22 Poems From Around the World to Celebrate World Poetry Day

22 Poems From Around the World to Celebrate World Poetry Day

Thursday, 21 March, 2024

Happy World Poetry Day! Since it was designated in 1991 by UNESCO, this holiday has been a celebration of poets and poetry, an opportunity to share poems with our favorite people, set words to music or dance or paint, and honor the artists who capture all the facets of being alive.

As UNESCO explains, ‘poetry speaks to our common humanity and our shared values, transforming the simplest of poems into a powerful catalyst for dialogue and peace.’

Here’s a collection of poems from around the world and different eras in time. Joyous and somber, humorous and angry, evocative and lyrical, they all create word pictures that will linger in your heart and imagination.



women wearing a blue veil in a square surrounded by white doves with a turquoise mosque in the background
Photo courtesy of kursat-bayhan/Shutterstock.

‘But Not An Afghan Woman’ by Roya: The four simple words ‘not an Afghan woman’ are a plea and a protest and — most of all — an assertion of self-worth.



a pink stone castle overlooking the blue sea
Photo courtesy of travelwild/Shutterstock.

‘Amalfi’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Longfellow’s lyrical stanzas evoke the awesome beauty and formidable power of the Tyrrhenian sea ‘where the waves and mountains meet’ on the Italian coast.



blue silhouette of a mermaid under water
Photo courtesy of Nsey Benajah/Unsplash.

‘The Law Concerning Mermaids’ by Kei Miller: This prose poem is a brilliant snapshot of what Kei Miller and his relationship to Jamaica are all about; his musical, moving narration is riveting.



ornate mosaic ceiling with pink roses
Photo courtesy of Soroush Taheri/Unsplash.

‘On Loving’ and ‘Forgive Her’ by Forugh Farrokhzad: Persian poet Forugh Farrokhzad was gifted with an innate curiosity and intelligence that fueled her rebellious spirit and passionate nature. She poured her too-large emotions and razor-sharp observances into poetry that has moved readers for decades.



nigerian man and woman riding a scooter on a residential street
Photo courtesy of Iyinoluwa Onaeko/Unsplash.

‘Part Me’ by Tomi Adesina and ‘There Is No Scar, Only Absence’ by Saddiq Dzukogi: Persian poet Forugh Farrokhzad was gifted with an innate curiosity and intelligence that fueled her rebellious spirit and passionate nature. She poured her too-large emotions and razor-sharp observances into poetry that has moved readers for decades.



the alhambra at sunset with trees in the foreground and mountains in the background
Photo courtesy of Vidar Nordli-Mathisen/Shutterstock.

‘The Last Sigh of the Moor’ by Théophile Gautier and ‘Arabesque’ by Emma Lazarus: The Alhambra is a jewel of Moorish architecture that stands almost defiantly against the jagged peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains in northeastern Spain. The Alhambra and its particular spot in the Alpujarras Pass have inspired artists, writers, and poets for centuries.



four kenyan women wearing traditional red and blue garments and smiling with the desert in the background
Photo courtesy of Imani Manyara/Unsplash.

‘I Want You to Know’ by Micere Githae Mugo: Micere Mugo is the writer of poems, plays, and literary criticism. She was the first woman in Kenya to become a college dean. This poem is infused with tenderness, joy, and a feeling of communion that celebrates this moment right now.


New Orleans

brown trees drooping over the waters of the bayou
Photo courtesy of Pierre Jean Durieu/Shutterstock.

‘Going Home: New Orleans’ by Sheryl St. Germain: This poem by New Orleans poet Sheryl St. Germain sings of soft, quiet evenings and the joyous, seering details that make home feel like home.


Sri Lanka

three monks wearing orange gowns bowing in front of a large buddha statue
Photo courtesy of Sean Hsu/Shutterstock.

‘Timely Enumerations Concerning Sri Lanka’ by Oliver Rice: Oliver Rice’s poem tells the bittersweet story of Sri Lanka, contrasting the island’s lush natural beauty and peaceful Buddhist practices with its history of invasive colonialism, civil war, and vicious politics.


Istanbul, Turkey

the view of istanbul from the water at sunset
Photo courtesy of Ibrahim Uzun/Unsplash.

‘Tell Me About İstanbul’ by Nâzım Hikmet: Turkish poet Nâzım Hikmet is now recognized as one of the great international poets of the twentieth century. But during his lifetime, this ‘romantic revolutionary’ was repeatedly arrested for his political beliefs. This poem captures the push-pull and love-hate inspired by home: the affection, the yearning, the curiosity, the knowing a place with all its flaws and beauties.



stone statue of a woman on the roof of the ethnography museum in lviv, ukraine
Photo courtesy of Ruslan Lytvyn/Shutterstock.

‘So I’ll Talk About It’ and ‘As If This Winter Never Happened’ by Serhiy Zhadan: Serhiy Zhadan is known as Ukraine’s ‘rock-star poet.’ His work is accessible and lyrical, moving and sharp, combining elements of memoir, travelogue, and history to evoke strong sense impressions.


Summer Vibes

a brown scruffy dog running on a dock a sunset toward the water of a lake
Photo courtesy of Roberto Nickson/Unsplash.

‘If You Get There Before I Do’ by Dick Allen: This is a lovely poem for the lazy days of a winding-down summer. It starts as one thing — anticipation of a holiday-to-be — and evolves into a wander through memory and a celebration of the moments that make a lifetime.


Autumn Forest

overhead view of an autumn forest with red, yellow, and green leaves
Photo courtesy of Ekaterina Kondratova/Shutterstock.

‘The Way Through the Woods’ by Rudyard Kipling: Published in 1910, this poem is a celebration of the life that thrives in the woods, whether we puny humans are there to appreciate it or not. There’s a sense of longing, perhaps a tinge of regret, in the recognition that ‘they shut the road through the wood,’ but the animals and trees carry on.


Secret Passages

a wall of multicolored books with a turquoise door in the center
Photo courtesy of Eugenio Mazzone/Unsplash.

‘Poem for the Hidden Passage’ by Catherine Pierce: Come on, admit it. Haven’t you sometimes imagined an alterna-version of yourself that accepts the side quest or throws the first punch? Tempts fate and opens the creaking door clearly marked DO NOT OPEN? Steals the briefcase, lights the torch, takes the leap? This poem is all about that.


Adventure and Travel

the inside of a victorian train station with vaulted ceiling
Photo courtesy of Alan Ren/Unsplash.

‘Travel’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay: This poem captures the yearning for a different choice, a different view, a different adventure. Both wistful and forceful, it articulates the tension between the comfort of the familiar and the allure of what lies at the other end of tracks leading into the distance.


Winter Forest

a forest of white birch trees in a snowy landscape
Photo courtesy of kzww/Shutterstock.

‘Birches’ by Robert Frost: This blank verse poem gets romantic about New England’s birch trees: the way the branches bend and swing, persevering through winter snow and ice (and the swinging of an energetic boy).


The Endurance of Books

close up of colorful spines of hardcover books on a wooden bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Clem Onojeghuo/Unsplash.

‘And Yet the Books’ by Czesław Miłosz: This poem, written in 1986, celebrates the power of books to endure — even with ‘fires on the horizon’ and ‘castles blown up.’ It hearkens back to the dark days of book burning through the ages but is also poignantly timely.


Dusty Bookshops

the window of a bookshop with children's books on display and a white cat sittin in the doorway
Photo courtesy of Hatice Yardım/Unsplash.

‘The Bookshop’ by Dick Allen: This poem by American poet Dick Allen evokes a bookshop with secrets tucked among its weathered spines and the smell of old books wafting in the air. It invites a leisurely stroll along the aisles and a few words with a seasoned bookseller.


The Magic of Mapmaking

a young girl leaning against a car looking at a paper roadmap
Photo courtesy of Leah Kelley/Pexels.

‘Cartography for Beginners’ by Emily Hasler: English poet Emily Hasler combines words in a whimsical and deeply affecting way. In this poem, she invites us to explore the world, explore creativity, explore feelings, and dedicate ourselves to ‘the twin and warring gods of Precision and Wild Abandon.’


Haunted Houses

an ornate chandelier with crystals and lit candles hanging against a beige wall
Photo courtesy of Lizelle De Wit/Unsplash.

‘Haunted Houses’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Longfellow’s assertion that all houses are haunted houses is comforting, rather than menacing, a recognition that those we’ve loved can still walk among us, so long as they live in our memories.


The Allure of Travel

a vintage suitcase sitting on a threadbare oriental rug in an empty room
Photo courtesy of Peter Herrmann/Unsplash.

‘The Luggage’ by Constance Urdang: This brief tale of three women travelers captures the many aspects of far-flung adventures: the anticipation, the surprises, the romance, and the truth that no matter where we go, we take ourselves with us.


The Escape of a Great Book

a young girl lying on a bed surrounded by books
Photo courtesy of Annie Spratt/Unsplash.

‘I Opened A Book’ by Julia Donaldson: Before becoming a full-time author, Julia Donaldson wrote songs for children’s television. In 2011, she was made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for services to literature — then in 2018, she was upgraded to Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. But to millions of kids, she’s the lovely lady who wrote the rhyming stories they love. In this poem, she perfectly captures the way exceptional books can transport us to somewhere new.


Top image courtesy of abi ismail/Shutterstock.

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