World Poetry Day is celebrated on 21st March each year, since 1999 when UNESCO first adopted the day for this purpose. As poetry began as an oral tradition, UNESCO’s aim was to promote readings and spoken word to give a voice to all communities across the world. Poetry gives us all the opportunity to express ourselves as with theatre, dance, music and painting, therefore it is hoped that World Poetry can ‘restore the dialogue’ between the arts and help individuals within society with their sense of identity.
Our favourite poems…
For this year’s World Poetry Day, we invited our Library and Learning Services teams to share their favourite poems. It was great to have such a positive response to this and the diverse range of choices really inspired us. There really is something for everyone!
Poets from across the globe; American, Persian, Irish, Scottish, and English, were all represented, with quotes, photographs, artwork, and readings.
We even gained an insight into the bindings and covers of much-loved poetry. Sheila from our Academic Engagement Team shared ‘Selected Poems by Rupert Brooke’ in a video for Twitter. Over 100 years old having been published in 1919, it’s clearly a treasured item.
Michelle, one of our Academic Engagement Librarians, recommended Rumi’s ‘The Guest House’ as ‘a good guide to dealing with life’s ups and downs’. She discovered this poem when the Emergency Poet visited Edge Hill in her vintage ambulance. In Michelle’s ‘appointment’, Deborah Alma (@emergencypoet) prescribed poems based on what you told her, essentially the ‘symptoms’ presented in the ambulance consulting room.
Laura from our Admin Team also shared Persian poetry, specifically the poem ‘Words are alive…’ by Mandana Zandian from ‘A Thousand Years of Persian Poetry by Women’. In addition to this Laura also shared an extract from Christina Rossettt’s ‘Remember’.
‘Poetry feels like a dream. No matter how many syntactic analysis and theme and meaning discussions are made around a poem, it will remain as a secret that cannot be completely revealed. I read in three languages, but I only master one and therefore that’s the one I usually seek in order to fully enjoy poetry, as I believe the soul of a poem is always lost in translation. A shame, and equally, part of its magic.’ – Laura Granda
Claire, who works in our Student Engagement Team also submitted a favourite poem, ‘From a Railway Carriage’ by Robert Louis Stevenson. On this poem Claire says, ‘I’ve always loved this poem, just as much as I love a good train journey too. The rhythm of the verses is like the sound of the carriages chugging along, it lulls you along whilst you’re reading.’ You can read the poem here and note when reading aloud, how much the rhythm of the verse captures the rhythm of the train, taking you along for the ride.
As with the previous poem, reading poetry aloud can really enrich understanding and enjoyment, creating a more immersive experience. Dee from our Collections and Archives Team has provided us with readings of two of her favourite poems, ‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’ by W. B. Yeats, and Spike Milligan’s ‘True Love’. Both poems come to life in her readings. Bill, a Helpdesk Adviser, provided us with a reading of an original poem of his, entitled ‘Time and Tide’, accompanied with a film of his creation. Bill wrote this poem whilst completing his Masters’ dissertation at Edge Hill. For some background to the poem you can visit Bill’s poetry blog here.
Julie, our Student Engagement Manager, also shared a reading, of Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven’ read by Christopher Lee. You can listen to it here. His deep voice and inflection really adds to the suspense and macabre tone of the poem.
Poems featuring nature were also popular, with Kerri, another of our Helpdesk Adviser’s submitting ‘Her Voice’ by Oscar Wilde. Kerri’s photograph, taken at Crosby Beach and featuring a moody sea and sky, really captures, ‘from the mighty murmuring mystical seas, And the wave-lashed leas.’
I chose Sylvia Plath’s ‘Tulips’, although it was hard to choose just one poem from her vast poetic output. In this poem the tulips are described in stark contrast to their bland setting, labelled as ‘too excitable’ against the ‘how white everything is’ of the clinical hospital room. Although the poem can seem quite sad in parts, I feel the presence of the tulips brings balance to the scene, to signify healing and a reason to be hopeful.
We even had a cat participating, with thanks to Geraldine in CAT* (ha) for contributing on her behalf! Nina certainly challenges our assumptions on cats’ preferred poems. With her nose stuck in T.S. Eliot’s Selected Poems it would appear she favours The Waste Land over Old Possum. Who knew?! For those of you who differ from Nina, you can borrow Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats from the library.
*CAT is our abbreviation for the Collections and Archives Team!
To explore poetry, poetry criticism, reviews or creative writing texts search the library catalogue and/or Discover More (which has a wider range of electronic resources and journal articles). If there’s a text or article you require for University educational or research purposes and it is not already available via our holdings, you are welcome to submit a request via our You want it, We get it service.
World Poetry Day | United Nations – The origins and purpose of World Poetry Day.
Poetry Foundation – Poems, readings, poetry news and the archive of Poetry magazine.
Poetry Archive – a not-for-profit organisation. It produces, acquires and preserves recordings of poets reading their own work out loud.
National Poetry Day – An initiative of the Forward Arts Foundation. National Poetry Day is celebrated later in the year on 7th October 2021. There is a wide range of resources available via their website including a Toolkit for Schools. An asset for those of you on teaching placements, ‘for inspiration, any day of the week’.