World Poetry Day

World Poetry Day Quick Facts - ZA

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2024 Date21 March 2024
2025 Date21 March 2025

World Poetry Day

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World Poetry Day History

World Poetry Day symbolises the celebration of creativity, language, and expression which recognises and promotes the use of poetry. Declared by UNESCO, the day aims to support the linguistic diversity found in society, thereby ensuring that people are able to communicate in their mother language. Poetry is an art form that bridges gaps and promotes constructive dialogue among cultures, creating an enriched exchange of human experiences and ideas.

The notion of World Poetry Day was first proposed at the 30th General Conference in Paris in 1999 and since then, it has been celebrated worldwide every year. For South Africans, the day holds a special significance as the country has a rich and diverse pool of languages, cultures, and oral traditions. Poetry has always been an essential medium for communicating personal, social, and political issues in South Africa, playing a crucial role during the anti-apartheid movement and in the current contemporary issues concerning politics, wealth inequality, and gender issues in the country.

In South Africa, World Poetry Day is commemorated with a range of activities including poetry readings, workshops, performances, and competitions in various languages to promote and appreciate local and international poets. This day serves as an essential platform to honour the contribution of significant South African poets such as Keorapetse Kgositsile, Mongane Wally Serote, Antjie Krog among others, and motivate the future generation to embrace this engaging art form. Annually, World Poetry Day is observed on the 21st of March, encouraging South Africans to engage in poetry to foster creative expression and linguistic diversity.

Facts about World Poetry Day

  • The oldest love poem in the world was written on a clay tablet during the Sumerian times, which was around 3500 BC.
  • William Shakespeare is most often praised for his work as a playwright however he also wrote several poems. They were just as well received as his plays, some are, The Phoenix and the Turtle, Fear no more the heat o' the sun, and from The Rape of Lucrece.
  • Mahabharata is the longest poem in the world. The Indian epic poem contains about 1.8 million words.
  • Famous South African poet, Keorapetse Kgositsile, was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga (gold) by the South African government in 2008 for his stellar contribution to the field of literature and using writing as a tool against racism. He was South Africa's National Poet Laureate.
  • The poetry during the apartheid era (1948-1994) was highly political, often serving as a tool of dissent and resistance. Major poets of this era include Mongane Wally Serote, Mbuyiseni Oswald Mtshali, James Matthews, and Dennis Brutus.

Top things to do in South Africa for World Poetry Day

  • Read up about riddles, rhymes, limericks and sonnets and then try to write your very own original poem. Once written, share it on social media as a picture or a note.
  • Go see a poetry slam show. It is often a dramatic performance in which poets recite their poetry. It is considered to be one of the most interesting ways of engaging poetry.
  • Attend the Dancing in Other Words Poetry Festival: This event is held in Stellenbosch, and gathers poets from around the world for performances, discussions, and seminars, celebrating the importance and impact of poetry.
  • Read a book learn more about Poetry in South Africa:
    The New Century of South African Poetry - by Michael Chapman
    Voices from Within: Black Poetry from Southern Africa - by Mafika Gwala

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