Raising awareness of rights violations in China through poetry, the PEN Poem Relay is crossing the globe, touching down in North America on April 9.

The Pen Poem Relay features the translation and reading of the poem ‘June’ by the imprisoned poet and journalist Shi Tao, on its website www.penpoemrelay.org. The poem, written by Shi Tao from prison, commemorates Tiananmen Square, 1989.

Through this website, with a map of the world and a relay itinerary that parallels the Olympic Torch Relay itinerary, the poem, in Mandarin, English and more than 60 other languages is virtually “travelling” around the world, via many of International PEN’s 144 centres in 104 countries, adding new translations as it goes. The relay ends in Beijing prior to the opening of the 2008 Olympics on August 8.

Visitors to the website can track the poem’s progress to read and hear new translations of the poem as it arrives at PEN centres close to the route of the Torch Relay.

On Wednesday April 9, Shi Tao’s ‘June’ arrives in Canada, in a translation by Cree artist William Merasty.

The PEN Poem Relay forms a part of PEN Canada’s “We Are Ready for Freedom of Expression” Countdown to the China Olympics campaign, drawing together PEN’s literary and human rights mandate to highlight almost 40 cases of Writers in Prison in China on whose behalf PEN advocates, demanding their release before the Olympics start date of August 8.