UNESCO World Poetry Day Message 2003

21-03-2003 – “Poetry is human language reduced to its essential rhythm”, said Mallarmé. Poetry is indeed a language that delves deep into the human soul and expresses the mysterious meaning of existence. As the highest expression of a language, it should occupy a special place in our lives.

Neruda - World Poetry Day Message 2003. © UNESCO.


Language, with its distinctive rhythms and music, the interplay of words and their many meanings, is the raw material of all poetry. Fables, myths and legends, heroic deeds and tales have been passed on, at first orally and then by way of a variety of writing systems, since the dawn of humanity. For each community, language is a badge of identity and a means of discovering the world, and also one of the main vectors of cultural diversity.

Poetry is a major cultural factor, a total language that constitutes the expression of a deep-seated desire to live with others and hence an essential instrument for bringing peoples closer together. It is a reflection and mirror of communities and the foremost vehicle for self-affirmation, but it is also a decisive lever in creativity, progress and shared development.

Poetry therefore helps us to live together. It is essential to intercultural dialogue and harmonious interaction among the different communities of the world. Encouraging its creation, its dissemination and its translation is another way of promoting cultural diversity, a vital source of inspiration conveyed by the living unity of poets through the myriad facets of their creativity.

Today, 21 March, World Poetry Day, I invite Member States, associations and each and every individual to celebrate poetry and to reflect on the fundamental role it plays in intercultural dialogue, a pledge of peace.


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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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