UNESCO World Poetry Day Message 2011

Poetry has a thousand faces and always springs from the depths of the culture of peoples. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has long supported the work of poets, publishers and teachers worldwide. This year, once again, on the occasion of World Poetry Day, UNESCO wishes to highlight the artistic importance and the power of poetry in encouraging people to read and in creating one of humanity’s most authentic and dynamic art forms.

Poets convey a timeless message. They are often key witness to history’s great political and social changes. Their writings inspire us to build lasting peace in our minds, to rethink relations between man and nature and to establish humanism founded on the uniqueness and diversity of peoples. This is a difficult task, requiring
the participation of all, whether in schools, libraries or cultural institutions. To quote the poet Tagore, the 150th anniversary of whose birth will be celebrated this year, “I have spent my days in stringing and unstringing my instrument”.

It is important to understand the strong ties between poetry and all of the arts and techniques on which people draw to make sense of the world. Mallarmé used to say that poetry was the “expression, in human language restored to its essential rhythm, of the mysterious meaning of the aspects of existence”. Poetry is not
merely a means of communicating or transmitting information, for, as poets work constantly on the language, poetry also enlivens human discourse and always reveals the original brilliance of culture. UNESCO therefore sees the defence of freedom of expression and information, on one hand, and the promotion of poetry,
on the other, as two indissociable components of its mandate for peace. As poetry reaches deeply into the innermost efforts of men and women to create and reflect, it has the capacity to sustain dialogue amid the diversity of human expression.

UNESCO undertakes to ensure, under its various programmes, that poetry is more widely published, translated and disseminated. In the same way as Jason entrusted Orpheus with the task of surmounting obstacles that could not be overcome through physical strength or warfare, so too shall we need poetry for a long time in order to build peace in the minds of men and women.


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Irina Bokova

Irina Bokova served as the Director General of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) from 2009 to 2017.

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