World Poetry day takes place annually on 21 March. It was created by the United Nations Education Scientific And Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 21March 1999 and has been held annually since then, in order to promote reading, writing, publishing an teaching of poetry throughout the world and to “give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements” and support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to also offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their own communities.
Poetry is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning. The word Poetry is derived from a variant of the Greek term, poiesis, “making”)
Poetry has a very long history, dating back to prehistorical times with the creation of hunting poetry in Africa, and panegyric and elegiac court poetry was developed extensively throughout the history of the empires of the Nile, Niger and Volta river valleys. Some of the earliest written poetry in Africa can be found among the Pyramid Texts written during the 25th century BCE, while the Epic of Sundiata is one of the most well-known examples of griot court poetry. The earliest Western Asian epic poetry, the Epic of Gilgamesh, was written in Sumerian. Early poems in the Eurasian continent evolved from folk songs such as the Chinese Shijing, or from a need to retell oral epics, as with the Sanskrit Vedas, Zoroastrian Gathas, and the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Ancient Greek attempts to define poetry, such as Aristotle’s Poetics, focused on the uses of speech in rhetoric, drama, song and comedy. Later attempts concentrated on features such as repetition, verse form and rhyme, and emphasized the aesthetics which distinguish poetry from more objectively informative, prosaic forms of writing.
Poetry uses forms and conventions to suggest differential interpretation to words, or to evoke emotive responses. Devices such as assonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia and rhythm are sometimes used to achieve musical or incantatory effects. The use of ambiguity, symbolism, irony and other stylistic elements of poetic diction often leaves a poem open to multiple interpretations. Similarly, figures of speech such as metaphor, simile and metonymy create a resonance between otherwise disparate images—a layering of meanings, forming connections previously not perceived. Kindred forms of resonance may exist, between individual verses, in their patterns of rhyme or rhythm.
Some poetry types are specific to particular cultures and genres and respond to characteristics of the language in which the poet writes. Readers accustomed to identifying poetry with Dante, Goethe, Mickiewicz and Rumi may think of it as written in lines based on rhyme and regular meter; there are, however, traditions, such as Biblical poetry, that use other means to create rhythm and euphony. Much modern poetry reflects a critique of poetic tradition playing with and testing, among other things, the principle of euphony itself, sometimes altogether forgoing rhyme or set rhythm. In today’s increasingly globalized world, poets often adapt forms, styles and techniques from diverse cultures and languages.
World Poetry Day is also meant to support poetry, encourage a return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, and to promote teaching poetry and restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music, painting and so on, it is also designed to support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media so that the art of poetry will no longer be considered an outdated form of art but one which contributes to creative diversity.
World Poetry Day is also an invitation to reflect on the power of language and the full development of each person’s creative abilities and to encourage the free flow of ideas by word, creativity and innovation by questioning anew our use of words and things, our modes of perception and understanding of the world. Through its associations, its metaphors and its own grammar, and to promote the idea that poetic language is another facet of the dialogue among cultures.