Parnassus Poetry event to bomb London with words

Seamus Heaney

Stars include Seamus Heaney, Wole Soyinka and Kim Jong-il's former court poet

LAST UPDATED AT 15:56 ON Tue 26 Jun 2012

THE Poetry Parnassus, the largest ever global gathering of poets, was due to be launched in London this evening with an aerial ‘bombing' of 100,000 bookmark-shaped poems from a helicopter near the Southbank Centre.

The Rain of Poems was to be be carried out by Chilean arts group Casagrande over the Jubilee Garden at sunset.

The Poetry Parnassus is the brainchild of poet Simon Armitage and Southbank Centre artistic director Jude Kelly. The aim is a "non-competitive poetic Olympics", with workshops, seminars and readings, featuring a poet for every country competing in the upcoming London Games.

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The organisers have attracted internationally known poets, including two Nobel Prize winners, but struggled to find representatives for Monaco, the Seychelles, Guinea-Bissau, Vanuatu and Liechtenstein.

Armitage told The Guardian: "That is not to say there aren't wonderful poets living and working in these countries - we just couldn't find them."

As a result, these countries will be represented by deceased or anonymous poets.

Happily, Britain will be represented by the very alive Jo Shapcott, who has won a number of prestigious awards including the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry.

Stars of the festival line-up include two Nobel laureates, Ireland's Seamus Heaney (pictured) and the Nigerian Wole Soyinka. Heaney has been called "the greatest poet of our age" by a number of academics and critics. Soyinka, who has been arrested several times and imprisoned twice for his human rights stance, writes largely about what he describes as "the oppressive boot and the irrelevance of the colour of the foot that wears it".

Other stars include Kay Ryan, the Pulitzer winner and recent US poet laureate, and Jang Jin-sung, a former court poet to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il. Now living in South Korea, were he has become a best-seller and media sensation, he has just published a volume of poetry, For 100 Won, My Daughter I Sell.

  • Poetry Parnassus runs from 26 June to 1 July and is part of the London 2012 Festival.

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