21 March 2003 is UNESCO's World Poetry Day.
At a time when multilateral institutions are being trampled on; in an age where the rhetoric of politics, economics and war has overtaken the humane voice of poetry and art, this day could provide an occasion for activities and efforts carried out at different levels to support peace (vs aggression), cultural diversity (vs hegemony) and human dignity (vs the reduction of casulties to a numbers game).
I for one personally subscribe to quiet revolutions of thought and inner resolution. I'd like to quietly invite everyone to consider and reflect on these views, whether you agree or disagree with the present state of affairs:
- Poetry is an expression and record of human endeavour, existence and ennoblement. It stands opposed to the barbarism implied by the right of might.
- Poetry may "make nothing happen". But action is NOT always superior to thoughtfulness. Inaction is NOT always indecision. Restraint, contemplation and diplomacy are NOT equivalent to sentimentality and weakness. There are times when pause is due, and alternatives imagined.
- Poetry is an act of cultural conservation, giving voice to those who have been silenced or unheard, and preserving -- for present and future generations -- patterns of intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social even physical responses of a people. At a time when war, administrative collapse and social upheaval threaten many in the world, the collection, sharing and celebration of poetry, particular of those most affected, seems ever more important. It is when the political extinction of a people seems most inevitable that the conservation of its culture in whatever forms are available becomes the most urgent.
- Poetry affirms our solidarity with the human race, encoded in the shared language of art, mediated through the diverse cultures and linguistic practices of the world's extended family. To love the world, and to share that fundamental affection for life, through poetry, demonstrates our common decent humanity and rich diversity, and deemphasises our differences without erasing our variety in needless homogeneity.
- Poetry is relatively cheap, perhaps even almost free. When it boils down to it, you can have it for a song. That many do not profit directly from poetry, commercially, is perhaps further indication of its pricelessness.