About The Written World

Welcome to The Written World - our collaboration with the BBC to broadcast a poem on the radio every day during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Written World honours the spirit of London 2012, bringing together poems representing each participating country, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

During the run-up to and throughout the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the BBC is broadcasting a Written World poem on the radio every day, recorded by members of the public who have family ties to the country.

We’ll be uploading the poems the day after they are broadcast, so keep checking back to see the map progress, and to read more incredible poetry in celebration of 2012. Please follow us on Twitter, too – we’d love to know which ones you’ve particularly enjoyed and why!

How did we choose the poems?

Each poem was picked after hours of reading and deliberating. We welcomed suggestions from around the world via a call-out on our website, and from international contacts we have with poets, translators, and editors. Freelance readers sifted hundreds of poems for us. We also spent months reading and researching poems in our own library, the Saison Poetry Library and the British Library in London.

Making the final selection was not easy. We had to reject many beautiful poems because they were too long, too sad or too abstract. The project needed poems that were instantly accessible and relatively upbeat; if sad or about loss, we chose works that balanced the darkness with a little hope too, in the spirit of the 2012 Games. It was an exhaustive process, leading into discussions with BBC producers who provided expert knowledge of what makes for good radio. The final decision was collaborative and never one person’s choice.

The poems selected are often not by the most notable poet a country has produced. Some of them are funny or light-hearted. Often they are snapshots of lives rather than grand narratives. And some of the choices will be controversial – but we are happy to generate debate! We are confident they all give a glimpse of lives in countries spanning the globe. Together these poems depict a world united not only by sport, but by emotions that are universal and need no translator other than the heart. We hope you enjoy them.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to trace the copyright holder of the poems used in this project. If you can advise us of the appropriate acknowledgement to be made please contact reception@spl.org.uk.