World Poetry Day is celebrated on March 21 each year. UNESCO sponsors this day to recognize the moving spirit of poetry and its transformative effect on culture.
When was the last time you bought a poetry collection or read poetry by a poet from outside your own country?
Some teachers will incorporate the day into a lesson, but for most of us not in school, we will need to find our own world poetry.
It could be the very popular Chilean poet Pablo Neruda reading some of his poems at the United Nations during an homage to his accomplishments: Listen here.
Most American readers are likely to have read world poets in English, but even listening to poets from other cultures and languages might be a new experience.
UNESCO's Director-General, Irina Bokova, wrote in her message on the event:
The poet Pablo Neruda wrote, “poetry is an act of peace.” Poetry is unique in its ability to speak across time, space and culture, to reach directly the hearts of people everywhere. This is a wellspring for dialogue and understanding – this has always been a force to challenge injustice and advance freedom. As UNESCO’s new Goodwill Ambassador for Artistic Freedom and Creativity, Deeyah Khan, has said, all art, including poetry, “has the extraordinary capacity to express resistance and rebellion, protest and hope.”
Poetry is not a luxury. It lies at the heart of who we are as women and men, living together today, drawing on the heritage of past generations, custodians of the world for our children and grandchildren. By celebrating poetry today, we celebrate our ability to join together, in a spirit of solidarity, to scale and climb “the cloudy summits of our time.” We need this to take forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to implement the Paris Climate Agreement, to ensure no woman or man is left behind.
Here is a video example of Al-Taghrooda, traditional Bedouin chanted poetry, which is composed and recited by men travelling on camelback through desert areas of the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Short poems are improvised and repeated between two groups of riders often as antiphonal singing. The most important aspect is the social bonding during the oral exchange of verses. Al-Taghrooda is also chanted at weddings and other festivities, particularly camel races. Its themes range from romantic love, friendship, praise of tribal ties, aspirations to the settlement of disputes and contemporary themes.