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International poets gather for Poetry Parnassus

25th June 2012

Poets from 203 of the 204 Olympic nations have descended on London for the Poetry Parnassus event, set to be the biggest ever celebration of the literary form.

As part of the Cultural Olympiad taking place to celebrate London 2012, British poet Simon Armitage has organised the global gathering in a bid to illustrate the power of both the written and spoken word, specifically its ability to inspire people and bring them together.

Of the 204 nations invited to send a poet to the event, only Monaco has not done so – despite repeated requests from Armitage and the festival organisers.

'I'm tempted to assume everybody's just driving around in Lamborghinis,' he joked. 'It's not through a lack of effort on our part. We could not have been more open in our invitation.'

The poets who have attended include Jang Jin-sung, former court poet to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, and Sudanese poet Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi, who had his visa approved just in time.

Great Britain will be represented by 2010 Costa Book Award winner Jo Shapcott, while Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney will represent Ireland.

The week-long event will include readings, talks and performances delivered in over 50 languages, which Armitage says could be a one-off.

'My feeling is that, on an international scale, it is unprecedented. I'm not even sure that it could ever happen again. Pretty much the whole of the Olympic world is here in body or spirit,' he added.

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