Celebrate #NationalPoetryMonth with Britannica School

April 13, 2020

Benjamin Zephaniah published his first book of poetry for children in 1994. | Marc Kelly Smith performs a poem in San Francisco, California, during the 1993 National Poetry Slam. | A poet in Heian period clothing writing poetry during a festival at Jōnan-gū shrine in Kyōto, Japan.

This is part of a two-part series for National Poetry Month. Click here for activities for students to do at home.

Join us this April as we celebrate a special occasion, known as National Poetry Month!  This is a time when we celebrate the significance of poets along with poetry.

This month’s Britannica School activities look at some other popular forms of poetry as well as some well-known poets.

At Britannica, we recognize that poetry is a form of art that reaches everyone across all ages and cultural boundaries. People all over the world celebrate poetry every day, in a million different ways. Poetry is literature that is accessible to all, from ode, to rap, to slam poetry


Forsythia” (1966), by Mary Ellen Solt, is an example of concrete poetry, a genre that lacks such traditional poetic elements as regular measures or rhyme and instead takes exclusively visual forms.


What does poetry mean?

The term poetry comes from the Greek “poiētēs”, itself from poiein, meaning “to make”.  It has been in use in English for more than 600 years, and is considered writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). 

But what is poetry?

As a literary genre, poetry consists of written or oral work in which words are chosen to emphasize feelings, emotions or ideas through the use of musical or incantatory effects such as assonances and repetitions.

Each layer of a poem interacts with another to give the poem its ultimate meaning.

Poetry is usually recognizable by its dependence on syllable, foot, line, and stanza — four of the technical terms that pertain to structure.

Forms of poetry

At its simplest level poetry consists of children’s rhymes (see nursery rhyme). A rhyme is created by a pair of words that end with the same sound but begin differently. At a deeper level poetry tries to address the human condition and to express some universal truth through poetry forms such as concrete poetry, haiku, and sonnet. Henry David Thoreau in his Journal remarked: “Poetry implies the whole truth, philosophy expresses a particle of it.” 

As literature, poetry can be put to many uses—from telling long stories to presenting some small insight by the author. The uses of poetry have led to the development of different literary types. Among them are the narrative, dramatic, and lyric.


Ashlee Haze – “Untapped”

Ashlee Haze has been doing spoken word since she was 10 years old, and delivers an empowering performance as she speaks of her experiences with self-doubt and despair. Haze shares that her poetry is her “saving grace” as it helps lift off her burdens.

“Look at this rose that has grown from the concrete and is still beautiful despite its thorns (…) You want to know what I think? I think that you are what makes this world go round. I think that you have the power to be your own masterpiece.”


Slam Poetry

Slam poetry is a form of performance poetry. It combines the elements of performance, writing, competition, and audience participation. It is performed at events called poetry slams, or simply slams. The name slam came from the power of the audience to praise or to destroy a poem and from the high-energy performance style of the poets. (See also spoken word).

Spoken Word Poets You Should Know and Listen To

  1. Sarah Kay
  2. Shane Koyczan 
  3. Rudy Francisco
  4. Kioni “Popcorn” Marshall

18 greatest poets of all time from around the world

William Shakespeare
(English)

Maya Angelou
(American)

Victor Hugo
(French)

Pablo Neruda
(Chile)

Walt Whitman
(American)

Oscar Wilde
(Irish)

Sylvia Plath
(American)

Mark Twain
(American)

Ralph Waldo Emerson
(American)

Lord Byron
(English)

Dante Alighieri
(Italy)

T.S. Eliot
(American-English)

Li Bai
(Chinese)

Sappho
(Greek)

Jalal al-Din Rumi
(Afghan)

Shel Silverstein
(American)

Tagore, Rabindranath
(Indian)

LL Cool J
(American)


Insights into the life of a famous poet…

Tupac Shakur, in full Tupac Amaru Shakur, original name Lesane Parish Crooks, bynames 2Pac and Makaveli,  (born June 16, 1971, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.—died September 13, 1996, Las Vegas, Nevada), American rapper and actor who was one of the leading names in 1990s gangsta rap.

He spent much of his childhood on the move with his family, which in 1986 settled in Baltimore, Maryland, where Shakur attended the elite Baltimore School for the Arts. He distinguished himself as a student, both creatively and academically.


Dare to be…

So, as you can see these are just a few of the many artists that are writing and performing powerful prose to encourage us to live meaningful, full lives. Each carries their own unique story to share their voice with the world through empowerment, love and courage to conquer our fears and overcome our limitations and rise up with a powerful voice, to inspire and challenge those around us.  

Explore some of these inspiring stories today and hear the unique voices spoken through poetry.  

In this time of uncertainty and great concern, we can use poems to inspire, offer hope, wisdom and uplift those that need encouraging.

Today, take on a new challenge and dare to write your own unique story, and share your voice through writing your own spoken word poetry.  Let’s celebrate our voices together! Share your poetry with us by tagging @BritannicaLearn on Facebook and Twitter.