Preface by the Director
General of UNESCO to "The Ray of Hope Poetry Anthology"
Dear "Ray of Hope" Poets,
Poetry is an exercise in bending language to express and transmit
emotions, to create new meanings, a new sense of beauty and wonder.
Each poet who has contributed to this volume shares with the reader
the searing reality of experiencing senseless violence day in day
out without surrending to cynicism or despair. Particularly for the
children who write in these pages,for whom the immediate environment
is practically all they have seen of life, we must applaud the act
of faith which permits them to "see beyond" to the
potential reality of peace.
They have accomplished two things which give poetry its unique
power: the imaginative use of language to report on what it feels
like to live with hatred and violence- - what I call "leaning
in"- - and the mobilization of language to transcend inhumanity
in the search of peace, or "leaning out". Here often in
the same short poem, we have all the darkness and anguish that some
adults can visit on children sharply contrasting with the luminous
ray of hope that these boys and girls have found within themselves
thanks to their parents and teachers.
When the world learns - - all of us - - that "the other" is also
us, that Belfast is also our hometown, that those who suffer near or far
are only episodically on television, but are permanently in our hearts,
then UNESCO's goal of creating the "moral solidarity of mankind"
in pursuit of peace will be within our grasp. The passion of these poems
takes us in that direction. They cry out for another way to solve our
differences, one based on the democratic principles of justice for each
individual, respect for all communities, minority or majority, and the
freedom to speak out, even forcefully, while foreswearing force and
With the approaching Christmas season, so dear to Protestants and
Catholics, can we not celebrate together the birth of one who saw in the
vision of children the "ray of hope" that could guide us to
1, personally, and all of us at UNESCO thank you for this splendid
anthology and wish you a peaceful 1997.
20 December 1996
In Northern Ireland the path of peace has proved difficult, but
hopes remain high that that ultimate goal can be achieved. In the
growing clamour for peace, adults in our society have expressed
their yearnings in a number of ways that often have touched us all.
In this poetry anthology it is the turn of our children. All of the
entries express a wish for a better future, a desire to turn away
from the darker aspects of our past. It is right that the children
should have this, their own forum. They are expressing their
feelings in a naturally engaging and guideless fashion that is at
once challenging and obvious. It is a form of expression that we as
adults may have lost, but perhaps could do well to emulate. There is
much for us all to reflect on in these lines.
All of the entries are thought-provoking, and some are very
impressive indeed. I commend them not only for their intrinsic
poetic value, but also for the sentiments they espouse.
MICHAEL ANCRAM Minister for Education Northern Ireland