World Poetry Day celebrated by UNESCO Cities of Literature

This year’s World Poetry Day will for the second year be celebrated and marked worldwide by the UNESCO Cities of Literature. On March 21st many of the literary cities highlight the important role of poetry for individual expression, social discourse and linguistic diversity. Many of those will this year highlight poetry by women with a special focus on gender issues and several new poetry videos will be released on the cities’ websites and social media channels on this occasion. We strongly believe that art, including poetry, can give a strong voice to those fighting for equality and women’s rights and stress the importance of giving a platform to people of all ages, genders and background.

The 21st of March was declared World Poetry Day 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. By doing so, UNESCO recognizes the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of human mind.

Voices of Women

In Reykjavík, the day will be marked with a new poetry video with Gerður Kristný, one of Iceland’s most prominent contemporary poets, where she reads an excerpt from her book Drápa (The Slaying), dedicated to a Reykjavík woman who was murdered by her husband in the 1980’s, and by extension to all women who are victims of domestic violence. Some of the other cities releasing videos dedicated to female poets and gender issues on this occasion are Baghdad, Tartu, Ulyanovsk, Norwich, Milan and Granada.

In addition to the video, Reykjavík City of Literature also hosts an evening programme with the female poetry collective Svikaskáld (Imposter Poets). This open event will be at the Icelandair Reykjavik Marina Hotel’s café. The Imposter Poets will invite other poets and people who want to try their hand at writing poetry to join them for an evening of readings and writings in the spirit of this vibrant group that shares a passion for writing and for community of poets and poetry. The Impostor Poets are Fríða Ísberg, Melkorka Ólafsdóttir, Ragnheiður Harpa Leifsdóttir, Sunna Dís Másdóttir, Þóra Hjörleifsdóttir and Þórdís Helgadóttir. The event will be recorded and later aired by the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, giving both new and more established voices the opportunity to be heard on national radio.

UNESCO Cities of Literature Events

World Poetry Day will be highlighted across the world. Join the nearest city to celebrate with us!

The following flagship events celebrating the breadth and diversity of the UNESCO Cities’ poets are taking place across the world on 21 March. Note that this may not include all events hosted by the Cities of Literature on this occasion.


In Granada around 60 poets will be offering a public poetry reading in 25 bookshops around the city. This will be a party where readers and poets will join in the meeting spaces that bookshops are. The invited poets have published at least one book of poems; they live in the city of Granada; are of various ages and vocations, and they possess different aesthetic approaches. The readings will take place between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm.


Nottingham, England, has brought together 12 talented women poets at Nottingham Trent University for a curated Facebook live performance from Clifton Campus Library. Surrounded by the books which have nourished their writing at Clifton campus library, these poets will be sharing poems reflecting on all stages and ages of being a woman. The Poets are: Panya Banjoko, Sofi Bajor, Hannah Cooper-Smithson, Becky Cullen, Jo Dixon, Birgit Friedrich, Julie Gardner, Tuesday Shannon, Bridie Squires, Caroline Stancer, Aly Stoneman, Lauren Terry and Victoria Zoe.


Ljubljana, Slovenia, organizes a 24-hour reading of poetry in three places (0.00-8.00 Tomaž Šalamun Poetry Centre; 8.30-16.30 Trubar Literature House; 17.00-01.00 Pritličje Bar).


Ulyanovsk, Russia, invites you to Poetry outside time and space, a poetry reading in an abandoned urban space.


Tartu, Estonia, will take you on a poetry tour of the city - there will be consecutive poetry readings at cafés and bars as well as in the Tartu Public Library from noon until evening.


In Óbidos, Portugal, the Local Poets Exhibition will take place –  this is a poetry book presentation made by students of Óbidos schools.


Milan, Italy, prepares several events in collaboration with the International Poetry Festival of Milan and Grito de Mujer-International Festival of Poetry and Art, such as: poetry meetings (Primavera de los Poetas, Alda Merini and the Corriere: poetry in the newsroom, Scream for me) and open mic.

Heidelberg, Mannheim and Montpellier

In Heidelberg, Germany, besides displaying poems and short texts written by 36 poets in public trams over the whole year, a special tramline will be taking passengers on a poetic journey between the UNESCO Creative Cities of Heidelberg (Literature) and Mannheim (Music).

Moreover, the Heidelberg House in Heidelberg´s French twin city Montpellier will be presenting a poetic evening in French and German language. Organized the Department of Cultural Affairs, Heidelberg´s neighbor city Mannheim is adding several more public events to the poetic program of this day: Poetic walking tours, a poetry phone line, a temporary wall full of poetry and much more.


Kraków, Poland, offers a few poetic activities: a literary walk in the footsteps of Wisława Szymborska; Slam Poetry event – which is Kraków’s elimination to the national championships; The announcement of the idea and first guests of the Miłosz Poetry Festival and – to extend the World Poetry Day – on March 23rd an authors meeting with Anna Adamowicz, a Polish young poet.


The Baghdad City of Literature, Iraq, hosts a varied programme of poetry readings as well as publishing a new poetry video with female poets in the city. 


Barcelona, Spain, invites adults for two literary meetings: with Marcel Riera and Rosa Fabregat, and children to the escape room The poet’s secret room.


Norwich, England, prepares a film and audio recording of the Young Norfolk Laureate Ciera Drury, reading a poem she wrote to mark 100 years since the suffragette movement. It was the winning poem for the Young Norfolk Writing Competition in 2018.


Several events will take place in Bucheon, South-Korea, including a poetry reading by KO Gyeong-suk, a female writer, the making of calligraphy bookmarks, ‘Poetry Reading Therapy and a literary program at Sangdong Library.

This World Poetry Day, follow the social conversation using #WorldPoetryDay19 and (in Spain) #Haztepoesía and experience creative and poetic moments in a City of Literature near you.