Poetry, like any other form of art, bonds us as humans together. Poetry, in whatever language, can convey, question and explain feelings that we may have otherwise been left wondering if we are alone in feeling. Whether you’re an office worker in Barcelona or a builder in Bristol, poetry can communicate the innermost desires and feelings in a way that makes sense to the audience.
That is why the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) created world poetry day back in 1999: to continue oral poetry traditions, encourage reading of poetry and to further the teaching of poetry.
“Every form of poetry is unique, but each reflects the universal of human experience, the aspiration for creativity that crosses all boundaries and borders of time, as well as space in the constant affirmation of humanity as a single family. That’s the power of poetry!” – Audrey Azoulay, Director-General, on World Poetry Day
Across the world, people and groups choose to celebrate world poetry day in a variety of ways:
United Kingdom – European Poetry Festival 2020
London is famously the birthplace of Robert Browning in 1812, Christina Rosetti in 1830, and Samuel Taylor-Coleridge in 1834, just to name a few of the countless writers and poets born in the city. London’s poetic traditions continue into the present day with one of the UK world poetry celebrations. 26 countries will be represented in Shoreditch, London on Saturday 4th April (although this may change due to the coronavirus outbreak). Described as “a night of playful, experimental literary and avant-garde poetry”, it promises to be an exciting, contemporary take on the ancient tradition of performing oral poetry recitals. Many other events that are part of the festival are taking place in October.
Spain – Granada International Poetry Festival
Situated in the autonomous region of Andalusia in southern Spain, Granada is a member of the prestigious group of UNESCO cities of literature. Birthplace and home of poets dating back to Yehudá Ibn Tibón in 1120 and leading up to Federico García Lorca in 1895, the city has a rich historical relationship with poetry. According to UNESCO, Granada hosts hundreds of literary events each year, the most prestigious of which is the Granada International Poetry Festival (FIP). The most recent iteration of the festival will feature 60 of the city’s poets performing and reading at 25 different bookshops around the city, to mark the beginning of spring.
The University of Granada is famous all over the world for its promotion and teaching of literary excellence, and even at the rare times when there is not a literary event of some kind on, poetry enthusiasts will find something to do. The city is home to a vast network of bookshops, and theatres.
Portugal – DISQUIET International Literary Program
Between June 21st and July 3rd, Lisbon plays host to the world-famous DISQUIET International Literary Program. The event brings together writers from around the world to take part in intensive workshops on not only poetry, but fiction, non-fiction and many other forms of writing also. Founded on the idea that:
“All writers need a community to support and sustain them. That stepping out of the routine of one’s daily life and into a vibrant, rich, and new cultural space unsettles the imagination and loosens a writer’s reflexes”
The event includes activities such as literary walks, discussions and workshops designed to shake up and reinvigorate experienced and amateur writers alike in the birth city of Fernando Pessoa, one of the most influential poets in not only Portugal, but arguably the world. Born in 1888 (seems like the 1800s was a great time for poets!), Pessoa wrote under a variety of pseudonyms in order to portray his varying views on the world and is today considered one of Portugal’s greatest exports.
Cyprus – International Festival for Young Poets
With a focus on inspiring the poets of tomorrow, rather than past, famous poets, the International Festival for Young Poets, held in Chipre, Cyprus uses the unique geographic position of the island to bring together views from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. At this festival, poets are encouraged to perform in their native language, regardless of how obscure it is, and listeners treat each reading as though listening to a piece of music, with the idea being that exposure to foreign languages makes them less threatening. The festival is focused on the use of poetry to form border-defying friendships. It really demonstrates the power of poetry!
France/Ireland – Franco-Irish Literary Festival
Finally, in a joint effort from the French Embassay in Ireland, and the Alliance Française, Dublin, the Irish capital hosts a festival designed to celebrate the vast cultural exchange between these two nations that has been running for over 20 years. Each year focuses on a particular theme, with 2020 being based around “Making a Better World”.
Dublin is another UNESCO city of literature, owing to James Joyce, Oscar Wilde and author of Dracula, Bram Stoker all living there at some point in their lives. Dublin also earned this prestigious title through their continuing fostering of writers and poets, recognising the importance of creativity through financial programmes and policies designed to boost support for the creative arts. The Franco-Irish Literary Festival is just one of these initiatives, and is set to take place between the 3rd and 5th April this year.