On World Poetry Day, UN stresses bards’ role in meeting humanity’s aesthetic needs

Three Indonesian children composed poems on the occasion of World Poetry Day.

21 March 2011 – The United Nations today celebrated World Poetry Day, highlighting the role of bards in bearing eternal witness to the great transformations of the world and humanity’s aesthetic yearnings.

“Poets convey a timeless message. They are often key witness to history’s great political and social changes,” UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova said in a message. “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.”

UNESCO proclaimed 21 March as World Poetry Day in 1999, calling poetry a “a social need, which incites young people in particular to return to their roots, and a means whereby they can look into themselves at a time when the outside world is irresistibly luring them away from themselves.”

The main objective of the proclamation is to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities.

The Day is meant to support poetry, return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, promote its teaching, restore a dialogue with other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media so that the art will no longer be considered an outdated form.

UNESCO encourages the Member States to take an active part in celebrating the Day, at both local and national level, with the active participation of national commissions, non- governmental organizations (NGOs) and public and private institutions concerned, such as schools, municipalities, museums, cultural associations, publishing houses and local authorities.

“There is still a tendency in the media and among the general public to refuse to take the poet seriously,” UNESCO said in its 1999 proclamation. “Action is needed to free ourselves in order to make this image a thing of the past and to give poetry its rightful place in society.”

It was a message Ms. Bokova stressed today. “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,” she said.

“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.”

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