March 21st marks the 16th anniversary of World Poetry Day. First observed in 2000, World Poetry Day is an initiative taken by United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to celebrate poetry as an art form and a cultural phenomena.
If you’re thinking poetry isn’t your thing or it’s a waste of time, I have a few words for you: you are a poem and poetry pays.
Julius Meinl, a global coffee and tea provider based in Europe, started celebrating World Poetry Day last year by using poems as currency, and this year, Pay With a Poem will be observed in over 1,000 locations across 30 countries. Currently, two U.S. cities located in Florida and Illinois are on Pay With a Poem’s location finder, though if you happen to be around Italy, Austria, Romania, or Germany, expect several coffee shops to hand you free coffee in exchange for your handwritten poem.
let’s start loving us some poetry and getting ourselves some free coffee. Doesn’t this Pay With a Poem promotional video make the smell of coffee ciruclate your nose and the sound of poetry kiss your ears?
Robert Frost says it best when he says “A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a homesickness or a love sickness.” Poetry can dig a nest into our hearts, but it’s often treated as a second class literary form in school curriculums. When poetry is taught in high school, it’s the type of poetry that makes people cringe. Those epically long poems, those tritely rhymed and metered sonnets, and those exceptionally esoteric word choices have some people fed up with poetry when we should actually be engaging with poems.
Everyone has a different taste, but there is a poem waiting for all of us. Whether you need therapy, a laugh, a dose of politics, or a mental workout, poems have you covered.
Here are 14 poems that will have you rethink the meaning and medium of poetry:
1. [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] by e. e. cummings
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
2. Story XI. The Lion who Hunted with the Wolf and the Fox by Jelal al-Din Rumi, translated from the Persian
A lion took a wolf and a fox with him on a hunting excursion,
and succeeded in catching a wild ox, an ibex, and a hare. He
3. For Jane: With All the Love I Had, Which Was Not Enough: by Charles Bukowski
I pick up the skirt,
I pick up the sparkling beads
4. Scars/To the New Boyfriend by Rudy Francisco
5. Are All the Break-Ups in Your Poems Real? by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
If by real you mean as real as a shark tooth stuck
in your heel, the wetness of a finished lollipop stick,
6. The Ballad Of The Landlord by Langston Hughes
My roof has sprung a leak.
7. Accents by Denice Frohman
8. wishes for sons by Lucille Clifton
i wish them cramps.
i wish them a strange town
9. Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation by Natalie Diaz
Angels don’t come to the reservation.
Bats, maybe, or owls, boxy mottled things.
10. A Letter to My Dog, Exploring the Human Condition by Andrea Gibson
11. This Room and Everything in It by Li-Young Lee
Lie still now
while I prepare for my future,
12. I Stink by Roque Dalton, translated from the Spanish
I smell like the colour of mourning on those days
when flowers wilt due to their price
13. The Beloved by Paul Celan, translated from the German
She is standing on my eyelids
And her hair is wound in mine,
14. Buffet Etiquette by Hieu Minh Nguyen
Start small this World Poetry Day by sharing a poem or go big and campaign for a poet’s freedom of speech. Poetry can be dangerous: poets around the world are threatened and silenced for writing poems deemed too political or blasphemous.
Take over social media or write letters on behalf of poets like Ashraf Fayadh, who was almost sentenced to death in 2015 for sharing his poetry in Saudi Arabia. Find other dissident poets on Pen.org and help save a poet.
Need more time to find the rhythm of the poetry that runs through your blood, the lovely pump in your heart, the gentle wind chimes in your laughter, and the captivating hold of your stare?
April marks the 20th celebration of National Poetry Month in the U.S. Find your inner word genius and get to celebrating.