• Handwritten poems on handmade paper form a material collection of poets’ works from each of the Olympic countries
Online Staff Report
CHICAGO — The literary exhibition on view at the Poetry Foundation until April 30 is The World Record, an autograph edition of poems handwritten in the native languages of more than 100 contemporary poets, including Seamus Heaney, Qassim Haddad, Selina Tusitala and Kay Ryan, to name a few.
This edition was created for the Saison Poetry Library during Southbank Centre’s Poetry Parnassus, a 2012 global gathering of poets that coincided with the London Olympic Games, and made history as the largest poetry festival ever staged in the U.K.
121 poems have been recorded in the hand of the poet on sheets of paper containing fibers from the five Olympic continents. Also on view is the desk at which each poem was transcribed, made by British designer Sean Dare and signed by the poets.
In May 2011, Simon Armitage appeared on the BBC to ask for nominations from around the world for poets to take part in the festival. From thousands of submissions, curators Armitage and Anna Selby selected one poet from each of the 204 Olympic countries to invite to Poetry Parnassus and contribute a poem to The World Record, which was published as an English-language anthology by Bloodaxe Books.
All items in this exhibition have been loaned to the Poetry Foundation by the Saison Poetry Library, a major library for modern and contemporary poetry with a collection of more than 200,000 items at Southbank Centre, London.
Southbank Centre is a world-famous arts center on the South Bank of the Thames. Created in 1951 for the Festival of Britain, Southbank Centre draws on its heritage as a festival site, with art and activities across its 21 acres. Southbank offers music, dance, art, performance and spoken-word events throughout the year.
The paper for the autograph edition of The World Record was handmade on the streets of Prishtina during Polip International Literature Festival, a Serb-Kosovan collaboration that brings together writers from across the Balkans and beyond.
In the spirit of Poetry Parnassus, a new handmade paper work inspired by the 77 community areas of Chicago will be created by the Poetry Foundation in collaboration with local artists later this year.
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs. For more information, visit poetryfoundation.org.
The Poetry Foundation is at 61 W. Superior St., Chicago, and can be reached at (312) 787-7070.
Posted April 23, 2014