Friday, September 12, 2008

Poetry Friday: Poets Behind Bars

Campaigning here in the States is intensifying and writers are wielding words to convince, confound, confuse, and confront -- and, in a culture where humor is perhaps our mightiest weapon, to entertain.

When I get heated up by something I read or hear, I look across the sea to places where freedom of expression -- even a joke -- is a crime. Consider poet/comedian Zargana, imprisoned again last June (he's pictured above):
(Last) time he got five years, several months of which were spent in solitary confinement. Reading and writing were banned, so he scratched poems on the floor of his cell with a piece of broken pottery, and committed them to memory. Poems - words - have power in Burma, and the military authorities realize it.
Listen to Zargana's poem OBLIVION, published in This Prison Where I Live: The Pen Anthology of Imprisoned Writers (edited by Siobhan Dowd, Caslon Press, 1996):
Oblivion

At night the moonbeams snap.
The stars are suffocated.
That maligned, unhappy barn owl
screeches out its grief.
The old train on the tracks
hurtles to its destruction
wheezing out its last breath.

And I? I send my thoughts beyond these walls
day in, day out, from dawn to night
(from dawn to night, day in day out)...

Read the rest here and visit PEN's Action Program to find out what you can do on behalf of Zargana and other writers in peril.

1 comment:

Kelly Fineman said...

Poetry has power. Thanks for posting this, Mitali.