London based poet Katharine Kilalea, author of the award-winning collection One Eye’d Leigh, has been chosen to represent South Africa, the country of her birth, in the inaugural Poetry Parnassus, to be held at London’s Southbank Centre from 26 June to 1 July.
The Poetry Parnassus is an attempt to recapture the cultural spirit of the ancient Olympic Games, which included, among its athletic competitions, the display of works by sculptors and poets. The Poetry Parnassus is part of the finale of the Cultural Olympiad, which is being held to coincide with the 2012 Olympic Games. An estimated 204 poets, one from each one of the Olympic nations, are expected to take part in what is being called the “biggest gathering of poets in world history”.
From Ireland’s Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney to Kim Jong-il’s exiled former court poet Jang Jin Seong, hundreds of poets from around the world are set to gather on the banks of the Thames this summer in an attempt to recreate the poetic spirit of the ancient Olympic Games.
Thousands of nominations were received from the public for the best poet in their country, with a panel including the poet Simon Armitage and other experts whittling this down to find one poet from each of the 204 competing Olympic nations. One hundred and forty poets, from Kazakhstan’s 24-year-old Akerke Mussabekova to 83-year-old Anise Koltz from Luxembourg, have already confirmed attendance at the festival, with the quest now to pin down writers from the remaining 64 Olympic countries.