Poetry has a thousand faces

In celebrating the World Poetry Day, March 21, UNESCO recognizes the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind. This internationally celebrated day allows us to pay tribute to all those men and women who strive to build a better world using words as their only tool.

Poets have a presence alongside civil movements and know how to alert consciences to the world’s injustices as well as encourage appreciation of its beauty.  

Irina Bokova, Director General
Message on Poetry Day 2012

Poetry allows individuals, as well as whole societies, to discover and assert their identity. The art of poetry is the foundation of diversity, allowing different languages to express their voice among the community of nations. By facilitating dialogue, poetry encourages tolerance and respect; it's the mainstay of oral tradition and, over centuries, can communicate the innermost values of diverse cultures.

In keeping with its commitment to promote diversity in world culture, UNESCO has been associated with the famous 'Struga Poetry Evenings,' held annually in Macedonia. This international festival, one of the oldest of its kind, provides striking proof to the ever-increasing vitality of poetry.

Nibelungenlied, codex C © Badische Landesbibliothek Karlsruhe

Nibelungenlied, codex C © Badische Landesbibliothek Karlsruhe


For almost half a century, some 4,000 poetry translators from over 100 countries have succeeded in creating poetic harmony in Struga. This harmony goes beyond language barriers or cultural differences, and ultimately brings people together. Among the most august prizes given at the Struga Poetry Evenings is the 'Golden Crown,' which is awarded annually to a renowned member of the poetry community. In cooperation with UNESCO, the Struga festival also accords the 'Bridges of Struga' prize to a young, novice poet. This reward is meant to encourage the youth to keep the flame of poetry alive, to restore hope to a disenchanted world and to ensure the progress of humanity.

"Know that no poet comes from the realm of the gods, but that they come from the race of men," wrote Leopold Sedar Senghor, a renowned Senegalese poet. UNESCO recognizes the importance of this message and hopes that we all "learn from our differences and converge to the universal." 

In September 2011, UNESCO launched the "Rabindranath Tagore, Pablo Neruda and Aimé Césaire for a Reconciled Universal" program. Indian, Chilean and Martinique respectively, these poet-activists reacted fiercely to the contradictions of an inequitable system and an unfair world. These poets embody an ideal of humanism, which is in turn reflected by these three important words: Love, Freedom and Peace.

Programmes

RABINDRANATH TAGORE, PABLO NERUDA AND AIME CESAIRE 

For a Universal Humanism


RABINDRANATH TAGORE, PABLO NERUDA AND AIME CESAIRE 

Poetry and Art : A Vital Force 


INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE 

Tsiattista poetic duelling (Cyprus) 


MEMORY OF THE WORLD 

Documentary heritage inscribed to the Memory of the World Register 


TEACHING POETRY 

The Recommendations of Noted Poets from Many Lands


THE UNESCO COLLECTION OF REPRESENTATIVE WORKS

A selection of 314 poetic works translated with UNESCO's support

Join the celebration

  • Support poetry by buying the collections of young poets

  • Invite your friends to improve both conventional and slam poetry

  • Learn from the proverbs of your country, and discover the poetic teachings of others

  • Read up about riddles, limericks and sonnets to liven up your evenings

  • Fight against the outdated image of poetry

  • Encourage your kids to read and write their own poetry during family gatherings

  • Awaken the poet inside of you and impress your friends with your creativity, inventiveness and imagination

  • Support poetry on radio, in magazine columns and feature films!

VIDEO: Long-necked lute and epic singing in Cambodia

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