World Poetry Day is an International Day of Observance that falls on March 21st each year. UNESCO international days are celebrations of different, and important, aspects of life, history and calls to action on many issues. They are for everyone around the globe; an opportunity to link in with others to celebrate a common theme for the benefit of humanity.
World Poetry Day celebrates “one of humanity’s most treasured forms of cultural and linguistic expression and identity.” UNESCO explains that World Poetry Day is the 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.”
While it is wonderful if you can mark an International Day of Observance on the appropriate day, it is also positive if you can use the days as inspiration for your own subsequent celebrations and as triggers for further professional development on the theme.
Making the most of poetry
Dr Gary Snapper, National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE) Secondary Officer, sees wide benefits to be had from poetry in schools. He explained, “Poetry has traditionally been a focus for close reading and literary analysis in the English curriculum, and this continues to be a rewarding and significant role for poetry in education, especially when classes are given the chance to explore and discuss the meanings, forms and effects of poetry in a way that stimulates their interest and enthusiasm and allows them to voice their own views and feelings.”
NATE sees that these benefits and pleasures of poetry in school can and should go far beyond this function, however. Dr Snapper said, “Students should have the opportunity to choose and read poems simply for pleasure, and to be introduced to powerful and important poems even when they are not to be studied for exams, so that they can begin to experience the aesthetic power and purpose of poetry in the world beyond the exam hall. Similarly, they should have the opportunity to hear, recite and perform poetry, experiencing its physical and aural sensations, its musical qualities. And they should have the opportunity to be poets themselves, feeling at first-hand what it is like to craft language. All of these activities and experiences are likely to help them to read and analyse poetry better, to become more accomplished at writing and understanding what writers do, to appreciate why poetry can be so powerful and distinct from other written forms, and, crucially, to enjoy poetry as an aesthetic form as well as a critical discipline.”
Poetry in focus
If you are keen to turn the spotlight on poetry in your school in the coming months, using World Poetry Day as inspiration, these ideas may help:
Find out more about it
The UNESCO website carries useful information on this day of observance as well as what UNESCO does for poetry, including the UNESCO Creative Cities of Culture Creative Cities | Creative Cities Network (unesco.org). The UNESCO Creative Cities Network was created to “promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development.”
Use it for CPD
According to UNESCO, at their root, “UN International Days contribute to the achievement of the purposes of the UN Charter and promote awareness of and action on important political, social, cultural, humanitarian or human rights issues.” Use these days to spread important messages throughout your school about poetry and its use and value. Raise awareness across the curriculum of how poetry might support and extend learning and aim to harness the ways in which poetry can promote reading for pleasure. If indicated, source some training to support you in teaching and using poetry.
Poetry in all its forms
Encourage the use of poetry in all its forms across the curriculum. Reading poetry, writing it, listening to and watching performances of it, learning about poetic form, are all ways of encountering poetry.
Focus on inclusion
Poetry is for everyone, and there are poems out there for every mood! Check out the poetry resources you have available to you in your school and aim to expand them if they are thin on the ground. Is your school population reflected in the poets you have access to in your library and classrooms?
Run some competitions
A poetry slam (a competitive event where poets perform their poems in front of an audience and judges) is a fun way for children and young people to get their poetry heard. You could also run a poetry writing competition for some prizes of poetry books. Use these events to really showcase the talents in your school.
Decorate your schools’ walls and corridors with poems, long and short. Inspire young readers with quotes from poems and poets dotted around the school, in unexpected places. Pop-up poetry recitals and poetry nooks can inspire, too.
As Dr Snapper explained, “NATE has consistently argued for a rich and creative poetry curriculum and is proud to support events such as World Poetry Day and Poetry By Heart, which are really important in helping schools to broaden and strengthen what they do with poetry both in English lessons and beyond.”
There is much to be derived from a vibrant and committed approach to poetry in schools. While it is great to have poets visiting the school, if that is not possible, delving into the wealth of poetic content online is sure to enrich your offering to children. As The Guardian wrote, “Poetry is about response, not regurgitation; the joy of intellectual inquiry; the free play of the spirit.” Let’s use World Poetry Day 2022 to reinvigorate our engagement with poetry and all that it can bring us.
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world. Elizabeth has also taught on education courses in HE and presented at national and international conferences.