UNESCO Cities of Literature strive every day to improve life outcomes and wellbeing for their communities. As the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic, the network continues to engage collectively with readers in imaginative ways to leverage the power of words to offer unity and strength for cities and communities during these difficult times.
Granada UNESCO City of Literature in Spain leads the Cities of Literature World Poetry Day initiative each year, and the theme in 2021 is ‘Reconnecting People’. Granada will host three events: a public outdoor event in the Sacromonte neighbourhood, with live-streamed readings by over 50 poets and pre-recorded greetings broadcast from other Cities of Literature;Poetry Slam Granada, at the University of Granada, where 10 poets will compete to be judged best by the public; and an ‘emergency poetry’ event, where poets from the Slam Poetry circuit will deliver poetry readings over the telephone.
A grand total of 22 Cities of Literature are participating in World Poetry Day 2021: Bucheon, Dunedin, Edinburgh, Granada, Heidelberg, Iowa City, Kraków, Kuhmo, Lviv, Manchester, Milan, Nanjing, Nottingham, Óbidos, Odessa, Québec City, Reykjavik, Seattle, Tartu, Ulyanovsk, Utrecht and Wonju. Their activities will honour poets and celebrate one of humanity’s most treasured forms of cultural and linguistic expression. Other Cities of Literature are poised ready to share and celebrate these initiatives widely across their own social media platforms. World Poetry Day 2021 will be highlighted in this way across the globe, and the Cities of Literature hope to bring moments of joy and solace to the world in a variety of ways.
Bucheon, South Korea
In Poetry Therapy Week poems by seven poets, curated by the Civic Poet on the theme of ‘Reconnecting People’, will be introduced online each day for a week.
Dunedin, New Zealand
Primary school children, aged 6 to 8 years, will participate in free poetry workshops in their classrooms throughout the week. The programme, City of Literature Primary Possibilities, will be run with award-winning poet Liz Breslin. Together the children will create an original poem as a group, bringing young voices to the City of Literature’s Possibilities Project. Posters will be designed and printed afterwards featuring each of the poems for the schools to exhibit.
The Poetry Path will highlight poems from throughout Edinburgh’s literary history, and celebrate the links between them. Each poem featured in the social media campaign will link to the one before, either through its theme, or with interesting trivia about the poet. Throughout the day a digital poetry path will be built which links some of the city’s oldest poetry with contemporary work, and takes the reader on an online walk of words. Also, in a discussion hosted by the National Library of Scotland, Serena Field will have a relaxed conversation with Alexander McCall Smith about his new poetry collection,In a Time of Distance.
In ‘Bei Anruf: Poesie’: Poetry by dial, 17 poets from Heidelberg will call lovers of poetry by telephone across the city and the region and will read their own poems aloud. Poets and listeners will be matched by the cultural departments. The action (which will take place from 3pm-6pm) will allow an intimate and exclusive poetic interaction in times of social distancing and restrictions.
Iowa City, United States
A Spotify playlist of Iowa City-related poets will read their work and rework a walking tour of literary Iowa City to highlight poetry-related stops. These playlists will be open and accessible to anyone and will be shared on Iowa City’s website.
World Poetry Day will be marked in Kraków with various initiatives including a video message from a local poet; the announcement of highlights of the year-round poetry programme in Potocki Palace and Miłosz Poetry Festival, as well as the new ICORN writer in residence in Kraków; projections of poetry on walls in Polish and English; a conversation about Miłosz recorded in his apartment; and recorded readings by citizens of Kraków to honour the 100th birthday of 3 local poets.
Kuhmo will launch a cycle of videos featuring local poets and showcasing their poems, attitudes, and influence on the world. The videos will be available in both the Finnish and English languages and will be published for World Poetry Day on the Kuhmo City of Literature YouTube channel.
Poetry readings will take place in four libraries in the city and suburbs, where anyone can read a poem that touches on the theme of ‘Reconnecting’. This online marathon will be broadcast on Lviv’s City of Literature and Central Library System websites and social media.
Manchester will create a film of poets reading their work outside iconic Manchester doorways to be broadcast on 21 March, and two of the readings will be of new poetry commissioned for World Poetry Day. The event is being delivered in partnership with Manchester Poetry Library and poets are invited to respond to the theme of the door as a portal. Manchester is seeking poems that give hope in dark times and see the door as a gateway or as the start of a new journey. The readings will be broadcast on YouTube and social media.
In the online event Poeti in parallelo – Poetas en paralelo 60 guest poets – 25 from Cuba, 25 from Italy and 10 from Spain – will be paired up to offer readings of one poem each, in their mother tongue. The readings will be combined with projections of images or video art, inspired by the characteristics of the work of each author, thus creating a collection of poetic videos to be broadcast on the City of Literature YouTube and Facebook. Also an open-air event, Liturgia (laica) della parole,will take the form of a silent march, interrupted from time to time by a poem, an extract or a thought, dedicated to Culture – a counter-clockwise roundabout, symbolising an attempt to turn back time to a celebration of life.
At the World Poetry Day Roundtable poets and critics will discuss the importance of poetry in modern life, with featured performances and salons presenting the convergence of poetry, dance and music. Parallel celebrations will take place at various places, including bookshops, Nanjing University, primary schools, the city wall, and museums for groups that include students, children, and the visually-impaired.
City of Literature partner Nottingham Trent University is celebrating World Poetry Day with the launch of its online poetry anthology, The Story of Us, produced by members of its extracurricular Writing Reading and Pleasure (WRAP) programme. From 1-21 March, WRAP will share a poem a day online as well as videos from writers. The poems explore the past, present and future, writing new worlds into existence. Also Nottingham’s ‘Poets Against Racism’ collective is planning an online poetry event for UN-Anti-Racism Day and this event will also be shared on World Poetry Day.
With World Poetry Day at its heart, the Óbidos Poetry Festival will run for over a month with the following highlights: poetry recitation by both the local community and professional actors; children’s workshops; radio programmes and podcasts; and the inauguration of literary residencies and the new public library and story centre.All activities are available on YouTube.
World Poetry Day will be celebrated as part of Odessa’s online International Literary and Musical Festival Music of Words from 19 to 22 March. The programme will feature poetry recitation; a literary and musical concert; and a gala concert in the Litmuseum including an awards ceremony.
Québec City, Canada
The poetry festival, Le Mois de la Poésie, is offering a series of poetic podcasts available throughout March. The Amuse-bouches, spécial poésie podcast will be launched on World Poetry Day and available on Facebook and YouTube, with an actor and musician teaming up to read original poems.
Following Reykjavík’s celebration of poetry in February 2021, when a new poetry video was posted every day from the dawn to dusk reading on New Year’s Day, during the week of World Poetry Day there will be an open poetry event at the Reykjavík City Library. Local poets will perform, and poetry readings by Reykjavík poets will be published on the City of Literature‘s new podcast.
Seattle, United States
Seattle will celebrate World Poetry Day with its Civic Poet and a collective of womxn-identified poets. They will present Womxn and Whales First, Poetry in a Climate of Change.
Tartu will celebrate World Poetry Day with an online poetry programme. Everybody is invited to record and send in poetry videos, either original works or the works of others. The event is not limited by language and videos are welcomed from all parts of the world, especially from the Cities of Literature, for posting on a dedicated Facebook page during the day. Four poetry videos by local poets will be premiered, pre-recorded in cafes and bars which, although sadly without the audience this time, will keep past traditions alive.
Ulyanovsk will offer a Poems by e-mail initiative for World Poetry Day. Everyone across Russia will be invited to fill out a short online form, including an e-mail address, a brief message regarding content and preferred language, and the City of Literature Office, together with student volunteers studying literature, will choose a relevant poem. On World Poetry Day, the first 150 people to submit a form will receive poetry by e-mail. The event will celebrate the unifying role of poetry.
Utrecht is commencing a new initiative, A year of poetry and a patchwork of poetic languages. New talent Yentl van Stokkum will write the first 3 lines of a poem that will be published, both in Dutch and in English, on World Poetry Day 2021. Every 21st of the month subsequently Utrecht plans to publish 3 new lines by a poet from a City of Literature in reaction to the expanding poem. On World Poetry Day 2022 the finished poem will be presented online, sent to the participating Cities, and handed out in bookstores in Utrecht as a luxurious postcard.
Wonju, South Korea
In alignment with the theme ‘Reconnecting People’, 5 active local poets will read their work in Korean, and will be recorded. One film will be uploaded each day for 5 days, along with the illustrated poems, on both the Korean language Facebook page and in translation on the English Facebook page.
For more information
About World Poetry Day: World Poetry Day takes place on 21 March, and was first declared by UNESCO during its 30th General Conference in Paris in 1999, with the aim of supporting linguistic diversity through poetic expression and increasing the opportunity for endangered languages to be heard.