If you go down to the river this week… you’ll likely come across poets from all over the globe, heading to Southbank Centre for the biennial Poetry International Festival, the largest gathering of international poets in the world.
Since 1967, when Poet-Laureate-to-be Ted Hughes came up with the idea, Poetry International has taken place every other year. This year’s word wizards come from as far afield as America, Turkey and Zambia, to name just a few of the 20+ countries taking part.
The fun gets underway on 17 July with an evening featuring world-renowned poets Robert Hass, Ana Blandiana, Carolyn Forché, Kutti Revathi, Nikola Madzirov, Anne Michaels and also Egyptian hip-hop artist Mohamed El Deeb.
This year, Poetry International is part of the larger Festival of Love, so naturally, some events take on a romantic theme. Hear 50 actors and poets read the top 50 love poems from the past 50 years, or listen to readings of love letters written by renowned writers to their significant others: Byron and Lady Caroline Lamb, Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Rilke and Marina Tsvetaeva.
Children can get involved too. The Foraging Walk takes place in and around Southbank Centre, offering a chance to learn to identify wild herbs and flowers – and hear poems about the plants you find.