Our Favourite Poems for World Poetry Day

If you're a lover of the limerick or a sucker for a sonnet, then you'll likely agree that poetry is a diverse and hugely entertaining form of literature. But, for many who were forced to read and recite poetry in school to the point where they can't stand to hear any phrase that rhymes anymore, poetry is not nearly as appealing. So, whether you love or hate it, we're going to share some poems with you that prove you should give poetry another chance this World Poetry Day.

Alt Text

World Poetry Day was first celebrated on the 21st March 1999 after the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) wanted to create a day dedicated to the reading, writing and teaching of poetry. They also aimed to use World Poetry Day to explore the diversity of language and poetry as both a written and spoken art form.

There are countless poems and poets who have made a lasting impression on us. Here are just a few that demonstrate just how moving, entertaining and poignant poetry can really be:

If by Rudyard Kipling

This well-loved poem by The Jungle Book author and Nobel Prize-winning poet Rudyard Kipling is addressed to his son, telling him that if remains brave, just and stoic he will "be a Man". However, the poem was actually inspired by the attitude and "stiff-upper-lip" character of his friend, Leander Starr Jameson, a politician who led a failed uprising in South Africa in 1895 which triggered the Second Boer War.

Alt Text

The Lady of Shalott by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

This woeful ballad retells the story of Elaine of Astolat, a tragic figure in Arthurian legend. In Tennyson's version of the story The Lady of Shalott is a lonely soul, trapped in her tower and cursed to only look upon the outside world using a mirror that reflects the view from her window. In the mirror, she can see the river that leads to Camelot and one day as Lancelot comes riding by, she is struck by his beauty and can no longer resist looking out the window.

Alt Text

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth

Of the many beautiful poems written by William Wordsworth this is undoubtedly his most popular, although it wasn't too favourably received when it was first published. The poem was inspired by a walk he took with his sister in the Lake District. His love and admiration for the "dancing" daffodils lifted his mood so much, he simply had to write a poem about it!

Alt Text

Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen's harrowing poem was sent home to his mother just over a year before his death at the crossing of the Sambre-Oise Canal during World War I. Dulce Et Decorum Est recounts the horrors he saw at war and challenged the propaganda used to convince men to enlist in the army. In the first draft of the poem this was even more explicit with a dedication to Jessie Pope, a fellow writer whose poems encouraging enlistment were published in the newspapers and famously referred to the war as a "game", however this dedication was removed from the final, published version of the poem.

Alt Text

N.B. "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" translates from Latin into "It is sweet and proper to die for the fatherland".

How Do I Love Thee? By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning had no trouble opening up about her feelings for her husband, fellow poet Robert Browning in her passionate collection, Sonnets from the Portuguese. Or, maybe she was a little shy about declaring her feelings so publicly in the uptight Victorian society, as the title suggests, Barrett Browning initially pretended she had found and translated the amorous poems from a Portuguese poet rather than identifying herself as the true author!

Alt Text

If you want to explore some more excellent poems, check out our poetry collections:

Poetry by Heart by Julie Blake, a collection of famous poems that are best read aloud.

Classic Readings & Poems by Jane McMorland-Hunter, a book of poems that make excellent readings for all occasions, including weddings, christenings and funerals.

  • £4.99

  • £4.99

So, if you've been avoiding poetry for years then World Poetry Day is the perfect time to revisit some classics. Or, if you're a big fan of poetry then let us know your favourite poems and poets on our Facebook and Twitter today. Happy World Poetry Day everyone!