26 June to 1 July 2012
One week event
Southbank Centre – Royal Festival Hall


Poetry Parnassus

Southbank Centre
hosted the biggest gathering of poets between 26 June and 1 July. Poetry Parnassus, led by Artistic Director Jude Kelly and Curator and Artist in Residence Simon Armitage, presented poetry and poets from all 204 nations competing in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Poets ranging in age from 24-year-old Akerke Mussabekova (Kazakhstan) to 83-year-old Anise Koltz (Luxembourg) travelled to the Southbank Centre from across six continents, from the mountains of Nepal and Brazil to the islands of Haiti and Samoa. Poets included those from countries where freedom of speech is still restricted, such as North Korea, Myanmar (Burma), and Swaziland. Many of the poets travelled to the UK for the first time and over 50% of the poets were women.


Poetry Parnassus Poets

Poets Amjad Nasser, Iman Mersal, Qassim Haddad and
Hassan El Ouassani after their evening reading
entitled Alternative Geographies

It was a real shame that a number of poets were not able to make the events: Syrian poet Rasha Omran, for example, was not given a visa, even though she has visited the UK to perform at festivals on a number of occasions before.


Among the Arab poets on the roster of poets were:

Iman Mersal - Egypt
Saadi Youssef - Iraq
Saadia Mufarreh - Kuwait
Venus Khoury-Gata - Lebanon
Khaled Mattawa - Libya
Zahir al-Ghafri - Oman
Rafeef Ziadah - Palestine
Dhabiya Khamis - Qatar
Ashjan Al Hendi - Saudi Arabia
Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi - Sudan
Rasha Omran - Syria

For more information, please see the London 2012 Festival homepage.