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World Poetry Day 2021

UNESCO Creative Cities of Literature offer vibrancy and hope on World Poetry Day

UNESCO Creative 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 23 Cities of Literature are participating in World Poetry Day 2021: Bucheon, Dunedin, Edinburgh, Granada, Heidelberg, Iowa City, Kraków, Kuhmo, Ljubljana, 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.

Follow the social media hashtag: #WorldPoetryDay

Events in Reykjavík

In Reykjavik, the City of Literature will higlight local poetry on World Poetry Day with poetry videos and a podcast and the City Library will host a poetry café evening in the same week for the occasion.

Reykjavik City of Literature has put poetry in focus at the start of 2021. Local poets and one foreign guest are featured in 26 videos, filmed at the start of 2021 in Gröndal's House, a literary house run by the Reykjavík City of Literature. The poets read both their own poetry and poetry by other Icelandic and international poets, the latter in Icelandic translation. The City of Literature is also making new short videos in March, featuring four Reykjavík based poems by late poet Sigurður Pálsson, filmed on site in the city with a young local actor, Davíð Thor Katrínarson. The first of these short videos will premiere on World Poetry Day on the City of Literature‘s website and Facebook site and the rest will be published in the following week. They are also a kind of upbeat for the opening of a new square in the city centre, where lines from Pálsson‘s poetry will be engraved on the sidewalk and readings from his poetry made available to passers by on a poetry bench through a smart phone device. The renovated square will be ready late spring or early summer.

Furthermore, the City of Literature is launching a podcast chanel, and will start broadcasting poetry readings there on World Poetry Day.

In addition to this, the Reykjavik City Library is hosting a poetry café in WPD week, with three young and emerging poets, and this event is free of charge and open to all upon registration (due to Covid-19). These poets are Arndís Lóa Magnúsdóttir, Brynja Hjálmsdóttir and Dagur Hjartarson, and the host is a young writer, Júlía Margrét Einarsdóttir.

Reykjavík is also taking part in an online poetry exhibition at the new Manchester Poetry Library where books by Reykjavík poets Gerður Kristný, Kristín Ómarsdóttir and Sigurður Pálsson are among the featured works. 

Events in other Cities of Literature

Bucheon, Republic of 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.

Edinburgh, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

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.

Heidelberg, Germany

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 of America

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.

Kraków, Poland

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 poets.

Kuhmo, Finland

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.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

To celebrate World Poetry Day Ljubljana will make a 3-hour video of 21 poets, each reading one of their own poems and one other of their choosing. The traditional World Poetry Day 24-hour marathon poetry reading will take place later in the year on 11-12 September.

Lviv, Ukraine

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, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Manchester will create a film of poets reading their work outside iconic doorways to be broadcast on 21 March, and 2 of the readings will be of newly commissioned poetry. The event will be delivered in partnership with Manchester Poetry Library. Poets are invited to respond to the theme of the door as a portal. Poems are sought that give hope in dark times and see the door as a gateway or the start of a new journey. The poems will be broadcast on YouTube and social media.

Milan, Italy

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.

Nanjing, People’s Republic of China

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.

Nottingham, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

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.

Óbidos, Portugal

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.

Odessa, Ukraine

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.

Seattle, United States of America

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, Estonia

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 to keep past traditions alive.

Ulyanovsk, Russian Federation

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, Netherlands

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 on World Poetry Day 2021. Every 21st of the month subsequently Utrecht will 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 and handed out in bookstores in Utrecht as a luxurious postcard.

Wonju, Republic of 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 on the English Facebook page.

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.

About the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN)

Created in 2004, the UNESCO Creative Cities Network gathers 246 cities from over 80 UNESCO Member States, that have positioned culture and creativity as strategic enablers for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the local level. The Network covers seven creative fields that are Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts, and Music. 39 UNESCO Creative Cities of Literature from 28 countries are currently members of the Network and collaborate actively and closely to promote the power of literature for sustainable and inclusive societies.

For more information on the UCCN, please visit: https://en.unesco.org/creative-cities/home

Learn more about the UNESCO Creative Cities of Literature Network.