SOME of the greatest love poems ever written will feature in a special celebratory performance as part of a summer festival.
The 50 Greatest Love Poems of the Last 50 Years will see poems from 30 different countries read by actors and poets on the Royal Festival Hall stage on Sunday, July 20.
It is part of the Southbank Centre's Festival Of Love and the biennial Poetry International Festival which was set up by poet Ted Hughes in 1967.
Among those being performed will include Celia, Celia read by the subject of the poem, Adrian Mitchell’s second wife and widow Celia Hewitt, and The Present read by Michael Donaghy’s widow Maddy Paxman.
Elsewhere actress Harriet Walter will read Margaret Atwood’s Variations on the Word Love, her husband Guy Paul will read Philippe Jaccottet’s Distances, Siobhan Redmond will read Edwin Morgan’s Strawberries and Don Paterson will read his poem My Love.
The evening will close with one of the greatest love poems of all time – Derek Walcott’s iconic Love After Love.
The poems have been selected from 30 countries across the world, from Saint Lucia to Iraqi Kurdistan and there will be readings in Arabic, Turkish, Macedonian and Tamil, with English translations.
They have been chosen by a team headed up by Southbank Centre’s head of literature and spoken word, James Runcie.
He said: "We have drawn on the expertise of our Saison Poetry Library to curate a truly international and stylistically diverse selection of what we see as the best 50 love poems of the past 50 years – from young poets such as the first Young Poet Laureate for London, Warsan Shire, to world greats such as Chinua Achebe and Ted Hughes.
"It was tough restricting ourselves to just 50 poems, but I think we’ve come up with a wonderfully rich and varied offering of some of the world’s greatest love poems, which, read by some of our finest readers will be an one-off evening to remember."
During the same weekend the Southbank Centre will also present a dramatised reading of some of the most beautiful and heartbreaking poets’ letters ever written.
These readings will take place on Saturday, July 19 and will be performed by actors and poets including wife and husband Harriet Walter and Guy Paul who will read the letters between Byron and Lady Caroline Lamb, Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Rilke and Marina Tsvetaeva.
Ben Lamb will read love letters by Keats and Rupert Brooke, Susannah Fielding will read Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath and Pablo Neruda and actor Jason Hughes will read one of Dylan Thomas’s last letters to his wife Caitlin, as well as poems by Ted Hughes, Wilfred Owen and Russell Edson.
Tickets for Saturday's event cost £10 and for Sunday cost from £12. Visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk/love or ring the box office on 0844 847 9910.