“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 DAYPoetry 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 TIMELINE18th Century B.C.The First Book of PoemsThe “Epic of Gilgamesh” is among the earliest works of documented poetry.14th CenturySonnets are CreatedFrancesco Petrarca’s writings are some of the most famous early ‘sonnets.’1999An Ode To…UNESCO marks March 21 as World Poetry Day at its 30th General Conference in Paris.March 21, 2000The First CelebrationThe first World Poetry Day is held.