New York, Toronto, Stockholm, April 9, 2008—As the Olympic torch reached the U.S., PEN American Center today released a recording of former U.S. Poet Laureate and PEN American Center Vice President Billy Collins reading imprisoned Chinese writer Shi Tao’s poem “June,” a meditation on the 1989 protests and massacre at Tiananmen Square. The recording serves as PEN American Center’s “leg” in the International PEN Poem Relay—an effort by PEN centers all over the world to publicize the lack of free expression in China by shadowing the progress of the Beijing Olympic Torch and broadcasting translations of “June” in over 60 languages.

Shi Tao, a journalist, poet and PEN member, is currently serving a 10-year sentence for “illegally divulging state secrets abroad” for sending information via e-mail on media control plans in advance of the 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Chinese authorities based their charges against Shi on user information Yahoo! (Hong Kong) Holdings, Ltd. provided. Shi penned the poem less than two months after he sent the email that led to his conviction—on June 9, 2004. He is not due for release from prison until November 2014.

Larry Siems, PEN American Center (212) 334-1660 ext. 105, lsiems@pen.org