One of the objectives of World Poetry Day on 21 March is to celebrate and to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression, and to allow the opportunity for endangered languages to be heard within their communities by encouraging a return to the oral tradition of poetry.
It is significant that, whilst spanning both continents and millennia, poetry has endured as a form of human expression, from prehistoric hunting chants and Sumerian hymns, through the Romantic tradition in Europe, to contemporary protest verse and poetry slams.
In a rich world of poetry, here are eight contemporary voices:-
Ali Cobby Eckermann
Ali was living in a caravan in Adelaide when she won the $165,000 Windham-Campbell Literature Prize for Poetry. Of indigenous Australian ancestry, Ali’s most recent verse novel Too Afraid to Cry: Memoir of a Stolen Childhood recounts her experiences of coerced adoption.
The Taxidermist’s Cut is a collection of poetry by Guyanese-Indian poet Rajiv Mohabir, which explores themes of sexuality, migration and, ultimately, survival from the viewpoint of the outsider, and which earned him recognition from the Lambda Literary Award in Gay Poetry.
Ghassan is a Palestinian poet, who has been short-listed for the Neustadt International Prize for Literature for his contribution to Arabic literature. His work When the Bird Disappeared has recently been published by Seagull Books. It is a lyrical novel highlighting connection and dispossession both in contemporary and pre-1948 Palestine.
Togara was born in Lusaka but brought up on his family’s farm, close to Harare. His second collection of poems Gumiguru is a reference to the tenth month of the Shona calendar. The work explores a decade of personal and Zimbabwean history distilled through the country’s landscape and seasons.
Fatimah is a Pakistani-Kashmiri-American poet who has featured on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. Fatimah’s debut collection If They Come For Us has recently been published by Corsair. Fatimah examines marginalised communities’ ideas of identity from her personal experience.
A British poet of Somali parents, Warsan’s poetry is perhaps most widely known for featuring in Beyoncé’s 2016 film Lemonade. She was the first Young People’s Laureate of London and her work features in Penguin Modern Poets 3: Your Family, Your Body.
Hailing from South Carolina, Terrance is one of America’s most acclaimed contemporary poets. American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin addresses themes of race, gender and political oppression as observed through the lens of the popular culture of the 21st century.
Hiromi Itō has written more than a dozen collections of poetry and is one of the foremost women writers in Japan. Her Wild Grass on the Riverbank interweaves images of language, sexuality and mythology in a genre-defying, lyrical narrative on the subject of what it means to be a migrant.
So, who is your own personal favourite poet? Let us know your suggestions on World Poetry Day.
Find out more:
- Find out more about endangered languages
- Check out Classical Persian Poetry at SOAS
- SOAS World Languages Institute
- Study BA English at SOAS University of London