World Poetry Day

World Poetry Day

In 1999, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) declared March 21st as World Poetry Day to “give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements.”

During an interview with BBC Jo Shapcott, poet, professor, and former president of The Poetry Society (now that’s some alliteration), was asked “Why does poetry need to have a special day?”  Her witty response was, “That’s a bit like asking why we need birthdays. Of course poems are always there, every day, and readers will continue to find them and enjoy them whenever they like. But why not celebrate poetry once a year (at least) in a more public way.”

Quill Pen Ink and Parchment EsbinAnderson Omni-Photo Communications Inc Universal Images Group via ImageQuest

To find a particular poem to celebrate use the Litfinder database to look up poems by title, author, or keyword.  Once you’ve located the poem you’ll find author bios and interpretations of the work linked in to your search results.  See the poem linked below for an example:


I’m Nobody! Who are You?

By Emily Dickenson


I’m nobody! Who are you?

Are you nobody, too?

Then, there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!

They’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!

How public, like a frog

To tell your name the livelong day

To an admiring bog!


The Naxos Spoken Word Library offers classical poetry dramatically read aloud.  Listen to the likes of T.S. Eliot read T.S. Eliot or sound-off some Shakespeare sonnets.  Hearing poetry read aloud can make interpreting the meaning of the words much easier, especially Shakespeare.  Primary sources more your speed? Search the American Memory site for original document scans of poetry by late great poets like in the Walt Whitman Notebooks.

If you’re looking for ways to teach poetry to students or if you’ve ever wanted to get started writing poetry yourself consult the Professional Development Collection for lesson plans, activities, and innovative technology.  Try the search string: “POETRY (Literary form) — Study & teaching” AND “TEACHING aids & devices” to get you started.

Literary Criticism databases like the Literature Resource Center can assist you in interpreting a specific poem, finding info about an author, and reading what the critics are saying.  All of these facets can be helpful in writing a paper or creating a presentation. 

Also consult the Database by Subject list Language, Literature, and Poetry  for genre specific databases like Latino Literature, African American Poetry, Scottish Poets, American Poetry, and more!

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