World Poetry Day is an international celebration – and for good reason. Words are powerful and one of the greatest, yet often most undervalued, tools we have to prevent inequality and change the world.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recognises the unique ability of poetry to capture creative spirit and so, in 1999, declared 21 March as World Poetry Day.
Beyond the Classroom
Image Credit: Pexels
Many schools will be involving staff and pupils in the celebration but World Poetry Day is also for those who have long left the classroom. UNESCO believes that: “poetry speaks to our common humanity and our shared values, transforming the simplest of poems into a powerful catalyst for dialogue and peace.”
Poetry speaks to our common humanity and our shared values, a powerful catalyst for dialogue and peace.
Our human rights were codified with peace in mind, and are based on values such as dignity, equality and shared humanity, so it’s easy to see how poetry can be a powerful advocate.
Poetry also teaches us empathy for others, with poet Kyle Dargan of American University claiming poetry “can help you see yourself in someone else’s struggle.”
Hang On, Is Poetry Still Relevant in 2018?
Image Credit: Mohammad Metri / Unsplash
One of the main questions surrounding World Poetry Day is whether it remains relevant in 2018, with some considering poetry a dying art form. However, such views may be based on outdated ideas of what constitutes poetry.
You could say we live in poetry
Juan Herrera, former American Poet Laureate
Today’s poets arguably include songwriters and rappers tackling some of the key social and political issues of our day. Juan Felipe Herrera, former American Poet Laureate, even believes poetry is at the heart of nearly all text, including ads and greetings cards. “You could say we live in poetry”, he told CNN in 2015.
Making the World A Better Place
Powerful video on hate crime from George The Poet and Equality and Human Rights Commission
Posted by RightsInfo on Friday, 9 March 2018
Video Credit: EHRC
Some modern poets, such as British spoken word artist George The Poet, are actively using poetry to make the world a better place. “Some people use poetry to express heartache but I use it to broadcast a message,” he recently told The Guardian.
The artist, whose real name is George Mpanga, understands the power of language as a tool for expressing thoughts, feelings and political beliefs creatively and he is not alone.
Some people use poetry to express heartache but I use it to broadcast a message.
George The Poet
South London rapper Stormzy was recently hailed in Parliament as a ‘poet laureate’ for Grenfell Tower after he used his performance at this year’s Brit Awards to call out Prime Minister Theresa May over the handling of last summer’s Grenfell Tower tragedy.
How Can We Get Kids Interested Too?
— Sophie (@sophiebrinkles) March 1, 2018
World Book Day recently did a good job of making the younger generation care about reading. From encouraging children to dress up as their favourite book character to handing out free book tokens, it’s about paving the way for kids to care.
If reading and speaking poetry were seen as an every day activity in schools and homes in the way that reading books is, then perhaps more people would participate in World Poetry Day.
‘You can’t fight violence with silence’
Image credit: Nicole Adams/Unsplash
With poetry slams, recitals, guest speakers and local and national exhibitions, this year’s World Poetry Day is set to be more interactive than ever before. Anyone of any age can use their voice to speak out for good, and start to make real change to the world around them.
If World Poetry Day 2018 helps to bring people together in understanding with each other then we’re a step closer to creating wider dialogues through poetry in future.
As George The Poet says, “You can’t fight violence with silence”. You never know, maybe this World Poetry Day, it’s time for poetry to have its ‘moment’ too.