March 21 is World Poetry Day. Take the time that day to read some great verse from writers across the globe and reflect on the power and beauty of language.
Reading poetry can help you as a speaker. For one thing, it can improve your speechwriting. Reading evocative, rhythmic verse can inspire you to make the language of your speeches more musical and descriptive. Compelling speeches include rich detail and a pleasing cadence.
Consider the opening passage from “A Sleepless Night” by Philip Levine, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet. Look at how his vivid, lyrical language evokes the senses.
April, and the last of the
scatters on the black grass
before dawn. The sycamore, the lime,
the struck pine inhale
the first pale hints of sky.
Using poetic devices such as metaphors can also strengthen a speech. A metaphor is a word or phrase that symbolizes something else—something that is abstract, not literal. For example, this is one of Shakespeare’s most famous metaphors:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women
Another poetic tool is the simile, which shows the similarity between two things by connecting them with the words “like” or “as.” For instance, say you are giving a speech about your trip to Paris and you want to describe the divine taste of Parisian pastries. You could write, “The warm croissant melted as butter in my mouth.”
World Poetry Day was started in 1999. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed it a day to “support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities.” Click here to learn more about World Poetry day.
So many poets, past and present, light up the world with their imaginative work: Pablo Neruda, Emily Dickinson, Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, Maya Angelou, Anna Akhmatova, Billy Collins and many, many more. On March 21, pick a poet you enjoy and immerse yourself in verse!