There's the legend of his reading of Invictus to his fellow prisoners on Robben Island, but in every speech Mandela worked language to leverage its impact.
He may not have formally published poetry, but Mandela was a poet.
On his death, the US State Department has issued a poem by Maya Angelou in memory of Nelson Mandela and there have been earlier tributes by Thabo Mbeki and Tupac Shakur.
For the many millions more who write poetry, there is now an opportunity to contribute their own poetry; to write a poetic tribute on the passing of a great historical figure.
You don't need to be a poet laureate to take part – and it's not a competition. It's about people's personal responses.
What did Nelson Mandela mean to you? How did his message affect the world? What do you feel on learning of his death?
What are your personal memories and reflections? Did he inspire you?
Maybe you took part, in any small way, to help end apartheid.Or you played an important role… How do you think his legacy will endure?
Nelson Mandela was a global figure who brought a message of reconciliation rather than retribution, despite his own suffering and the nature of the apartheid regime which he had opposed.
It was this that made Nelson Mandela a true inspiration to millions around the world, a man who was prepared to lay down his own life to affect the change needed to rectify the glaring abomination of apartheid.
All contributions are welcome and it would be very much appreciated if you could alert people to this global poetry initiative.
As the world reacts, this is a fitting international tribute in poetry to Nelson Mandela: Madiba, Tata.
PoetryZoo allows people to write, edit and manage their own poetry. CLICK HERE to find out more.