Tag Archives: world poetry day

to the poets.


Wole Soyinka, playwright, poet and Nobel Laureate, reads an original poem written for children at the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Celebrating the linguistic expression

of our common humanity

Poetry reaffirms our common humanity by revealing to us that individuals, everywhere in the world, share the same questions and feelings. Poetry is the mainstay of oral tradition and, over centuries, can communicate the innermost values of diverse cultures.

In celebrating World Poetry Day, March 21, UNESCO recognizes the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind.

A decision to proclaim March 21 as World Poetry Day was adopted during UNESCO’s 30th session held in Paris in 1999.

One of the main objectives of the Day is to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities.

The observance of World Poetry Day is also meant to encourage a return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, to promote the teaching of poetry, to restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, to support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media, so that the art of poetry will no longer be considered an outdated form of art, but one which enables society as a whole to regain and assert its identity. As poetry continues to bring people together across continents, all are invited to join in.

“poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”

-robert frost




credits: photo: UN Photo/Mark Garten, UNESCO

never ending.


A Never-Ending Poem Grows in the Netherlands
De Letters van Utrecht is carved into the city streets and will continue indefinitely.

Upon first glance, Oudegracht looks like any other brick-lined street weaving through Utrecht, Netherlands. Flanked on one side by a canal and storefronts on the other, the thoroughfare bustles with pedestrians and cyclists in the early morning hours as they go about their business—but what sits underfoot is what makes this street truly unique.

Since 2012, a team of poets has been creating a never-ending poem, which is embedded into the cobblestones lining the street.

Called De Letters van Utrecht, the “social sculpture” is constantly evolving and continues to expand every Saturday afternoon when one of 22 stone carvers from a local guild chisels a single letter into the stone. As the weeks, months, and years pass by, the poem evolves, continuing indefinitely so long as the city and community members support it. So far, seven poets have contributed to the project, each one writing prose until it’s time to hand the poem off to his or her successor.

The poem thus far, roughly translated in English, reads:
“You have to begin somewhere to give the past its place, the present matters ever less. The further you are, the better. Continue now,
leave your footprints. Forget the flash, in which you may exist, the world is your map. If there was a time when you where another: it went by.
You are the other already. You are, as you know, the center of this story. This is eternity. It lasts. It has the time. Become one with your story and revel. Tell.
Tell us who you are with every step. In our story we vanish inevitably, only you remain in the long run. You and these letters hewn from stone. As the letters on our grave.
The cracks in the cathedral’s tower. Raised to heaven as an index finger, to identify the guilty and demand more time. So that we can walk straight again as humans along the canal.Those staring at their feet. Look up! See Utrecht’s churches stand out. Raise your hands, beg with the towers for this privilege: to be, to be now. The weather is good.
Continue to stare. Life is witness to your gaze to the horizon. Your footsteps connect the past with written letters.…”

“Each poet is limited to 52 letters a year, since we put a new letter out every week,” Dick Sijtsma, one of the project’s founders, tells Smithsonian.com. “As long as we have poets and stone masons, the poem will continue to grow.”                              A stone mason carves Letter 946 as part of De Letters van Utrecht. 

In order for a poet to qualify for participation, he or she must have published at least a book of poetry or two, and even if they make the cut, their proposed verses must be approved by the guild. Last year, Utrecht became the 25th Unesco City of Literature thanks to its rich literary history, so De Letters van Utrecht is able to select from a deep pool of local candidates. Ruben van Gogh, one of the founders, was the poet responsible for writing the poem’s first lines, which were then backdated to January 1, 2000 to help fill out the poem.“Otherwise, it would have taken years for people to notice that something was going on,” van Gogh tells Smithsonian.com. “Plus, 2000 was a good year to back date it to.”

So far the poem stretches the length of a single city block, but the guild of poets has mapped out its future path, which will one day wind through the city just like Utrecht’s elaborate canal system. Until then, the project has grown in popularity and continues to garner attention from locals and visitors alike. Van Gogh says it’s not uncommon to see a crowd of people gather each Saturday to witness the carving and to attempt to guess the direction the verse will take.

“Once when I was visiting on a Saturday, the assigned stone carver didn’t show up, but then another stone carver just happened to ride by on his bicycle,” van Gogh recalls. “He’s the senior stone carver who trained the others, and happened to have his tools with him. He told me that he can tell which guild member did each carving based on its appearance.”

“Often the letters receive sponsors who can then carve a special inscription into the side of the stone. ”To help fund the project, people can sponsor a single stone and have the stonemason carve a special inscription on the side of it. Sponsorships often celebrate important milestones, such as birthdays, anniversaries and marriages.“Even punctuation like colons and periods count towards a weekly carving,” van Gogh says. “People are really excited to sponsor the period at the end of a sentence.”Sijtsma agrees adding, “One time we had someone who was coming to the end of his career, and he wanted to end that phase of his life in a symbolic way.”

So the big question: What’s up next for the poem? Sijtsma and van Gogh say that they’re keeping their lips sealed.“What the future brings is a surprise to all of us,” Sijtsma says.

World Poetry Day,

held annually on March 21, is dedicated to poetry worldwide.

an initiative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

“words are the clothes thoughts wear.”
― samuel beckett


credits: smithsonian.com, jennifer nalewicki, dick sijtsma, city of utrecht, netherlands


bread and poetry.


yes, that is

a cookie groundhog

with a chocolate chip face

popping out of a bagel hole

covered in cream cheese snow

sprinkled with smashed up wafer cookie dirt .

in honor of world poetry day (yesterday)

and groundhog day (in february)

and bread and peace. (everyday)

“peace goes into the making of a poem as flour goes into the making of bread.”

-pablo neruda