UNESCO World Poetry Day Message 2004

Today, 21 March, we are all being invited to celebrate World Poetry Day.
In a world overwhelmed by noise and slogans, poetry brings us a different way of telling its history, with its dreams and its divisions, thanks to the diversity of the world’s languages.

With this celebration, UNESCO does not see itself as the mastermind of some commemorative ceremony. We simply wish to contribute to the free emergence of words, to be a catalyst for transmission, sharing and creativity.

In its written or oral form, poetry may be an instrument of conservation, a living memory of peoples, a story of origins. Whether sacred or profane, poetry enlightens us with memorable words, to be cherished and handed down, both a challenge and an antidote to oblivion.

But the act of poetry also represents dissonance and disproportion, trial and exorcism. Its modern and shifting vision allows for new associations and dissociations. As it plays with language structure, poetry displaces and condenses images and in so doing stimulates the imagination and creative freedom within us.

Poetry thus involves a whole conception of history and culture that ties in with our desire to find a response to the contradictions of our time.

I hope, therefore, that this Day will provide one and all with an opportunity to look again, without fetishism or amnesia, at the use we make of languages, heritage and memory. A day which can help us build a vital relationship between the memory of the past and the invention of new possibilities.

© UNESCO.

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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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