He believes that the political implications of this effect are "so minuscule that it would be near delusional to talk about it", but the festival's curator, Rachel Holmes, disagreed: "What poetry brings to us is the individual perspective; that in my mind is political. It's how we find common humanity."
The reason she had called this year's festival Imagining Peace, she said, was because "it is not a romantic notion or an abstract concept to think that poets can make an intervention in thinking about and imagining the future. Poets have this great ability to imagine the conditions of what a future might look like, because if we can't do that we can't create a future that we want to live in."
Many of the festival's standout events are linked to political and geographical themes. Yesterday afternoon, the Iraq war veteran Brian Turner read from his new work Phantom Noise, which deals brutally with the reality of the conflict he was part of in 2003. Next Saturday, there will be a special evening dedicated to the post-Holocaust poet Paul Celan, which will include readings, performances of songs based on his minimalist poetry and extracts from Michael Nyman's films about Auschwitz set to a live score.
Another event focuses on poetry emerging from post-communist Eastern Europe, including the Czech Sylva Fischerová, the Slovenian Tomaž Šalamun and the Estonian Kristiina Ehi. Holmes is interested in initiating dialogue between poets who have lived through times of great political upheaval and those who are still doing so.
"We thought that would never end," she said of the Soviet Union and the Cold War, "because when you're in a situation you think how could this possibly ever be overcome." Because Palestinian poets were cut off from the rest of the Arab world, she thought it was important that the poets who would be reading during Poetry International should have the chance to interact.
At a launch event, a few days before Poetry International officially kicked off, Holmes gave a speech in which she quoted Ted Hughes, who curated the Southbank Centre's first international poetry festival in 1967. "However rootedly national in detail it may be," he said, "poetry is less and less the prisoner of its own language. Perhaps it is only now being heard for what, among other things, it is - a universal language of understanding."
The Poetry International festival Imagining Peace is on at the Southbank Centre in London until November 7. For details , visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk