World Poetry Day 2020

I have written two World Poetry Day posts before, in 2016 and 2018, so why not again in 2020, particularly given, more than any year, we are probably in need of hearing what poets have to say – of being soothed, inspired, entertained, or yes, even admonished by them. says of World Poetry Day:

Poetry reaffirms our common humanity by revealing to us that individuals, everywhere in the world, share the same questions and feelings. Poetry is the mainstay of oral tradition and, over centuries, can communicate the innermost values of diverse cultures.

In celebrating World Poetry Day, March 21, UNESCO recognizes the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind.

They explain that the day was adopted by UNESCO in 1999, and that one of its main objectives is “To support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities.” Observing the day is, they say, also “meant to encourage a return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, to promote the teaching of poetry, to restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, and to support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media”. Wonderful goals, all.

UK’s Global Dimension website provides ideas for recognising the day, including, of course, “organising readings of poems from different cultures, including from pupils’ own cultures.” Well, that’s not going to happen now, in the UK or anywhere, is it, with COVID-19 and the cancellation of public events. However, the page points us to the Wikipedia Poetry page as a good starting point for investigating different forms of poetry. They also, and this is just what we need, provide a link to a site called Poetry Station which offers “poems to view on video”. It was established after the English & Media Centre (EMC) was awarded in 2009 a small Arts Council of England grant for a pilot project to create “a freely accessible web-based video channel and portal for poetry”.

What a lovely aspirational site it is – and, it is also available as an app, simply called Poetry Station. For each poem, as well as the videoed performance, there is a link to information about the poet (often from Wikipedia), to suggested activities (for educators) and also a list of related poems which, of course, are linked to performance of this poems. The site also lists the poets, titles and topics for the poems on the site.

And in Australia?

A Google search brings up various cancelled events in Australia, run by organisations like the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre and Gosford Library. As in previous years there are also non-poetry reading activities being promoted or run. Golden Carers has a page of activities on their website (as I also noted in my 2018 post), and Reading Australia, which regularly support the day, is running a World Poetry Day competition for primary and secondary students and teachers, with the support of Red Room Poetry. (I’ve mentioned both organisations here before).

For those interested in Australian poetry, there are many sites and sources of information – many that I’ve mentioned here over the years – but for today, I’m sharing a list of Australian poetry books from the National Library of Australia bookshop.

Finally, not specifically created for World Poetry Day, but unfortunately applicable, is Australian comedian Sammy J’s recent offering, “The ballad of the dunny roll”, which riffs off the classic Australian balladeer Banjo Paterson. I think both Aussies and non-Aussies will appreciate this:

Leonard Cohen, 2009

Leonard Cohen, Bowral, January 2009

I’d love to hear about any poetry you like, or your favourite poets.

Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with what seems a very appropriate line, from Leonard Cohen’s “Dance me to the end of love” (available at the Poetry Station.)

Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in.

Keep safe everyone.

18 thoughts on “World Poetry Day 2020

  1. Hahahaha! That was an excellent ballad! the toilet paper shortage is a thing in the US too and I have no idea why. James and I were laughing that of all the pandemic, contagion, virus movies we’ve seen, not one ever included toilet paper.

    I just finished reading some Rumi. I am currently reading a collection by Marge Piercy, To Be of Use and a collection by James Richardon, Interglacial.

    Happy World Poetry Day!

  2. Lovely, ST ! 🙂
    I have a favourite poem, but its creator is not my favourite poet. I can still remember writing a letter to my beloved father, in the days of my youth – far-flung from home and from him and trying to speak to him of my love. I should like to write it out here (for I know every word by heart and it’s only three stanzas), but will merely say that it’s Rupert Brooke’s “The Jolly Company”, and provide a quote – the same one use by SF writer John Wyndham in his book ‘The Outward Urge’:
    “{…}For, all the night,
    I heard the thin gnat-voices cry,
    Star to faint star, across the sky.”

  3. I think the loo roll panic is because there was a scarcity of the stuff during the ‘three day week’ in the UK in the early 1970s. I heard a man in a shop saying that he remembered that (as do I) and he was stocking up, nowadays it doesn’t take long for word to get around, but there’s no reason for there to be a lack of loo rolls because of the virus. Mind you crazy people are just stripping supermarkets of just about everything. I loved that poem.

    • Ah that’s interesting Pining. I haven’t heard of any specific memories causing the panic here though there’s been much discussion about it. Our supermarkets are being stripped too including of perishables like potatoes. There was not one left the other day . Is it because more people are cooking at home instead of going out?

      Glad you loved the poem.

  4. My personal domestic crisis is that we are facing a lack of muffins. I bake muffins twice a week, and The Spouse who does the shopping at our little local supermarket tells me that they’re out of plain flour.
    O woe is me, our fate is clear
    No muffins to be had right here
    Maybe a Tim Tam? Perhaps a crust?
    Or snack on an apple if snack we must?

    • Ha ha good one, Lisa. Flour, pasta, rice are all low here. And, the other day, there was not one potato in the supermarket but fortunately the little green grocer that we like to use did.

      I like your muffin tradition. Always the same flavours?

      • No… when I have fresh whey from making yoghurt I use an American recipe, and when I don’t have any I use a recipe with either honey or golden syrup. I vary the fillings with both these basic recipes according to what’s on hand: apricots, dates, raisins, currants, sultanas, walnuts, almonds and cashews plus last week I had some dried cranberries which were nice too. Once you have a basic recipe you can add anything you like.
        At the moment we have a glut of zucchini and I add dried fruit and/or nuts according to what’s already open in the pantry. So they’re never the same twice. Last year we had a lot of pumpkin scones, but this year our vine climbed up over the fence and into next door’s yard and apparently *our* pumpkins are happily growing on their deck. They’ll share, of course:)
        When they moved in, The Spouse gave them a jar of home-cured olives, made from their own olive tree which is hanging over our side of the fence. We might get some passionfruit from their vine in due course too!

        • I expected you would vary them, and it sounds like you vary them a lot! I used to make muffins – before my gf days which means before 1986 so as you can see a long time ago. My favourites were blueberry for sweet and corn (using polenta with the flour) for savoury. I guess there are probably some decent gf muffin recipes around but I’v sort of lost the interest. Mr Gums would love the dried cranberry ones – he eats craisins by the handful (well, spoonful anyhow!)

          I wouldn’t mind some passionfruit! They and mangoes are among my very favourite fruit so I’m always sorry to see the summer fruits disappearing from the shelves.

          Anyhow, it’s nice to se neighbourly sharing of produce!

          (PS I had to edit this entry as I had “se” instead of “see”. The “e” on my laptop keyboard is very flaky making certain passwords, including the one INTO my laptop itself, hard to get right!!)

      • My dear Lisa Hill;
        I think it quite ill
        that an apple be seen
        as almost – well, mean !
        Indeed, ma’am, you risk it
        to say that some biscuit
        of chocolate-jam dapple
        ‘s preferred to an apple !

  5. Hi Sue, I love Leonard Cohen’s lines, I have, The Little Black Songbook . My grandson who is 16 writes quite good poetry. At the moment I am reading Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror & the Light, and ‘verse’ between lovers is getting them into deep trouble with Cromwell. “When he (Cromwell) gets home he says to Gregory (his son), “Never write verse,” But I say long live poetry.

    • Haha, Meg … although I don’t read a lot of it, I completely agree. How nice that your grandson is writing it. My daughter used to write some in her teens but doesn’t these days I believe.

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