Today is is World Poetry Day. PEN International has announced calls to action on behalf of three persecuted poets. Follow the links below for more information and suggested actions.
Amanuel Asrat – Award-winning Eritrean poet, critic and editor-in-chief of the leading newspaper ዘመን (Zemen, The Times). He was arrested in September 2001 amid a crackdown on media. It is believed that he is being held without charge or trial. PEN International believes that Asrat’s detention is an attempt by the Eritrean government to stifle critical voices, including calls for establishing constitutional government. www.pen-international.org/newsitems/world-poetry-day-2017-take-action-for-amanuel-asrat
‘ኣበሳ ኲናት (The Scourge of War)’
Where two brothers pass each other
Where two brothers meet each other
Where two brothers conjoin
In the piazza of life and death
In the gulf of calamity and cultivation
In the valley of fear and peace
The ugliness of the thing of war
When its spring comes
When its ravaging echoes knock at your door
It is then that the scourge of war brews doom
You serve it willy-nilly
Unwillingly you keep it company
Still, for it to mute how hard you pray!
– Translated by Tedros Abraham
Dareen Tatour – a Palestinian citizen of Israel, currently standing trial on charges of “support for a terrorist organisation” and several counts of incitement to violence in connection with her poetry and social media activity. After reviewing the charge sheet and the evidence against her, PEN has concluded that Dareen Tatour has been targeted for peaceful exercise of her right to free expression.- www.pen-international.org/newsitems/world-poetry-day-2017-take-action-for-dareen-tatour
Excerpt from A Poet Behind Bars by Dareen Tatour:
I interrogated my soul
during moments of doubt and distraction:
“What of your crime?”
Its meaning escapes me now.
I said the thing and
revealed my thoughts;
I wrote about the current injustice,
wishes in ink,
a poem I wrote…
The charge has worn my body,
from my toes to the top of my head,
for I am a poet in prison,
a poet in the land of art.
I am accused of words,
my pen the instrument.
Ink— blood of the heart— bears witness
and reads the charges.
Listen, my destiny, my life,
to what the judge said:
A poem stands accused,
my poem morphs into a crime.
In the land of freedom,
the artist’s fate is prison.
– Translated by English by Tariq al Haydar
Liu Xia – a Chinese poet, artist, and founding member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre. She has been held in her Beijing apartment without access to phones, Internet, doctors of her choice, or visitors, ever since her husband, imprisoned poet Liu Xiaobo, was named the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2010. PEN International believes that the ongoing, extra-judicial house arrest of Liu Xia is a form of punishment for the human rights work carried out by her now imprisoned husband.- www.pen-international.org/newsitems/world-poetry-day-2017-take-action-for-liu-xia
One Bird after Another – by Liu Xia
We saw it
A little reflection left on the glass
It had been printed there for a long time without leaving…
Every year on July 15 of the lunar calendar
The river would be covered with water lanterns
But they could not call back your soul…
The train heading for the concentration camp
Sobbingly ran over my body
But I could not hold your hand…
– Translation by Yu Zhang
– Edited by Bonny Cassidy