Martel, Payette to kick off space show

Acclaimed Canadian novelist Yann Martel says he didn’t know he had it in him to write a 14-stanza poem about water for a show that will be hosted in space this Friday.

TORONTO — Acclaimed Canadian novelist Yann Martel says he didn’t know he had it in him to write a 14-stanza poem about water for a show that will be hosted in space this Friday.

The poem from the “Life of Pi” author, entitled “What the Drop of Water Had to Say,” sets the theme for the show, which will be hosted by Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte from the International Space Station.

Martel says he’ll kick off the extravaganza by reading the first stanza with astronaut Julie Payette in front of a live audience at the circus centre La Tohu in Montreal.

Luminaries including former U.S. vice president Al Gore, U2 frontman Bono and pop star Shakira will then take over, reading one stanza each from their respective cities via satellite link-up.

The 14-city show, called “Moving Stars and Earth for Water,” will be broadcast on the Internet and several TV networks.

Martel says Cirque du Soleil called him over a month ago asking him to translate a French poem into English for the event, but when that poet could no longer participate, they asked Martel to write one himself.

Martel, who doesn’t usually write poems, created one in just three days.

“A certain spontaneity was imposed on me because there was so little time,” the Saskatoon-based author said Wednesday in a telephone interview from Montreal, where his parents live.

“I had to write 14 stanzas on water — I didn’t even know I had 14 stanzas on water in me but I guess I did.”

Martel wrote the poem in English and had to organize the translations for readers in other countries.

“It will be multilingual,” he said. “It’ll be read in Rio de Janeiro in Portuguese; in Morocco in Arabic; in Russia in Russian; in Japan in Japanese.”

The piece features three characters: The sun, the moon and a drop of water.

Martel said he wrote it in a certain order and he hopes it flows well if it’s switched around during the reading.

Other celebrities participating include David Suzuki, Salma Hayek, Peter Gabriel, Matthew McConaughey.

Laliberte has paid $35 million to spend nine days as a “space tourist” on the International Space Station.

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