Humans have been poets for millennia. From epic poetry of ancient Sumeria dating back 4,000 years, to the sonnets of William Shakespeare, to the inspiring work of Maya Angelou, poetry has been shared by every culture on every continent.

Next Sunday (21 March) is an opportunity to celebrate it. World Poetry Day is an annual event that recognises poetry as something that is shared and enjoyed by all human beings. It is an occasion to honour poets and promote the reading, writing and teaching of poetry.

Today, poetry is changing rapidly: spoken word revives oral traditions and turns poetry into the language of political activism, and Instagram has become a new platform for poets. Indian-born Canadian poet Rupi Kaur has three million Instagram followers and has written two bestselling collections.

During the global lockdown last year, Kaur reached out to millions of people around the world to give online workshops on writing poetry, describing it as “cathartic” in times of trouble. In a different project, British poet Liv Torc invited people to send her Haikus during the uncertain time – many found writing an effective way of expressing their feelings.

What does poetry mean to you?

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To celebrate World Poetry Day, this week’s assembly slides look at some of the great poets of history and modern times. Packed with pictures and videos, they will get you thinking about the meaning of poetry itself.


  1. Find a poem online and read it aloud to your family or class. If you like, set yourself a challenge to learn it by heart.
  2. Spend no longer than five minutes writing a poem. Do not think too much about it – just focus on images and words that come naturally to you.
  3. Benjamin Zephaniah is one of Britain’s most inventive poets. Listen to his performance of “Dis poetry”. Do you like it? How does it make you feel? Discuss your reactions with a partner.