UNESCO Cities of Literature Celebrate World Poetry Day

A Global Gathering of Poets

To mark this year’s World Poetry Day, Reykjavík and our colleagues across the globe are linking up to hold simultaneous literary events in several UNESCO Cities of Literature. In Reykjavík, the day will start with a poetry morning for children at the City Library, followed by a lunch hour event at the University of Iceland and closing off with a poetry happening in Hólavallagarður cemetary and a social gathering of poetry lovers at Gröndal's House.

Celebrated yearly on March 21st, World Poetry Day is the occasion to honour poets and celebrate one of humanity’s most treasured forms of cultural and linguistic expression. Practiced throughout history – in every culture and on every continent – poetry speaks to our common humanity and our shared values, transforming the simplest of poems into a powerful catalyst for intercultural dialogue and peace. It is an art form that, more than any other, demonstrates the transformative power of words.

Events in Reykjavík

Children's Poetry Morning

World Poetry Day in Reykjavík will start with a poetry hour for children at the Reykjavík City Library. Preschoolers will be invited to the libraries for some poetry readings and they will get to take part in choosing the poetry by selecting their favorite poetry-cards that the library has made.

Poetic Lunch Hour

Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature and MA-students in Creative Writing join hands and celebrate the World Poetry Day at the University of Iceland Squere, Háskólatorg. This is the first time that the City of Literature celebrates this day in Reykjavik and therefore we find it appropriate to elevate new voices by organizing the event in cooperation with the Creative Writing department at the University of Iceland. The poets that will read from their work are Þórdís Helgadóttir, Jóna Kristjana Hólmgeirsdóttir, Þorvaldur Sigurbjörn Helgason, Lára Kristín Sturludóttir, Ásta Björk Sveinbjörnsdóttir, Hlín Leifsdóttir and Una Björk Kjerulf. 

Poetry books will be given special space in the University Bookshop, at Háskólatorg and we encourage poetry lovers to come to the University Squere and enjoy their lunch together with some poetry readings.

The event will be streamed on Facebook.

Before the Before - Poetry Happening in Hólavallagarður Cemetary

Join us at 6 pm on World Poetry Day in Hólavallagarður, the largest Icelandic cemetery from the 19th century. Local authors will read work in their language of choice in different locations throughout the cemetery simultaneously over the course of an hour. Visitors are invited to walk around and listen to the voices as well as the active birdlife as this is also the day after the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, marking a time of equilibrium between day and night. The event will start at 6 pm beside the grave of poet and author Benedikt Gröndal, next to Suðurgata. 

Many Icelandic poets are buried in the cemetery, including Benedikt Gröndal, Ólöf frá Hlöðum, Herdís and Ólína Andrésdóttir, Hannes Hafstein, Indriði Einarsson, Þorsteinn Erlingsson, Guðrún Lárusdóttir, Snorri Hjartarson and Sveinbjörn Egilsson. On World Poetry Day, we celebrate the poets who came before with the present multi-lingual voices of today in this beautiful location where past and present meet. 

After the event in the cemetary, guests are invited for coffee at Gröndal's House, the former home of poet Benedikt Gröndal close by. The house is situated on the corner of Fischersund and Mjóstræti.

Events Around the World

The following flagship events celebrating the breadth and diversity of the UNESCO Cities’ poets are taking place in our sister cities across the world on 21 March:

A long-range poetry recital led by 60 poets in 24 libraries in the city of Granada involving poets from Nottingham and Ljubljana, Georgina Wilding and Anja Golob respectively. Goodwill Ambassador for UNESCO Creative Cities, Italian poet Maria Francesca Merloni, will attend the event.

Heidelberg have displayed 45 poems written by 22 poets inside public trams. A special poetic tram will travel across the city with regular stops, while every 10 minutes another poet will make the ride a poetic journey, reciting poetry to passengers. Heidelberg House in Heidelberg´s French twin city Montpellier will present a poetic evening of German poetry and its impact on today’s French poetic artworks. 

Similarly, in Tartu, audiences will be taken on a Poetry Route movement across the city with 15 poetry performances taking place in 7 locations. Additional readings involving poets and high school students will be performed throughout the day.  


The House of Literature in Lillehammer will celebrate poetry by organizing an evening in the name of poetry, Poetry plus. Audiences will enjoy poetry-readings by established norwegian poets. There will also be a conversation on stage, focusing on recent releases and events in the world of poetry, lyrics in songwriting and the use of humor in poetry.


A wealth of poetry activities will take place in Krakow including a walking Poetry Song Trail, a multi-poetry presentation of new poems projected on the façade of a building on Bracka St, and the programme announcement of this year’s Milosz Poetry Festival

Barcelona will host a visual poetry workshop and events with Maria Isern and Guillem Gavaldà, prize-winners of the Francesc Garriga Poetry Prize.

Poetry events and artistic performances are taking place in Iowa City and Prague

Preceding World Poetry Day on 19th March, Dublin will be hosting a Poetry and Spoken Word Trail where audiences will enjoy exceptional performances from an array of emerging and established poets.


A number of poetry live-stream and television broadcasts will take place in:

Reykjavík - live-streaming from the lunch hour programme on the Facebook sites of Reykjavik City of Literature, the City of Reykjavik and the University of Iceland Bookstore.

Obidos - at the medieval gate of the town, by local poet Armando da Silva Carvalho.

Edinburgh - with local poets writing throughout the day and literary podcasts shared on the hour, each one with a different theme and international audience from Edinburgh City of Literature’s Facebook and Twitter channels.

Bookshops, coffee shops and the main cultural streets of Baghdad

Krakow - a Facebook Live tour of bookstores by a Krakow-based poet.

This World Poetry Day, follow the social conversation using #WPD2018 and #CitiesofLitPoetry and experience creative and poetic moments in a City of Literature near you. 

About World Poetry Day:

World Poetry Day is on 21 March, and was first declared by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) 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.