World Poetry Day is celebrated on March 21 every year. This day is marked by the celebration of the most treasured poems and supports linguistic diversity through poetic expression. The day creates the opportunity for endangered languages to be heard.
The day is dedicated to honoring poets who have contributed to the form of expression. The art of poetry allows each individual to see or express a different perception of life.
In 1999, UNESCO declared March 21 World Poetry Day with the aim of promoting the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry worldwide.
On the auspicious day, let us remember the “father of English poetry”, Geoffrey Chaucer. He was an English poet, author and civil servant best known for his book “The Canterbury Tales”. Chaucer has been recognized as the father of English literature/poetry because he was the first to write poems and stories in a language easily understood by ordinary people. He was also the first writer to be buried in what has since become Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey.
Although he did not stop writing and publishing, he continued his career in public service as a bureaucrat, courtier, diplomat and deputy. Born and raised in London in the early 1340s, Chaucer’s family is an extraordinary example of upward mobility.
Among several of his works, the most preached are, The Duchess’ Book, The House of Fame, The Legend of Good Women, and Troilus and Criseyde. These are some poems brought by the poet to the tradition of modern English poetic writing. In his poems, Chaucer chose to focus on “rhyme”, which was unusual for an English-language poet of his day. It was not he who introduced the concept of rhyme, but it was surely he who included royal rhyme in English literature.
During the Middle English period, when the dominant literary languages in England were still Anglo-Norman French and Latin, Chaucer made sure to write in the popular language. Chaucer’s writings capture the accuracy of his time with a quick and effortless mastery of many literary genres. Its greatest achievement was to establish English as a major literary language. His poems have been loved for generations for their humanity and humor.
The Canterbury Tales are one of his greatest works and are among the most important works of medieval literature. It is considered a masterpiece for various reasons other than its poetic power and entertainment value. The tales portray the social realism of the time and critique the hypocrisy of the church and the social problems posed by medieval politics and social custom. There are 24 tales in the book series. Chaucer intended to write over 100 stories as part of the “tales” collection, but could only complete 24 before his death in 1400.