Held every year on 21 March, World Poetry Day celebrates one of humanity’s most treasured forms of cultural and linguistic expression and identity. Practiced throughout history – in every culture and on every continent – poetry speaks to our common humanity and our shared values, transforming the simplest of poems into a powerful catalyst for dialogue and peace.
UNESCO first adopted 21 March as World Poetry Day during its 30th General Conference in Paris in 1999, with the aim of supporting linguistic diversity through poetic expression and increasing the opportunity for endangered languages to be heard.
World Poetry Day is an occasion to honour poets, revive oral traditions of poetry recitals, promote the reading, writing and teaching of poetry, foster the convergence between poetry and other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, and raise the visibility of poetry in the media. As poetry continues to bring people together across continents, all are invited to join in.
World Poetry Day 2020
In 2020 Manchester City of Literature held an online celebration of poetry from 21 poets, whose poems included trees, to share the festivities with World Forest Day. The poets we featured included:
Roma Havers, Esther Koch, Nasima Begum, Shirley May and John McAuliffe.
World Poetry Day 2021
This year we worked in partnership with Manchester Poetry Library to commission poets to create new work on the theme of ‘doors as portals’ and create a poetry film, featuring iconic doors from around the city, which was broadcast at 11am on Sunday 21st March 2021.
Carnegie and Greenaway nominated writer Dom Conlon explored the unassuming and forgotten doorways; poet and theatre-maker Roma Havers who has previously been commissioned by MIF, MLF, Manchester Histories and HOME wrote about survival and joy; poet, producer and translator Ali Al-Jamri cast a light on the gates at Albert Park and belonging; and Jerwood-Arvon nominee, writer and journalist Andrew Oldham created a piece ‘I have become the Green Man’, all about the greening of urban spaces.
The film also includes new work from poet, artist and video film-maker Imtiaz Dharker. Dharker was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2014 and has been commissioned by Manchester Poetry Library, only the fourth such library in the UK, to create a series of poems to celebrate its opening this year, with the first of these shared in the film below.
Also featured are other UNESCO Creative Cities, Granada City of Literature in Spain and Slemani City of Literature in Iraq. In celebrating World Poetry Day, UNESCO recognises the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind.