Page last updated at 09:28 GMT, Monday, 1 March 2010

"Once in a lifetime" line-up of poets raise Haiti cash

By Huw Williams
BBC Scotland

Poets at the event
The line-up of 20 poets was led by four Poets Laureate

A sell-out crowd of more than 800 people has heard many of the greatest poets in the country read work, to raise cash for Haiti.

The event, at the Queen's Hall in Edinburgh, featured four Poets Laureate, including the UK's poet laureate Carol Anne Duffy.

Money raised will go to the Edinburgh-based aid agency Mercy Corps.

More than one million people are still homeless in Haiti after January's magnitude seven earthquake.

Ms Duffy, one of the main organisers of the event, admitted that "poetry makes nothing happen. "

But she said it "has the power of prayer and is the place in language where we are at our most human."

She added: "The people of Haiti need our humanity right now."

The Poets Laureate for the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, Ron Butlin and Liz Lochhead, both said they found it difficult to imagine poetic inspiration in the destruction brought by the earthquake.

Haiti's National Palace
Haiti's National Palace was one of the buildings devastated by the earthquake

But the fourth Poet Laureate taking part, Gillian Clarke from Wales, read a new "Lament for Haiti" reflecting on some of the most graphic images of the quake and its aftermath.

In it she described "the white Palace that fell into itself like snow", and "the cots and cushions and cups" that littered the rubble of collapsed houses across Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince.

Organisers said the event was "the most spectacular poetry event ever seen north of the border."

It attracted a message of support from Prime Minister Gordon Brown who said poets "feel and communicate our deepest yearnings and aspirations".

And Fiona Hyslop, minister for Culture and External Affairs in the Scottish government, told the audience they were "extending a hand of solidarity to the people of Haiti".

The evening marked the end of the "Carry a Poem" campaign, organised by Edinburgh Unesco City of Literature and the Scottish Poetry Library, which ran across the Scottish capital throughout February.

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