Celebrating Language and Diversity on World Poetry Day

Back in 1999, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared March 21st World Poetry Day. This holiday, rumored to have origins dating as far back as the 1930s, is celebrated in hundreds of countries throughout the world. World Poetry Day is a great opportunity, especially for teachers and educators across the globe, to meditate on the power of language and celebrate each individual’s ability to contribute to a world of creative diversity.

Poetry’s familiar use of metaphors, similes, unique associations and even grammatical nuances makes it an excellent medium for people to use in order to examine and participate in the dialogue between cultures.

By reinforcing innovation and encouraging the act of questioning everyday words, ideas and our understanding of the world, poetic language renews our global perception of people, life, and self-expression.

Poetry, Social Media, and Linguistic Diversity

“In a constantly evolving world, a world of rapid change and social transformation, poets have a presence alongside civil movements and know how to alert consciences to the world’s injustices as well as encourage appreciation of its beauty,” says Irina Bokova (Director-General of UNESCO) in support of World Poetry Day.

Irina goes on to discuss the unique potential that social media presents to the world, especially with respect to the many different styles of short messages that are in constant circulation on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere.

The social media revolution that seems to have taken place in the last 5+ years is “breathing fresh life into poetry,” while supporting creativity and the constant sharing of ideas through poetic language.

This, Irina says, “help(s) us engage more fully with the world.”

Top Ways to Celebrate World Poetry Day

The main focus for celebrating World Poetry Day is to support poetry, reinvigorate oral traditions of story-telling, promote poetry teaching, encourage small publishers, and reinforce poetry in the media as a modern art form.

With that in mind, here are some ideas for hosting your own poetry event:

  • Classroom Activity: talk to your students about different ways readers can approach a poem.
  • Pick a Poet to Study: Poets.org has hundreds of poets and over 1,000 poems.
  • Use Poetry to Teach Reading: encourage students’ acquisition of language skills through poetry reading.
  • Poetry vs. Prose: Explore the difference between poetry and prose through critical thinking and strategic analysis.