A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.’

W H Auden1

Held every year on 21 March, World Poetry Day celebrates one of humanity’s most treasured forms of cultural and linguistic expression and identity. Practised throughout history – in every culture and on every continent – poetry speaks to our common humanity and our shared values.2

UNESCO first adopted 21 March as World Poetry Day in 1999 with the aim of supporting linguistic diversity through poetic expression and increasing the opportunity for endangered languages to be heard.3

Colour illustration depicts a garden path and trees leading to a castle in the background. Verses are superimposed over the path in the form of stairs.
Who deals in make-believe must climb a staircase wrought with gold, [1954?]. Painting by Jessie Davies; H89.95

As one of UNESCO’s Cities of Literature, Melbourne supports a diverse range of new, emerging, and established poets through its regular spoken word events, its poetry publishing houses, its successful culture of independent bookselling, and its plethora of literary journals. Examples of Victorian-based journals that publish poetry include: Australian Poetry Journal and the annual Australian Poetry AnthologyAustralian Book ReviewCorditeOverland, Rabbit Poetry JournalMeanjin, Going Down Swinging and The Lifted Brow,4 as well as local literary magazines, such as the City of Darebin’s n-Scribe journal.

You can read many of these journals online from home, if you are a Victorian resident and you join the Library. You can also find them here, in our reading rooms, along with poetry anthologies, scholarly publications, and databases containing poetry, reviews and biographies of poets.

Watercolour painting of pink flowers with a handwritten verse to the right. Verse reads 'Writing in the sky my love, when under my feather belly I feel you flying.'
Two flowers and a short inscribed verse, [ca. 1951-ca. 1960]. Painting by Joan Tillam; H2001.175/38

In our collections, you can find Australian poetry, European poetry, children’s poetry, humorous poetry and much more. You will also find rare and valuable editions from poets like Voltaire, Dante Alighieri, Christina Georgina Rossetti, Pierre de Ronsard, Sylvia Plath, and Margaret Atwood, to name just a few.

Explore the catalogue on our Search and discover page to find books and ebooks about poets and poetry. Also, you might like to take a look at our research guide, Literary Victoria, for more tips on how to find poems in our collections.

Handwritten verse on notepaper
Letter to Elizabeth from Nathalie, 1857. Ink on notepaper compiled by Elizabeth Severne; H93.29/157

The Library’s Ian Potter Queens Hall is a magnificent space, filled with Australian literature, including a dedicated poetry and drama lounge. You can find it in the Swanston Street Welcome Zone.

Poetry is universal and like a good friend has accompanied us through time. This year we want to bring more poetry your way, so we have put together a book display in the Redmond Barry Reading Room to celebrate World Poetry Day. You are invited to browse through many languages and cultures – brought together by their shared love of poetry.

Two verses and images of flowers printed on cartes de visite
Poetry and images printed on cartes de visite, [ca. 1890 – ca. 1900]; H2005.34/131

References

  1. Auden, W H, Prose, 1939-1948, Volume II (Mendelson, E ed), Princeton University Press, Princeton, p 343
  2. UNESCO, 2022, World Poetry Day, viewed 17 March 2022
  3. As above
  4. Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature Office, 2022, Poetry, viewed 17 March 2022

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