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Poems For Pussy Riot: A Political Act In a Poetic Form
October 2, 2012 13:00


Containing nearly a hundred poems from over a hundred authors from different countries, an anthology Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot has just been e-published by Mark Burnhope, Sarah Crewe and Sophie Mayor, with support from the English PEN. The contributions celebrate the Russian prisoners of conscience and vary in style, form, and subject.

Many of the titles evoke the spirit of "reVolution" and rebellion, traditionally associated with Punk music in English-speaking (British) culture, but also youth and feminism. Half of contributors are women, and another half of male contributors wrote about femininity. As George Szirtes, also a contributor and the author of the Introduction, notes,

"I am fully aware that it is unlikely to affect the course of events in any measurable way, though it may perhaps add to the weight of protest that hopes, at some stage, on some level, to influence the Russian court and indeed that part of the Russian people who support the sentence. It might be a consolation to Pussy Riot, and to those for whom they speak, that there are many people – including poets – who listen to them and talk back in support.A book of poems in a foreign language published in a foreign place is rarely a factor in the decisions of a hostile administration, but this is downloadable. It may be a factor somewhere, somehow. Who can tell? One has hope or one has nothing".

Contributing and making an anthology is no new to the English-speaking authors: they did so during the Bosnian war and most recently - during the war in Iraq. A poetic word is generously spent for a (quasi)political cause, altough, very much like Szirtes, poets realise how slim is the chance to exert any influence on the course of events. However, in today's world, amidst war, poverty, injustice, and the remains of totalitarianism, poets cannot remain on the sideline - so they go to battle and publish anthologies.

In the case with Poems for Pussy Riot, there's more to the poetic appeal than meets the eye. The West seems to have understood the phenomenon of "Mr Putin", so the political element of the Pussy Riot act is seen in a far broader context. Russia is still a largely patriarchal country, where women are obedient, men are powerful, and the status quo is supported by the Orthodox Church. It is in this, cultural, mental context, that Pussy Riot "punk prayer" has been deconstructed and analysed by the Western poets. For all its rebellious, racous approach, the band used a traditionally Russian means to voice the problem - they went to the church to pray to absolve Russia from her current President. This curious blend of revolt and traditionalism is what fascinates the West - as if this was the "real", mysterious, ambiguous Russia epitomised for the 21st century.

The e-book is downloadable for e-Pub, Kindle or as a PDF and is distributed on a "pay-what-it-is-worth" basis, with GBP 5 as a recommended donation. All moneys will be distributed between the Pussy Riot Legal Fund and the English PEN.

Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot

Author: Julia Shuvalova

Tags: Pussy Riot     

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