World Poetry Day is celebrated globally on March 21. It is observed in many countries and cultures. Poetry has always been a universal language of expression. Creativity and language connects us across cultures and brings us together through our shared humanity. The opportunity to observe the date this year in 2022 will be powerful. Consider the saying by English author, Edward Bulwer- Lytton, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Words can be weapons, but they can heal. Let us take this World Poetry Day 2022 and embrace it’s powerful and transcendent abilities.
Origins of poetry
The inception of World Poetry Day began in 1999. UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization founded the date. UNESCO writes, “with the aim of supporting linguistic diversity through poetic expression and increasing the opportunity for endangered languages to be heard“. Prior to the 20th century, other calendar dates marked the observance of world poetry. Initial dates were based on the birthday of the Roman poet Virgil. UNESCO officially moved the date to the spring. This was to mark the birth of fresh and new language across various world cultures.
The first poetry appeared around 4,000 years ago in ancient Babylonia. World poetry pre-dates written text. It was often shared through oral traditions. Many early civilizations kept their traditions and culture alive through shared song. Poetry has been found recorded on cave walls, on stone tablets and monoliths! The Tale of the Shipwrecked Soldier is one of the oldest existing written poems in the world. The story was recorded on papyrus and is of unknown origin. I love this lively reading of the story! My son loves Egyptian stories and he and I really enjoyed listening to this one. World poetry offers a window into so many time periods and cultures.
Additionally, the Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the other earliest surviving works of literature. It hails from Mesopotamia and was written sometime during 2000 BC. I remember being introduced to this one at various times in school. (Although, certain parts are left out in your younger years, whew what a doozy!) As an epic poem, it is one of the foundations in literature for the hero’s journey structure.
I always think of the Madonna song when someone says, “Express yourself.” Is it just me? Come on girls! Anyway, poetry is an incredible form of self expression. Poetry is an abstract form of writing and can take so many shapes through it’s creation. I love the fluidity of it and how it reflects the unique qualities of it’s author. The ability of poetry to evoke deep emotion from readers is truly remarkable.
Poetry spans everything from sonnets, epics to rap lyrics. I still remember the Romeo and Juliet act/ scene rap a student did years ago as one of the best and most unique personal interpretations of the work I have ever seen as an educator. The roots of poetry lie in the exploration of the human condition and the innate power of words to evoke human emotion.
Moments in time
Some poems are so powerful and reflective of the times that they make us stop in our tracks. In recent times, Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem, The Hill We Climb stands out. Gorman, a 22 year old black poet blew America away on January 20th. Her words were STRENGTH and evoked the voice of America. Everyone stopped to listen to her. Gorman has since skyrocketed to fame and recognition for her talent and unique voice.
Remember that speeches are a form of poetry! The tone, inflection and cadence of the words delivered are a form of spoken word poetry. Consider some of the great orators of modern times such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Winston Churchill and Frederick Douglas. We didn’t get a chance to hear Cicero speak, but by all accounts he was magnificent in his delivery as well.
Who can be a poet?
While we can’t all be Amanda Gorman or Keats, ANYONE can be a poet. If you have feelings and emotions, put pen to paper and get it out there! Poems can be about anything, everything and even nothing. That is why it is so great, so universal and so attainable to everyone. This week, Macklyn put together some wonderful poetry prompts to use with your students or your children at home.
We can always write about our inner selves and use poetry as a form of self- expression. Look also at the world around you. What do you see and feel in your environment? What are the seasons and how does that affect us emotionally and physically? Invoke all of your senses- see, hear, smell, taste and touch the world around you. Spring is in the air! This, for me, is a wonderful opportunity to shed that winter funk and find freshness. I won’t be so corny as to say something cliche here, but the opportunity screams for it.
Spring is in the air!
Start with these spring themed prompts:
These are great prompts for young, budding (see what I did there?) writers and even older ones alike. I did them myself just for fun and shared them with my middle schoolers today! Acrostic poems are always fun and kids love them. You can use ANY word. We chose spring to fit our theme, but you can use your name, your school, your family last name, anything! Each line then begins with the letter of the word spelled out one by one on each line. Always a fun activity!
Everyone loves to rhyme! With the recent Read Across America celebration and Dr. Seuss’s birthday, we are always reminded how fun it is to rhyme. Rhyming is silly and offers teachable moments. You can us the Flower Rhyme activity to make two flowers with your choice of rhymes. Consider printing out multiple pages and making a whole bouquet of flowers with your kids at home or having a whole classroom of flower rhymes! This alternative activity is best done on card stock so you can mix and match your Rhymes! These rhymes are geared towards younger learners.
I love seeing kids interested in writing and being excited about it. Using poem structures helps a lot of reluctant poets and writers blossom (did it again). Much like the acrostic poem above, another great way to get kids writing is by using a cinquain poem format. Cinquain poems are sort of like ad libs. You have a specific amount of syllables for each line you write, but you are filling out the words of your own choice. For our Cinquain Poem activity, we are going easy on the writers and not dictating a set amount of syllables, but instead focusing on the selection of words. There is also an optional space to add a picture or comic of your poem!
Sometimes we get stuck with what to write about, why and how. One of my favorite beginning writing formats is to use this Bio Poem format. With this activity, your poem is focused entirely on the writer. Who are you? What do you like and love? Is there something that you don’t like or are even afraid of? Consider your dreams and feelings. Get all of this down on paper using our prompt and it often sets the stage for creating a great poem!
Remember to just be authentic. Your poems are from you. Writing is a process. If you aren’t satisfied with the first go- round, keep writing and revise until you feel like it is fully baked.
Happy spring! Leave us a note in the comment with your favorite poem! We’d love to hear from you.
Courtney is an MTT tutor, academic coach, and blog contributor for MTTES. If you check out our FB and Instagram pages, you might see her giving a storytime with her son Jack through the company’s Facebook Live service. Courtney’s love of the English language, learning, and creative writing inspired her to contribute relevant content to teachers, tutors, parents, and homeschoolers seeking support across an array of trending topics. She and her teacher husband have two small children and reside in Baltimore, MD with their dog Lottie May.