UNESCO World Poetry Day Message 2001

Paris, March 20 (No.2001-43) – On the occasion of World Poetry Day, celebrated on March 21, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura issued the following message:

Poetry is an age-old art. It is the art of language, an interplay of words, speech in all its beauty. Poetry is better recited than read.

This is how poetry has spanned the centuries and crossed the continents. It is a fruit of both individual and collective imagination and, like music, dance and the visual arts, the cement of life in society. It is all-pervasive, yet elusive. Its apparent fragility, born of intangibility, makes it a major art, inviolate despite the assaults of time and intolerance.

Like all intangible heritage, poetry deserves our full attention. For all its universal acclaim, it is little published, still less translated. Though it lies at the heart of every language, it is all too often considered inaccessible.

Poetry is an art in which language takes root and is renewed; it is a most trustworthy messenger of culture; a unique, sophisticated witness to history. Poetry has much to teach us about other people’s worlds, values and dreams. It is a door open to dialogue and understanding between peoples that we are celebrating in this United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations.

UNESCO is already engaged in promoting the teaching of poetry in schools and supports all efforts to publish and translate poetry. I would also like to invite Member States to contribute in every possible manner to the enduring promotion of poetry.”


Several activities will mark World Poetry Day. More information is available on the Website of the World Poetry Directory: www.unesco.org/poetry

In Delphi (Greece), a major event focusing on poetry will include poetry readings, roundtable debates, a piano concert (March 19) as well as book exhibition (March 18 to 23). In Santiago de Compostela (Spain), a symposium, poetry readings (notably Galician poems) will take place in several venues, including the bars of the old town.

At UNESCO, debates and readings, organized by PEN Club France will take place on March 22 starting at 3 p.m. (Room XVI). The award ceremony of the PEN Club’s Prix Louise Labé will take place on March 22 at 6.30 p.m. (Room XVI) and a music and poetry recital, entitled La part des mots, will be given on March 25 at 8.30 p.m. (UNESCO Cinema) at the initiative of the Centre international de création d’espaces poétiques.

Moreover, several Ambassadors to UNESCO recently created an Association of Poet Ambassadors. The association has been conceived to promote poetry world-wide. It is chaired by Amin Esber, Ambassador of Syria.


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Kōichirō Matsuura

Kōichirō Matsuura served as the Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) from 1999 to 2009.

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