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UNESCO World Poetry Day

Mar 21, 2013

The Australia Council joins the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)  to celebrate World Poetry Day  on 21 March.

UNESCO declared World Poetry Day in 1999 citing poetry’s unique ability to capture the creative spirit of the human mind and  the poetry’s capacity to provide all individuals, as well as whole societies, with the opportunity to discover and assert their identity.

This annual celebration is an important moment to recognise Australian poets, who continue to contribute to the growing canon of significant Australian poetry. It is a time to celebrate the impact of living legends such as David Malouf alongside the work of Dorothy Porter and classics such as the poetry of Banjo Patterson. Although we may not often reflect on it publicly, poetry is core to our identity as a nation and to us as individuals.

Poetry continues to be written and performed, published and exhibited across Australia using both traditional formats and new technology. Poetry is read and listened to by people of all ages – bush poets continue to be popular and at the same time innovative standup performance poets entertain, challenge and excite.

The Australia Council supports poets through grants to individuals and to publishers as well as peak bodies. It also invests in literary magazines which publish poetry and that sometimes provide the spring board for professional careers. The Australia Council provides support for poets to tour and to appear widely at Writers Festivals both nationally and internationally. Today we acknowledge the contribution poets make to the culture of Australia and to reaffirm our commitment to support excellence in the field.

Crucially, UNESCO World Poetry Day is also a day for us to acknowledge the role of poets around the world who are unable to speak openly and freely and who strive to build a better world.

Jill Eddington

Director, Literature

Australia Council for the Arts

Some thoughts about this indispensible form:

Angelo Loukakis, Executive Director, Australian Society Authors 

‘It is fair to say that Australian poetry has experienced a renaissance over the past three or four decades. Poetry continues to be published in print form, with digital media providing new means for its dissemination. In this time Australian poets have produced among the most inventive, imaginative, stimulating indeed profound poetry anywhere in the world. Poetry is read, taught, spoken, as it should be – even if there is always scope for more and better. The work we see today reinforces that poetry is one of the great native arts of our culture, while providing every good reason for its building international readership.’

Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Poet

‘Poetry distils and condenses the thoughts of a community. We think of how Dorothea McKellar memorialised us as “a sunburnt country” or a “wide brown land”; or how Judith Wright displayed our cultural mingling of deciduous and evergreen in her poem, “South of My Days”; Les Murray evokes our historical richness in the play of his huge vocabulary; bushranger ballads captured a rebellious spirit; While John Shaw Neilson gave meaning to the Wimmera.

‘I like the cheek of A.D. Hope’s remark when asked in an interview what poets do for Australia. He replied, “They justify its existence”. And poetry surrounds our early lives from nursery rhymes on: it alerts us to the vibrancy of language.

‘Poetry is everywhere, if we take note of its full range. For me, it keeps the possibilities of our language(s) alive.’

Provided by Poetry Australia.

Nell White, Director, Poetry Australia 

‘There is no doubt that poetry is a vibrant art form in this country. It thrives in lounge rooms, cafes, and pubs around country. Last year alone Australian Poetry publicised nearly 1,000 public poetry events and we know that this represents the tip of the iceberg. And of course the digital age provides both poets and poetry exciting opportunities and new frontiers to explore for both performance and publishing.’