Karen Solie, a Toronto-based poet who won the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2010 for Pigeon, is to represent Canada at a Poetry Parnassus being planned in conjunction with the London 2012 Olympics.
The Poetry Parnassus has invited a poet from each nation competing in the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics to London at the end of June for a week of readings and workshops. The event, the UK's largest poetry project, is part of the London 2012 Festival that accompanies the Olympics.
Organizers have already signed 153 poets, but are still seeking writers from about 23 nations – among them Mali, Bhutan, Liberia and Papua New Guinea.
The poets were selected by public nomination. Nobel laureates Seamus Heaney of Ireland, Wole Soyinka of Nigeria and poet laureats Kay Ryan of the U.S. and Bill Manhire of New Zealand are among those expected to attend.
There are even poets from countries where free speech is restricted, including Jang Jin Seong, former court poet to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, who fled the regime and now resides in South Korea where he is a critic of the North.
Cambodian poet Kosal Khiev learned to write while in a U.S. prison. Born in a refugee camp, he grew up in the U.S. and was arrested for gang violence at the age of 16, then deported to Cambodia, a country he had never set foot in.
Egyptian poet Iman Mersal is currently a professor of Arabic literature at the University of Alberta. Canada’s Solie was born in Saskatchewan and has published in journals such as Geist, The Fiddlehead, The Malahat Review and Other Voices.
Details of the Poetry Parnassus – so named because Mount Parnassus was said to be the home of the Muses – were released Tuesday by London’s Southbank Centre.
The Poetry Parnassus will open with a Rain of Poems, featuring 100,000 bookmark-shaped poems to be released from a helicopter over a crowd waiting on the Southbank Centre's Jubilee Gardens.
Poets, spoken word artists, rappers and story-tellers will read their work in over 50 languages and a call has been put out for numerous translators to help the poets talk to each other.
"As London welcomes the world this summer, we look to art as an agent for social change and as a testimony to human inspiration," said Southbank Centre artistic director Jude Kelly.