An Olympian gathering of poets

Tuesday 26 June 2012, 4:14PM
By Victoria University

A selection of esteemed New Zealand poets will rub shoulders with some of the world’s biggest names in poetry, as part of a cultural festival surrounding the London Olympics.

The Poetry Parnassus, due to kick off in London today, brings together one poet from each Olympic competing nation in what will be the biggest-ever UK poetry festival.

Four people with close Victoria University connections, including inaugural New Zealand Poet Laureate Professor Bill Manhire, have been chosen as part of the line-up.

Bill Manhire—Director of Victoria's International Institute of Modern Letters—will represent New Zealand, Pacific Studies lecturer Dr Teresia Teaiwa will represent the Pacific nation of Kiribati, and Creative Writing Master's graduates Kapka Kassabova and Tusiata Avia will represent Bulgaria and Samoa respectively.

Never have so many poets and so many languages been together in one place, with each poet contributing a poem in their own language.

Bill Manhire is delighted with the selections: "It's wonderful that four poets with Victoria connections have been chosen to be part of this event—even though we're representing different countries. The whole week is going to be an astonishing mix of the local and the global."

Kapka Kassabova says that the world doesn't often see an Olympic congregation of poets: "It will either be alarming or exhilarating to the public—and the poets! It will be eye- and ear-opening, I think, to be reminded that the world only speaks English some of the time."

After Poetry Parnassus, Bill Manhire will continue on to be the Poet-in-Residence at the Ledbury Poetry Festival (, where he will take part in workshops, readings and other events.

About Poetry Parnassus
Named after Mount Parnassus, the mythic home of the Muses, the festival will bring together poets from around 200 nations competing in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

From 26 June to 1 July, the festival includes performances from poets, authors, spoken word artists, singers and storytellers from across the globe, as they give readings, hold workshops and contribute to more than 100 free events each day.

Professor Bill Manhire will be taking part in Continental Shift: an evening event on 29 June in the 2,500-seat Royal Festival Hall, with poets from five other continents. The event includes two Poet Laureates, two Nobel Laureates and a Gold Medallist. He will also take part in the Poetry London Launch and a creative writing workshop on 30 June, and a reading on 1 July.

Dr Teresia Teaiwa will take part in WordPlay: Pacifica: Poetry from 6 of the 30,000 Pacific Islands, on 28 June, and Environmentalism and Eco-Poetry on 1 July.
• Kapka Kassabova will lead a creative writing workshop, Geography for the Lost, on 29 June, and take part in a debate, Free the Word!: I Am Not my Country on 27 June.

Tusiata Avia will take part in WordPlay: Pacifica: Poetry from 6 of the 30,000 Pacific Islands, on 28 June, and teach a workshop for kids, Nature Poems Workshop, the same day.

A full programme of events can be found here