World Poetry Day

Saturday, March 21st is World Poetry Day. Many of the UNESCO Cities of Literature had organized various events on the occasion, all of which have now been cancelled due to Covid 19. Instead, some of the cities will do online activities to celebrate the day, Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature included.

These past weeks has seen a global outbreak of Coronavirus (COVD-19), including in many UNESCO Cities of Literature across the world. Our thoughts and admiration go out to all those who are working every day to protect the safety and wellbeing of their fellow citizens around the world.

During this evolving situation we have seen UNESCO Cities of Literature make the unprecedented, but essential move to re-design World Poetry Day so that the network can continue to celebrate as far as possible in a digital space.

Several cities of literature have taken their World Poetry Day events online with poetry readings, flash-mobs, videos and publishing on digital platforms. The activities will honour poets and celebrate one of humanity’s most treasured forms of cultural and linguistic expressions. Other Cities of Literature are poised ready to share and celebrate these initiatives widely across their own social media platforms.

World Poetry Day will thus be highlighted across the world, even on this troubled March 21, 2020. The Cities of Literature hope to bring moments of joy and solace to the world and to leverage the power of creativity in offering unity and strength to cities and communities during these difficult times.

Reykjavik City of Literature's Events

Imposter Poets

Reykjavík City of Literature has made six viedos with the poetry group Svikaskáld (Imposter Poets). The poets are Fríða Ísberg, Melkorka Ólafsdóttir, Ragnheiður Harpa Leifsdóttir, Sunna Dís Másdóttir, Þóra Hjörleifsdóttir and Þórdís Helgadóttir.  In these short videos, they read poetry by other poets, from Iceland and other countries, and tell us about their choice and the poems' meaning for them. The first video will be published on Facebook and Twitter noon Saturday, Icelandic time, and the other ones will follow at the same time each day, finishing on Thursday. 

Online flash-mop

In addition to this, the Reykjavík City of Literature hosts an online poetry flash-mop on Facebook, starting on March 21st. at 12:30 Icelandic time. People are encouraged to take part by posting home videos with poetry readings and/or a photo of a favorite poem on Facebook with this status:

Lets lift each other up with poetry! March 21 is World Poetry Day. Which poem or song lyric do you cherish or find interesting, amusing, uplifting? Or are you a poet yourself and want to share your own text?
Read it for us in any language or take a photo of it, post it on your wall and tag Reykjavík City of Literature – @Reykjavík Bókmenntaborg UNESCO.
Preferably post with public setting.

Among the people taking part are Iceland's first lady, Eliza Reid, who is also one of the founders of Iceland Writers Retreat, Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature project managers, some of the staff at Reykjavík City's Department of Culture and Tourism, local writers, translators and literary scholars. The hope is that more people will follow.

Other poetry events in iceland

At these times of social distancing many artists and cultural institutions around the world are sharing art and culture online. The National Theatre of Iceland, in cooperation with the National Broadcasting Service RÚV are inviting Icelanders to choose poems that are performed on the theatre's main stage, for an audience of one. The performance is simultaniously streamed on RÚV's website, for all of us to enjoy. The initiative is called „Ljóð fyrir þjóð“ (Poetry for a Nation). 

Another online event is the Multilingual Poetry Night, hosted by the Book Towns in Iceland. This is usually an on-site event, but due to current events the hosts decided to try an online version this year. The idea is to fill the internet with poetry in every language possible. 

events in some of the other cities of literature


Baghdad City of Literature will celebrate World Poetry Day with online activities on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube with the title "Poems for a City". 


Edinburgh's Scottish Poetry Library will be sharing a poetry podcast from their collection from the house at every hour throughout the day. You can tune in at the Scottish Poetry Library website


Heidelberg would have celebrated the 250th birthday of German poet Friedrich Hölderlin with a festival this weekend. As that is cancelled,  a group of Heidelberg authors will do a livestreamed reading, titled: „Des dunklen Lichtes voll“ (a Hölderlin quote meaning "full of dark light".

The reading will take place Friday night, March 20th, on the date of Hölderlin´s birthday, from 8 - 9:30 pm on YouTube. The videos will also be spread on World Poetry Day.

The programme also has a Facebook event.

Furthermore and together with Mannheim City of Music and the city of Lorsch which is also nearby, Heidelberg started this year to celebrate World Poetry Day regionally publishing their events on that day on a common website:


Krakow City of Literature traditionally introduces the programme of the Miłosz Festival on World Poetry Day. This year, instead some local poets will read their favorite poem by Czesław Miłosz. 

The videos will be published  on the festival's Facebook site.


Kuhmo in Finland is the home of the world known Kalevala poem.  On World Poetry Day, Kuhmo City of Literature will share the Kalevala in different languages, such as Italian, Russian, Vepsian and Vietnamese. Follow Juminkeko's, a center of the Kalevala, YouTube channel


Frisian Poet Laureate, Nyk de Vries, has written the poem ‘Down with a Cold’ (English translation by David Colmer) on the Corona-crisis. His poems are published in Frisian, Dutch and English and can be found, along with poetry by his predecessor on the website Dichter fan Fryslan.


The poet Ignor Dejan Koban will read his poetry as well as a selection of poems by other poetrs throughout World Poetry Day live on Ljubljana City of Literature's Facebook site


Manchester City of Literature hosts and online mini series combining poetry, trees and nature. Across Twitter and Facebook they will be sharing a series on Manchester poets with pieces connecting to trees and nature as Saturday is also World Forest Day. The poets range from Aisha Mirza and Nasima Begum to John McAuliffe and Michael Symmons Roberts. Throughout the day under the #WorldPoetryDay hashtag Manchester City of Literature will share specific poems in text or as a video recording.

People will also be to share their favorite poetry connected to trees and nature. 


In Melbourne City of Literatuer, Voz Limpia​ is hosting an event of a multidisciplinary group of people unpacking a poem and reinterpreting it as a multisensory experience. 

Together they will tackle the question of what can be done to deliver the most inclusively conceptualised experience of a poem.
Given the current restrictions on public gatherings this weill be presenten online, and anyone can join the launch of the project at 7 pm local time on March 21at by following this link.
The participating artists are:

Jaime Wilson, actor, teacher and theatre director, Emiliano Beltzer, a multi-instrumental musician from Argentina living in Melbourne, Walter Kadiki, one of Australia’s leading Deaf poetry performers, Mito Elias, multi-disciplinary artist, Saras Windecker, ecologist based at University of Melbourne specialising in software development for research, Mollie Jackson who is currently completing an Executive Master of Arts at Melbourne University focusing on diversity and inclusion, particularly in relation to the LGBTQIA+ community and other intersections of identity, Lorraine Brigdale, artist and proud Yorta Yorta womans and Rachel Wood, Auslan Interpreter.

Presented by A Voz Limpia and Revarena Ediciones.

A Voz Limpia is a literary collective and independent publisher that gathers poets, storytellers and writers of all persuasion, mostly in Spanish, mostly in Melbourne. ​


Nottingham City of Literature will host an online celebration of World Poetry Day and World Forest Day in collaboration with Sherwood Forest. Follow the event and hear narratives budding online at Nottingham City of Literature's website.


Obidos City of Literature will share poetry from other UNESCO Cities of Literature online.


Oddesa City of Literature will host online readings of poetry on their YouTube channel


In Tartu, Estonia, people are encouraged to make home videos of poetry readings and share them on social media and on Tartu City of LIterature's Facebook site.


Ulyanovsk City of Literature also encourages people to share poetry online, whether by Russian poets or international ones.