Tag Archives: Catechism Poems for Pussy Riot

Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot — Part Three: Six Poems

 
 
 
 
Commentators Chewing Meat
Kirsten Irving
 
 
The excitement here is one fat comet – do the crowd
want to praise him or eat him alive? I’m joking of
course; we all adore him like the sort of uncle who
cuffs you for low grades but still brings you sweets –
say, would you carve me another sliver? This chorizo
is heaven’s lace – and at last here he comes, in his
golden mortar, punting along with a sapphired pestle –
is that mink or ermine lying dead on his shoulders?
Are those real dragon’s teeth around his neck? –and
the roars are so loud now you’d think – you’d think
he’d steered his gondola into Moscow Zoo at feeding
time – speaking of which, one more tongue’s worth
couldn’t hurt – and has he gotten more muscular? His
upper body seems bolstered with clay beneath that
cloak; he’s practically a hunchback. But let’s not forget
what we’re here for: this isn’t Milan, Paris, London.
History! A two-thirds majority and a few royal nods
have cleared the weeds from a long-dead job role –
now guys, while I’m forking up another doily of pig, I
want you to think on this: can men become gods these
days? Did the window close with the last Roman
emperor? Who gets to decide, if not other gods, who
drift uselessly by like silent ships, fading into the fog?
And if a god can die, what use is he anyway? Oh look!
A scuffle! I do love scuffles!
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
The Eye of the Needle
Aoife Mannix
 
 
I bet when Jesus went into the temple
and started knocking over stalls,
there were those who said this is just
some punk from Bethlehem pulling a PR stunt,
and it’s disrespectful and it’s disgusting
and he needs to get what he deserves
so we’ll pin him to a cross and won’t consider
that two thousand years later his words will rise up
in a prayer that says Putin with your 22m roubles
worth of white gold watches, and your flotilla of yachts,
and your 20 palaces and your flying toilet
that cost 75,000 dollars, you with your Mercedes,
helicopters, villas, aeroplanes, swimming pools,
you are just an echo of that other Pilate dictator
who also thought he could cling to power
by torturing those that seemed weak
but knew the strength of turning the other cheek.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Free Pussy
Sophie Robinson
 
 
I’ve got the vagina your mother told you about
& it’s coming for you so watch out –

couplet vagina, hairy scruff, parkland
butchery waiting for your tender hand

descending. Happy vaginas on TV
open and close like poetry.

Sad vaginas on the streets stripped
of their rights, tight-lipped

& talkless in alleys always.
Awake & waiting, outer hallways

of a world full of those who know
it could be better & isn’t. Sad disco

where we can dance off our hurts
free pussy / lock hips / solidarity / stay alert.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Thirst
John Siddique
 
 
Imagine thirst without knowing water.
And you ask me what freedom means.
Imagine love without love.

Some things are unthinkable,
until one day the unthinkable is here.
Imagine thirst without knowing water.

Some things we assume just are as they are,
no action is taken to make or sustain them.
Imagine love without love.

It is fear that eats the heart: fear and
endless talk, and not risking a step.
Imagine thirst without knowing water.

Fold away your beautiful thoughts.
Talk away curiosity, chatter away truth.
Imagine love without love.

Imagine believing in the whispers,
the screams and the gossip. Dancing to a tune
with no song to sing inside you.
Imagine love without love.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Abridged and Complete Biography of Olympe de Gouges
Claire Trévien
 
 
You were born on a tongue of land
resting on a tit,
from which sprung willows that
made the slightest wind look like snow
no wonder you left
for the singeing gash of Paris where

they called you a he-woman at the slice
for daring to spunk for women’s rights. If

a woman can be brought to the scaffold,
you said, she should be allowed to fucking
shout! Thank fuck

you roar in the archives, slobbering over
the filing system! You’re an army of sixty kings
and no subject, you’re a butcher and his widow,
you’re every Mary I’ve watched
eat a tax collector for lunch
and still have room for a groom. Your plays
haven’t washed in two hundred years
and grow brown at the armpits. So what
if they stink and whistle at men in the street?
At least they don’t give a shit about our precious
feelings,

you’re a willow soaked in blood and set on fire
and when the wind gusts
you shit on it.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Our Glorious Leader Putin
Jack Underwood
 
 
Look! OUR GLORIOUS LEADER PUTIN has just shot a rare Siberian Tiger with a dart gun! Surely he is at one with/ connected to/ master of nature at its most fierce.

And look look! OUR GLORIOUS LEADER PUTIN has just spoken fluent goose to some rare migrating geese as he flies adjacently to them in a light aircraft, wearing a beak, leading them to safety, just as he metaphorically leads our nation with a cool, authoritative dignity.

Look now! OUR GLORIOUS LEADER PUTIN has just woken up and thumped out two hundred loaves of dough in a masculine and serious way, to be baked for the starving old people.

And look look! A crowd of beautiful women sing how they wish their boyfriends were as conscientious and as traditionally masculine as OUR GLORIOUS LEADER PUTIN as they shake their feminine behinds respectfully at his motorcade silly girls.

Ah wow look! OUR GLORIOUS LEADER PUTIN has been diving in the sea with his shirt off showcasing his masculine figure to his country and the World as he finds some ancient artefacts on the seabed again.

And bravo! OUR GLORIOUS LEADER PUTIN throws a lesser man in Judo!

Whoof! OUR GLORIOUS LEADER PUTIN rides a horse masterfully with his shirt off!

Listen! OUR GLORIOUS LEADER PUTIN is laughing at a joke, displaying to our country and the World that despite possessing a overall masculinity of impregnable steel, he is able to laugh at an authorised joke somebody has made in line with the concerns and beliefs of OUR GLORIOUS LEADER PUTIN.

And see OUR GLORIOUS LEADER PUTIN has just masturbated in the shower, in line with the recommendations of the Ministry of Healthcare of the Russian Federation. After all, he is nearly only a man, for which this is ordinary behaviour.

Observe now how OUR GLORIOUS LEADER PUTIN cleans his penis with a q-tip, so tidily and neatly, as if he were erasing a small secret from his past as a KGB hero/agent.

And now OUR GLORIOUS LEADER PUTIN is drinking a glass of his own delicious and superior vodka brand PUTINKA. Surely there is no other vodka brand currently available on the market that typifies the drinking requirements of an actual Russian man.

And imagine that as OUR GLORIOUS LEADER PUTIN swallows the cold-hot transparency of it, he opens his ears to himself and hears not one dissenting voice from within; thusly closing the wound of each of his thoughts with the same brute salve of his sure and right reflection.
 
 
 
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All profits from both the Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot e-book and print on demand copies will go to the Pussy Riot Legal fund and the English PEN Writers at Risk Programme.

Order Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot. Download the Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot e-book.

Visit English PEN’s website.

Visit English PEN’s Poems for Pussy Riot project page.

Read some of the Pussy Riot poems on English PEN’s website.

Visit EngPussyRiot’s live journal.
 
 
 
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Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot — Part Two: Six Poems

 
  
 
 
A Mother Prays to Cipaltonal
Sirama Bajo
 
 
do not go out, daughter
they do not like your flesh, here

they seek to harm it, here
cover yourself, for you will be seen

do not go out, daughter, be still
you will not be sacrificed today

not in the darkness, never in the dark
for how will they see it?

daughter, your flesh has grown
how, so much of it, will we hide?

darkness’ shawl is not enough
daughter, your flesh is glowing in the dark

I will sing a very old song
thick like war, like grief

from our dead, this gift
a song to cover up the sun

birds will think it is always night
we will have the stars in cactus blooms

always safe your female flesh
which used to darkness, has begun to glow
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
‘Here, my love, listen.’
Karen Connelly
 
 
1.
 
Here, my love, listen.
The sculpted dish of the human ear
still fills with cries
from a road where the blood
stayed for many days.
The people come slowly out
of their hiding places to collect
the scarves, the purses,
the hand-painted signs,
so many voices broken away
from frozen-open mouths.
 
 
2.
 
Here where all the doors are closed
the woman turns herself
sideways to slide through the slit
of hope, the woman strips off
her shadow and stands perfectly
naked
before the crowd.
Then she begins to sing.
 
 
3.
 
Here where the spirit
becomes flesh and a million
dead sweat beside you,
the borders dissolve
with the bruised skin.
Here there is no separation.
Entering the new age
of murder,
you forsake
every weapon but the hand
thrashing a guitar.
And the voice, the unruly voice,
raising its riot
of song.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Perpetual
Sasha Dugdale
 
 
When all the passions are at last spent
They lead out the mother martyrs
Who honestly have the most to lose
Having regurgitated soul, heart and brains
At some earlier stage, having sent a pigeon-chested
Yellow parcel of skin forth into the dung.
They are more parts water than anyone else:
Tears rush to blur their eyes at the smells of
Jasmine, milk, meadowsweet, bread.
Every night they fight a constricting doubt
Winding itself about their neck, chewing, pawing
Severing important arteries and nervous structures:
Every night in their sleep they are closer to dying
Than the rest, because with one act they have become two
And they perceive their own death always from outside
As a halving, a terrible halving, with a sharpened sword.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
The Cage
Katy Evans-Bush
 
 
Inside it are the most beautiful animals of all.
The most dangerous animals.
The most vulnerable animals.
The ones with the most coloured plumage.
The ones with stripes.
The ones with the loudest songs.

Outside it are the ones who might be hurt.
Our eyes are burned by colour.
Our flesh is torn by claws.
Our ears are troubled by the untrammelled
cacophony of nature.
Our cameras –

In the dust of the enclosure, in the pen,
the caged cat paces, darkly miraculous
inside her suit of cat skin.
The squid-woman swims oblivious in light and water.
Behind the wall, the rhino nurses her infant,
innocent even of her horn.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Avoid Using the Word ‘Pussy’
Charlotte Geater
 
 
feminists it’s time to become angry
again! gingerbread women break your
fists when they say

the punk rock girl band / stop bitching
whose name we can’t say / i call them bitches
on morning television / because they are bitches

three strumpets who will / holy mary mother of god
be pardoned soon

the girls are sinners, they’ve made their
choice against christ & real madonna
what pussies, when riots?

but which of you weren’t always angry –
who listened / stop bitching
little heart elbow patches

are used only because
they’re hard to take seriously.
everyone can be pussy riot?

but why presume / stop bitching

but the struggle as its own apart
but the struggles together.

the trampled tents laughing
i hate i despise / the empty church
& do not respect

your festivals / what if we had two
hundred thousand years more of this

& if you are not angry from before
these times / what riots

will you have had enough / stop
will you stop? pussy like most slang terms
(see also: cunt) an endearing name

for a girl / do not endear
when riots are / which anger is this
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Pomegranates
Kiran Millwood Hargrave

 
for Lady Macbeth
 
 
I wish that children came
easy as a lie.

That blood came, dropped like
so many seeds

thoughtlessly.

It’s as if someone has
sewn me up.

So I took the handle of a knife
and split a slit.

Finally blood, for all the
months I missed.

Imagined a pomegranate
spilling red-bruised-black.

Imagined a girl her flesh
was blue and sad

imagined a boy his hair
was black like mine

imagined myself stretched
scream-open and alive.

It took five hours to
stitch me up.

They left my hands red
so as not to forget.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
All profits from both the Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot e-book and print on demand copies will go to the Pussy Riot Legal fund and the English PEN Writers at Risk Programme.

Order Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot.
 
Download the Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot e-book.
 
Visit English PEN’s website.

Visit English PEN’s Poems for Pussy Riot project page.

Read some of the Pussy Riot poems on English PEN’s website.

Visit EngPussyRiot’s live journal.
 
 
 
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Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot — Part One: Editors’ Foreword and Introduction by George Szirtes

 
 
 
 
Contributors
are Sascha Aurora Akhtar, Sandra Alland, David Ashford, Tim Atkins, Andrew Bailey, Sirama Bajo, Richard Barrett, Susan Birchenough, Mark Burnhope, Wayne Burrows, David Caddy, John Calvert, Jen Campbell, Theodoros Chiotis, Karen Connelly, Jennifer Cooke, Rebecca Cremin & Ryan Ormonde, Sarah Crewe, Sarah Crewe & Jo Langton, Alison Croggon, Tim Dooley, Betty Doyle, Sasha Dugdale, Laurence Ebersole, Amy Etkins, Chris Emslie, John Ennis, Amy Evans, Gareth Evans, Katy Evans-Bush, SJ Fowler, Kit Fryatt, Lucy Furlong, Charlotte Geater, The Gingerbread Tree, Jay Griffiths, Hel Gurney, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Steven Heighton, Sophie Herxheimer & Alison Winch, Sarah Hesketh, Jeff Hilson, Adam Horovitz, Ray Hsu, Peter Hughes, Philo Ikonya & Helmuth Niederle, Kirsten Irving, Genowefa Jakubowska-Fijalkowska, Maria Jastrzebska, Tom Jenks, Antony John, Phill Jupitus, Amy Key, John Kinsella, Melissa Lee-Houghton, Deborah Levy, Ira Lightman, Francesca Lisette, M Ly-Eliot, Alex MacDonald, Melissa Mack, Christodoulos Makris, Aoife Mannix, Barbara Marsh, Agnes Marton, Sophie Mayer, Sally McAlister, Michelle McGrane, Michael McKimm, Drew Milne, Helen Moore, AF Moritz, Barbara Norden, Redell Olsen, Sandeep Parmar, Anna Percy, Jody Porter, Frances Presley, Karen Press, Katy Price, Ana Pulteney, Chella Quint, Red of The Vaginellas, Selina Robertson, Sophie Robinson, Shelagh M Rowan-Legg, Fathieh Saudi, John Siddique, Adrian Slatcher, Daniel Sluman, Ali Smith, Barbara Smith, Tom Spencer, John Stone, Andrew Taylor, Philip Terry, Sarah Thomasin, Claire Trevien, George Ttoouli, Gareth Twose, Jack Underwood, Steve Waling, Tony Walsh, Michael Weller, Tim Wells, JT Welsch, Ginna Wilkerson, Alison Winch, Andrea Luka Zimmerman and Veronica Zundel.
 
 
 
Translators into Russian are Andrei Aliaksandru, Vladimir Andreev, Marina Brodskaya, Chicago Translation Workshop, Elena Edwards, Tatiana Filimonova, Sophie Gug, Mary Harrah, Masha Karp, Svitlana Kobets, Sergei Korenevskiy, Nokolai Kozin, Maria ozlovskaya, Dasha McLeish, Cat Paronjan, Tatiana Samsonova, Maria Shukurova, Dmitry Simanovsky, James Taylor, Jennifer Wilson and John Wright.
 
 
 
*
   
    
 
Editors’ Foreword
 
Red Letter Day: Poetry and Protest for Pussy Riot
 
  
Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot is a communion of the visual and lyrical; rhymed, satirical and experimental poetry in tribute to political prisoners of conscience, Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. It contains a cornucopia of approaches to freedom and to feminism, from opposing patriarchy to reclaiming pussy from a book of dirty words. It is an offertory for three women whose actions have woken up the need for change, in not just their own authoritarian state, but also in how we address gender politics and all forms of oppression in our own society. Featured poets include Alison Croggon, Amy Evans, Jeff Hilson, Tom Jenks, Amy Key, Agnes Marton, Michelle McGrane, Sophie Robinson, Andrew Taylor and 100 more.
 
 
Summing up the work of 110 poets in 110 words is never easy – especially when the poets in question have donated their work rapidly and generously. Our anthology, which includes nearly 100 poems written especially for the band, has come together in under three weeks. What started as a conversation among four friends on Facebook, sparked by a post from EngPussyRiot that provided instructions on how to send letters to the band, has become a transnational conversation of hundreds powered by social media but driven by the same community and generosity among writers that informed the foundation of English PEN, who have supported this project practically and imaginatively from the beginning.
 
 
Both the example set by Pussy Riot – fierce, feminist champions of freedom – and the example being made of them by the Russian judiciary has fired something in writers around the world. The band’s punk prayer uses language precisely and powerfully – and it’s inspired the poets who’ve contributed to do the same. They’ve taken risks in recognition of the real legal and physical dangers facing the Writers at Risk supported by PEN internationally.
 
 
We have been overwhelmed by the wit, passion, elegance and variety of the poetic protests we’ve received. Some are funny, like Phill Jupitus’ puntastic ‘Girl Banned’ and Sophie Herxeimer’s short and sharp ‘Trollops’ Cathedral’. Others are bold and angry, like Sophie Robinson’s vivid ‘Free Pussy’ and Tim Atkin’s extraordinary ‘I Love the Rich’, which adapts a poem by Maria Tsvetaeva. Many poets, including Sirama Bajo, Steve Waling, JT Welsch and Veronica Zundel, have responded to the band’s Punk Prayer with their own new invocations. Sasha Dugdale wrote from Russia, Sally McAlister from France, and John Kinsella from Australia. Philo Ikonya, International PEN member, has been reading his roll call of unriotous dictators at events in Norway.
 
 
The PEN blog, where around 45 of the poems have been posted, along with images of their poets in balaclavas, carried the message further than we could ever have imagined: offers of poems poured in, from poets such as seventeen year old activist Betty Doyle, and feminist performance poets Anna Percy, Ana Pulteney, Barbara Smith, and Sarah Thomasin – often with videos, such as Pulteney’s performance in her church in Totnes, Devon. Twenty-two poets who took part in SJ Fowler’s and Richard Barrett’s Poems for Pussy Riot in London and Manchester shared their poems.
 
 
The book, as you’ll see, even includes cut-out-and-wear poem-balaclava masks created by Mark Burnhope, and a stencil by Chella Quint so you can create your own Pussy Riot protest wherever you are. Please read, share, tweet, translate, remix, and keep our prayers for Pussy Riot’s freedom alive.
 
 
Mark Burnhope, Sarah Crewe and Sophie Mayer
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Introduction
by George Szirtes
 
 
An anthology of poems dedicated to a political purpose is not so much an anthology of poems as a political act in poetic form.
 
 
There is a long history of such anthologies including 100 Poems Against the War, edited by Todd Swift at the time of the Iraq War in 2003, and, about ten years before that, Klaonica: Poems for Bosnia, edited by Ken Smith and Judy Benson. The two were different in that 100 Poems was an act of protest about a war in which the UK and US were the initiators and actors, whereas the second was to raise money for victims of a war faced by others, the contributing poets being helpless observers. The poets in Klaonica were not taking the Serbian or Bosnian or, for that matter, the Croatian side, but donating work to relieve suffering, much as they might donate money.
 
 
There are many other causes in which poets might do the same – hospitals, libraries, celebrations, childhood and so forth – but from the political point of view 100 Poems and Klaonica represent the two main kinds.
 
 
Catechism
is of the second kind. It has been rapidly compiled by its editors to protest – from the outside, as it were – against the two-year sentence imposed on Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, three members of a much larger (twelve to fifteen members) punk band known  as Pussy Riot, for staging a brief masked performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. The performance, by five members of the band was quickly put up on YouTube and within eleven days, two of the band, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, were under arrest. Thirteen days later Samutsevich was also arrested. The two remaining members of the performing band have, it is presumed, gone abroad to avoid arrest. The song the band was singing at the time was a raucous prayer asking the Mother of God to chase away President Putin. The two-year sentence is due to be appealed on 1 October, 2012.
 
 
These are the bare facts but the cause of Pussy Riot is more complex than that.
 
 
In the first place the performance was about President Putin personally, and articulated a desire to see him leave the political stage.
 
 
Who is Putin? Russians in general have mixed feelings about him. The period straight after the fall of the Soviet Union in President Gorbachev’s time, was followed by a few chaotic years under President Yeltsin. Those years were wounding and humiliating for a people that had felt stable and, in many respects, proud of their role in the Second World War as well as on the international stage afterwards. The Soviet Union with its Warsaw Pact was an equal and opposite force to the United States and NATO.
 
 
A good part of those who remembered the pre-Gorbachev era, before the dismemberment of the Soviet empire, looked back to those times with a certain nostalgia, because, despite the gulags, despite the secret arrests, despite the censorship, despite the increasing corruption, they felt safe. Given Russia’s history, their feelings about authoritarianism were and remain very different from our feelings about individual freedoms in Europe and the West. The ‘strong hand’ – inevitably a patriarchal hand – was something many trusted. When Putin came along offering just that in a new form in a world of oil and oligarchs, he seemed to them welcome. Anything but the madness under Yeltsin!
 
 
But that opinion is clearly not universal in Russia. A good many people have strong fears of the establishing of a new, more corrupt, one-party state in which the state itself is the largest oligarch, a state in which notions of ‘tradition’ are imposed on those who, for very good reason, wish to free themselves from it.
 
 
Putin is an individual, the most powerful individual in the state, but Pussy Riot’s performance, as I read it, was not only about Putin – it was also a protest against the kind of power Putin symbolises.
 
 
This includes the Russian Orthodox church. The church has an important role in maintaining Putin’s power since it represents a very large conservative constituency in Russia, one that somehow survived the officially atheist Soviet period to prosper after it. The church is an alternative embodiment of the ‘strong hand’ Putin can employ to influence and control the Russian electorate, which is why the performance, including the reference to the Mother of God, took place in a major Moscow church closely associated with Putin. The church is, necessarily, patriarchal.
 
 
And the patriarchy – both formal and informal in terms of the family and society generally – is clearly important to a band calling itself Pussy Riot. The performance was, in those terms, a call for female solidarity and rebellion against a state of affairs where Putin’s masculinity is a highly constructed point of appeal. Jack Underwood has a poem in this anthology that comically highlights precisely this aspect of Putin’s power: Putin the macho man, Putin who offers or denies you the power because he not only knows best, but has the means to effect his will. Pussy Riot is a highly intelligent form of resistence to such will: it is a call to disobedience.
 
 
Since Putin seems assured of the power, it is rather surprising that the courts should have decided to act as severely as they did. Intended primarily for home consumption, as a warning, the charge and sentence, has been entirely counter-productive in international terms. The charge of ‘hooliganism’ is rather like the one of ‘parasitism’ that was directed at the Nobel Prize winning poet, Josef Brodsky in 1964. It is broadly seen as a charge of convenience. In that sense Pussy Riot has grown from a minor nuisance to a global cause. They are up there with Brodsky. A crushing and oppressive two-year sentence becomes very big news. The result is that Pussy Riot look, as they actually are, highly intelligent while Russia looks cruel and stupid.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
For people on this side of the equation the issue is not so much with Putin as with what Putin represents and what Pussy Riot represent. The meaning of Pussy Riot, for many, is as evidenced in the poems published here, less a political incident, more a cross-section of contemporary concerns and passions symbolised by the three young women. The meanings of Pussy Riot in this context begin with what the name suggests, that’s to say feminism in its various forms and moods, from assertion of rights, through core issues of identity, down to protest at an inimical, oppressive male world. This meaning – probably the most intense meaning – involves a conception of the world that is the polar opposite of Putin’s.
 
 
Then again, since Pussy Riot calls itself, and performs as, a punk band, the meaning of the group is derived from and invites a punk aesthetic that is partly tribal, partly anarchic, looking to be disruptive of conservative views and manners, in exactly the same way as Pussy Riot were disruptive in the church.
 
 
Beyond that, the band is young: there is also the invitation to youth. It is not precisely an old-versus-young battle but, in this case, it is the young, masked and loud, who are in the vanguard. For many they represent the potential for a new and different model of Russia.
 
 
Each of these models and antitheses is crude in itself – life, we know, is more subtle than that – but the antitheses remain. Most importantly, trumping all other concerns, is a conception of justice. It is simply wrong to jail people for that length of time for the minor office of disruption. Three unjustly accused individuals stand against a state led by a former operative of the KGB, a state that has seen the arrest and assassination of vocal opponents. In many ways it is like the old days: the repressive state against its dissidents. The corrupt system against those who protest its corruption.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
The anthology contains a variety of poems, some, like Andrew Bailey’s, the second of Mark Burnhope’s, Rebecca Cremin and Ryan Ormonde’s, Tim Dooley’s, John Ennis’s, Charlotte Geater’s, Jay Griffith’s and others (the list is too long and I am going alphabetically) address the case directly or refer to it obliquely. More numerous are poems that are born out of a sympathetic feeling, identifying something in Pussy Riot that corresponds with the feeling of the poet in respect of feminism or authority or sheer voice quality. There may be earlier poems now grown particularly relevant. There are poems that appear on a larger map of concerns that happen to find themselves here.
 
 
There are poems of various styles including Alison Croggon’s ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’, Sasha Dugdale’s ‘Perpetual’, SJ Fowler’s ‘They’, Kit Fryatt’s ‘Sounds Like Sense’, Sarah Hesketh’s sharp ‘Some Protest Stones’, Philo Ikonya and Helmuth A. Niederle’s ‘Pussy Riot For Ever: The Body’, Amy Key’s ‘Cat Power’, John Kinsella’s ‘Penillion for Pussy Riot’, Aoife Mannix’s ‘The Eye of the Needle’, and so on. I don’t pick these out because I think they are the best poems, only because they are broadly different. I could pick many others.
 
 
Like any contributor to such anthologies, 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.
 
 
Speaking personally it is quite odd for me as an almost sixty-four year old male poet to be writing this introduction. It was odd, but rather nice to be asked on the spur of the moment and to say: yes. Of course I wondered if I was out of place. I am not looking to be cool with those younger than me or of a different gender. I have been on a few demonstrations but never felt it to be my natural place.
 
 
I ask myself this: if the world were arrayed into forces represented by President Putin on the one side and Pussy Riot on the other I know which side I’d be on and it wouldn’t be Putin’s. That’s where we are, and that’s where this is. And that is why it is a privilege to write this introduction.
 
 
– George Szirtes
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
All profits from both the Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot e-book and print on demand copies will go to the Pussy Riot Legal fund and the English PEN Writers at Risk Programme.
 

Order Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot.
 
Download the Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot e-book

Visit English PEN’s website.

Visit English PEN’s Poems for Pussy Riot project page.

Read some of the Pussy Riot poems on English PEN’s website.

Visit EngPussyRiot’s live journal.

Visit George Szirte’s website and blog.
 
 
 
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