World Poetry Day 2020

by Rebecca Raeburn
Communications, Edinburgh
City of Literature Trust

16 March 2020

Cities of Literature come together across the globe to celebrate World Poetry Day.

Held every year on 21 March, World Poetry Day celebrates one of humanity’s most treasured forms of cultural and linguistic expression and identity.

UNESCO first adopted the day as World Poetry Day during its 30th General Conference in Paris in 1999, with the aim of supporting linguistic diversity through poetic expression.

Many of the UNESCO Cities of Literature had originally organised various live events to celebrate the Day, however, these have since been cancelled due to the ongoing difficulties and challenges faced by COVID-19. Instead, the decision was made to bring the celebration online.

The global outbreak of Coronavirus (COVD-19) has impacted many of the UNESCO Cities of Literature across the world, and we send our thoughts and admiration to all those working daily to protect the safety and well-being of their citizens.

In light of this, our City of Literature network hoped to find a way to bring poetry to the people of the world, with the belief that the Day can still be celebrated online, hopefully providing some light and hope in these challenging times.

World Poetry Day in Edinburgh

Edinburgh City of Literature will be working with the Scottish Poetry Library to celebrate the day online.

The Scottish Poetry Library have pulled together a list of podcasts from their collection that fit the global theme of World Poetry Day. These will be shared on the hour, every hour throughout the day, using #WorldPoetryDay from the SPL twitter account @ByLeavesWeLive.

They’ll also be sharing some quotes from the poetry they have on their website, so there will be plenty of content to read through and share.

World Poetry Day in other Cities of Literature


Reykjavík City of Literature has made six videos 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 the poem's meaning for them. The first video will be published on Reykjavik City of Literature's Facebook and Twitter at noon on Saturday (Icelandic time), with the rest following at the same time each day thereafter, finishing on Thursday.

In addition to this, they will host an online poetry flash-mob on Facebook, starting on 21 March (12.30pm 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 in a public setting. #WorldPoetryDay


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'.


Heidelberg would have celebrated the 250th birthday of German poet Friedrich Hölderlin with a festival this weekend.

With this being cancelled, a group of Heidelberg authors will do a live reading, titled: Des dunklen Lichtes voll (a Hölderlin quote meaning 'full of dark light').

The reading will take place Friday 20 March (Hölderlin´s birthday). The videos will also be shared on World Poetry Day.


Krakow City of Literature traditionally introduces the programme of the Miłosz Festival on World Poetry Day. Instead, local poets will read their favorite poem by Czesław Miłosz. The videos will be published on the festival's Facebook page.


Kuhmo in Finland is the home of the epic Kalevala poem. On World Poetry Day, Kuhmo City of Literature will share the Kalevala in different languages (such as Italian, Russian, Vepsian and Vietnamese) on their 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 on the website Dichter fan Fryslan.


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


Across Twitter and Facebook, Manchester City of Literature will be sharing a series on Manchester poets on the theme of trees and nature, due to 21 March also being 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 encouraged to share their favorite poetry on the theme of trees and nature.


In Melbourne City of Literatuere, Voz Limpia​ is hosting a multidisciplinary event that seeks to unpack a poem, reinterpreting it as a multisensory experience. The group will tackle the question: what can be done to deliver the most inclusively conceptualised experience of a poem?

This event will be published online. Anyone, anywhere, can join its launch on 21 March (7pm Australian local time) by following this link here.


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 on 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, people will be encouraged to make home videos of poetry readings and share them on social media and on Tartu City of Literature's Facebook page.


Ulyanovsk City of Literature also encourages people to share poetry online.

Through bringing World Poetry Day online, the UNESCO Creative Cities of Literature hope to bring moments of solidarity, joy and solace to the world at this difficult time. Join us online and help us leverage the power of culture and creativity, and enhance communication between cities and communities across the world.