> On Catechism : Poems For Pussy Riot

On Catechism : Poems For Pussy Riot

Par |2018-09-25T17:14:38+00:00 12 novembre 2012|Catégories : Essais|

Before ela­bo­ra­ting on the content of Catechism, i should begin by sta­ting that i am not Russian. In spite of having a son with a dis­tinct­ly Slavic name (long sto­ry) my fami­ly tree rare­ly branches out of the north west of England. Also, whil­st i am Catholic, i am cer­tain­ly not Christian Orthodox, and i have never visi­ted the now infa­mous Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow.
Up until recent­ly, the most poli­ti­cal acti­vism i had enga­ged with would be par­ti­ci­pa­ting in gigs, going on marches, signing peti­tions.
I have never dan­ced in a cathe­dral. i am not a musi­cian.
But what i am, is female. More so, i am femi­nist.  I am a femi­nist who enjoys punk music and alter­na­tive culture. I may not do bala­cla­vas, but colou­red tights, yes indeed.
I am also a mother. I can­not ima­gine the pain and pro­found sad­ness that must be invol­ved in being locked away from my child due to my poli­ti­cal convic­tions. I can­not com­pre­hend three women being kept miles away from home, from fami­ly, for a pea­ce­ful pro­test.
This is why i have felt the cause of Pussy Riot so acu­te­ly and the need to be invol­ved. The fee­ling within that here there are women who, whil­st far grea­ter in their cou­rage, in their real, eve­ry­day lives, are women just like me, and just like my friends. There is a sense of if this could hap­pen to them, who could be next in 21st cen­tu­ry socie­ty ? The alarm bells reso­nate throu­ghout Europe for us all.
In light of my strength of fee­ling, i real­ly wan­ted to do some­thing posi­tive. But what could i do ? I write. How can we, as wri­ters, make a dif­fe­rence to poli­tics ?
Fortunately, not eve­ry­bo­dy does such a rou­sing impres­sion of a head­less chi­cken as myself. A group on Facebook, English Pussy Riot, pro­vi­ded details on how to write pri­son let­ters to Pussy Riot. It was Sophie Mayer, poet and femi­nist aca­de­mic, who rea­li­sed that actual­ly, as poets, wouldn’t it be more fit­ting to send the three women poems to show our soli­da­ri­ty ?
After so many poets regis­te­red an inter­est in doing this, Sophie contac­ted English PEN, a cha­ri­ty that aids wri­ters in exile or those who have their liber­ty as wri­ters threa­te­ned, to ask for help with fin­ding trans­la­tors into Russian. They imme­dia­te­ly said they’d like to sup­port the pro­ject by publi­shing the poems for us.
In a mat­ter of days, Poems For Pussy Riot grew from a small seed of an idea, to a blos­so­ming pro­ject sup­por­ted and pro­mo­ted by English PEN on a dai­ly basis. In a fort­night, it had gone from a small col­lec­tion of poems, to an actual book. 110 poets had gene­rous­ly given up their time and work to offer assis­tance, whe­ther it is through accord or affi­ni­ty, to the band.
Editing, selec­ting and gathe­ring infor­ma­tion for the book was split by three of us, Mark Burnhope, a Bournemouth poet and disa­bi­li­ty rights acti­vist, took charge of pro­vi­ding superb bala­cla­va illus­tra­tion for a dozen of the poems. Where i focu­sed on miss­pelt band names and all things Russian, Mark actual­ly knows how to do a good job of sub-edi­ting and pro­vi­ded a fresh pair of eyes to each mis­take i’d over­loo­ked for the sake of an explo­sive word or bright colours. Sometimes it’s good to have an adult invol­ved !
Sophie dealt with most of the liai­son with Cat Lucas and Robert Sharp at PEN, and both hers and PEN’s enthu­siasm, time and dedi­ca­tion to the pro­ject was just immense and put me to shame. Her work was tru­ly relent­less, effi­cient and infec­tious. She also loca­ted some ter­ri­fic poems both natio­nal­ly and inter­na­tio­nal­ly by wri­ters i was pre­vious­ly unfa­mi­liar with.
Being an edi­tor of an antho­lo­gy means that by the time the final cut goes to press, the words can often cross your eyes and mind like a wave, like the song you’ve heard a mil­lion times before. Yet with Catechism, the varie­ty is such that on each read, or each lis­ten, a dif­ferent pitch, ano­ther tone is heard that may have gone pre­vious­ly unno­ti­ced, such is the sheer varie­ty of the col­lec­tion.
There are poems dea­ling in dyna­mite words, those that may be regar­ded as too coarse for poe­try by some. But this cause is about brea­king down bar­riers, yes ? So we had Jen Campbell’s Vaginaland, Sophie Herxheimer and Alison Winch’s Trollops Cathedral, Ira Lightman’s Soutien-Gorge and Daniel Sluman’s Her Face When she Came.
Then, we have the poems that real­ly get to the bel­ly of the beast. Poems that spe­ci­fi­cal­ly refer to the one per­son who has the power to release Pussy Riot, and yet insists that they “got what they asked for.” The risible nature of Putin’s media machine is illus­tra­ted with ter­ri­fic humour in Tom Jenks’ Fifty Shades Of Putin, and the glo­rious defiance of the band in the face of his lea­der­ship is cap­tu­red per­fect­ly in Sarah Thomasin’s To Vladimir Putin(A Pussy Riot Poem).
There is also a med­ley of form, from rhy­ming in Sophie Robinson’s Free Pussy, to visual work from Amy Evans, Rebecca Cremin and Ryan Ormonde. We felt it was impor­tant for visual poems to be inclu­ded in the col­lec­tion, as Pussy Riot made such an impact on the eyes first and fore­most.
Since the publi­ca­tion of Catechism, Yekaterina Samutsevich has been relea­sed from pri­son. Whilst her release is undoub­ted­ly righ­teous, there is lit­tle cause for cele­bra­tion when two mem­bers remain pri­so­ners of poli­ti­cal conscience.  It is also true that a col­lec­tion of pro­test poe­try in all its glo­rious shapes and forms is unli­ke­ly to free them.
Yet in brin­ging this book toge­ther, a real sense of strength in num­bers was felt within the femi­nist com­mu­ni­ty, from all gen­ders, from all back­grounds, sexua­li­ty and eth­ni­ci­ties who feel the need to ques­tion and keep ques­tio­ning the seve­ri­ty and injus­tice of a lea­der­ship that would see women locked away for sin­ging not an anti-reli­gious, but rather an anti-govern­ment pro­test song.
As poets, it is nice to write about the trees, the sea, the beau­ty of nature and pret­ty birds in flight from time to time. But some­times it’s pre­fe­rable, impe­ra­tive even, to use the tools we have for what is real­ly impor­tant, to speak out for the free­dom of others. While Catechism contains a vast spec­trum of poe­tic styles, all poets are sin­ging from the same hymn sheet on the mat­ter of liber­ty. These women should be free, and we will keep on sin­ging and shou­ting loud­ly in cho­rus, whe­ther that is in verse, in image, in sound or in song, until they are.
http://​www​.engli​sh​pen​.org/​t​h​e​-​p​o​e​m​s​-​f​o​r​-​p​u​s​s​y​-​r​i​o​t​-​p​r​o​j​e​ct/

 

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