishers in every issue that you can choose from. Even if you’re not a poet, try your hand at a haiku or sonnet.
Share a poem
Choose one of your favorite poets and share their poems on social media. Discover poets that you may have heard of but have never enjoyed their work.
Find an event
At Poetry.org, you can search for events happening in your area and online. This has been a great resource for me so that I can stay abreast of things happening.
Put on a poetry reading or event
Just a couple of weeks ago, a poet friend of mine hosted an Instagram Live to honor International Women’s Day. She read some of her poetry, as well as some of her favorite Black women poets. It was amazing! I can’t tell you how many poetry readings and events I have attended online, since the pandemic. It’s something that you can do easily on social media or Zoom.
Visit your local library or bookshop
Libraries and bookshops all over the country celebrate World Poetry Day. Stop in and see what special events they have going on, and don’t forget to pick up a poetry book while you’re there.
Many parents are also still homeschooling their children. There are many fun ways to introduce children to poetry such as children’s poetry books and hands-on activities.
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Archuleta is an author, poet, blogger, and host of the FearlessINK podcast. Archuleta's work centers Black women, mental health and wellness, and inspiring people to live their fullest potential.