A WELSH poet was invited to the official residence of the UK ambassador to France to recite some of his work.

RJ Arkhipov, who grew up in Christchurch, Newport and shares a surname with his grandfather who claimed asylum in the United Kingdom following World War Two, recited a poem he'd written at the Hôtel de Charost in Paris.

This was at the invitation of the UK's new ambassador to France, Menna Rawlings CMG, and France’s Honorary Consul to Wales, Céline Jones.

Ms Rawlings if the first woman to occupy the post and feels a strong connection to Wales; her mother is Welsh and, although Ms Rawlings grew up in London the family returned to Wales when Menna was 18.

Reading from an ode to the "flâneur" — a French word for a man who saunters around observing society — Mr Arkhipov describes finding "awen" on the streets of Paris.

Mr Arkhipov now lives in Edinburgh but had moved to the French capital at 18 to study French literature, cinema, and art history at the University of London Institute in Paris. He describes himself as "born in Wales. Reborn in Paris."

In Welsh, ‘awen’ is a word for the inspiration of the poets and bards.

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Following the recital, Mr Arkhipov said: "It was truly one of the greatest honours of my literary journey to write and recite a poem to celebrate Franco-Welsh relations at the British Embassy in Paris.

"Thank you to our new Ambassador to France Menna Rawlings (who is from Wales too), Minister Theo Rycroft and the Honorary Consul of France in Wales, Céline Jones for this opportunity.”

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Mr Arkhipov, 30, gained international acclaim in 2015 when he penned a series of poems using his own blood as ink in a protest against the gay blood donor ban in the United Kingdom, United States and much of Europe.

His first collection of poems, Visceral: The Poetry of Blood, was published in 2018 by Zuleika and earned the author a spot on the long-list of the Polari First Book Prize as well as invitations to read in parliaments across the UK.

In 2019, Mr Arkhipov was also invited to the Elysée Palace in Paris to present a copy to the library of the President of France, Emmanuel Macron.

Across England, Scotland and Wales, the deferral policies which prevented a man from donating blood if they had sex with another man in the past three months were overturned earlier this year in favour of an individualised risk-based assessment.

To commemorate and celebrate the occasion, Mr Arkhipov’s first book was republished on June 14 this year by Zuleika.

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