Yesterday was World Poetry Day, and busy as we were reading poetry excerpts from some of the best collections, we just forgot about writing this blog on time!  Anyway. UNESCO encourages the celebration of this day (21st of March) to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry around the world. But who made poetry such a famous art form, and what don’t you know about them?

1.     Ancient Greece

World Poetry Day, Homer
Statue of Homer
Photo Credit: Famousauthors.org

If we had to choose just one name from this era it would definitely be the great Homer, if he ever existed, that is.

  • Despite the legendary epics of The Illiad and The Odyssey, both of which attributed to Homer, some people question his existence since no biographical information has ever been recorded about him.
  • His birth place, birth year and death year are also disputed.
  • The name ‘Homer’ resembles the Greek words for ‘hostage’ and ‘blind’. This might be the reason for Homer’s characterisation as a former slave and a blind bard.

Worthy mentions include Euripides, Aeschylus and Sappho, all of whom contributed to the now classic structures of the ode, epic, lyric, tragedy and comedy.

2.    Elizabethan Age

Shakespeare World Poetry Day
Wax Figure of William Shakespeare

We cannot speak about the literary contribution of this age without mentioning the great Shakespeare.

  • At age 18 Shakespeare married 26-year-old Anne Hathaway – who was already three months pregnant with their daughter Susanna.
  • He lived a double life. In 17th century London he was the famous playwright and poet we know him as today. In his hometown, Stratford, he was a respected businessman and property owner.
  • The Oxford English Dictionary credits Shakespeare with around 3,000 Dictionary entries.

3.    Modern Period

T.S. Eliot World Poetry Day
T.S. Eliot
Photo Credit: Huffingtonpost.co.uk

Thomas Stearns Eliot, commonly known as T.S Eliot, is considered to be one of the best poets of his time, producing the epitome of Modernist work.

  • He wrote Old Possum’s book of Practical Cats for his godson. It is now the longest-running Broadway show of all time that goes by the name of ‘Cats’.
  • He set a writing limit for himself which did not exceed 3 hours per day.
  • He was known to be a massive prankster. He once took his young nephew to buy stink bombs from a joke shop which they set off in the lobby of a hotel nearby. On other occasions he was known to hand out exploding cigars to his guests or hide whoopee cushions on their seats.

4.    The 21st Century

warsan shire World Poetry Day
Warsan Shire
Photo Credit: Genius.com

Contemporary poet Warsan Shire is a Somali-Brit poet in her twenties whose topics range from love, loss, violence against women, refugees and war.

  • Beyoncé recited excerpts of Shire’s poetry during a 1-hour special on HBO featuring a series of songs and videos about romance, rage and redemption.
  • She won the Brunel International African Poetry Prize in 2013.
  • At just 24 years old, she was honoured with the ‘first ever Young Poet Laureate for London’.

© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Clara Marie Campbell