Manchester Poets for Pussy Riot

Went along to last night’s Poets for Pussy Riot, held at the Lassie.

Poetry reading expressing solidarity with Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich – jailed for ‘hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”.’

The atmosphere was contagious, there was a real feeling of solidarity. The poets were all excellent, with well chosen sets reflecting the feelings inspired by the P.Riot.

I put together a cento poem, a collage of some of the voices that struck me from the readings. There were so many wide reaching references last night, W. H Auden, Goya, Audre Lorde, Grace Nichols, and more that I didn’t manage to write down. The lines I’ve extracted from people’s readings are kind of random, I’ve listed whose is whose.

Pussy Riot Reading Cento 

When all the skin peels it becomes too sharp to go outside

Do not protest on the streets without the necessary permit

Mistakes have been made

Your teeth, and anything that could be considered a weapon

It goes over the fence, it goes inside the mesh

The peculiar evil of silencing

Justice. Just this

My silences had not protected me.

 

The performance piece by ILL was ace, the police’s voice especially, the chosen lines: ‘right to remain silent, one phone call’, contrasting with the ‘freedom of speech’ being shouted over and over again. The questioning of what we mean when we say freedom of speech, how we automatically put constraints on our language, how we self-edit, were all issues that rose up for me from their piece.  How ILL describes the piece:

Ill use a backing track which is a sound piece made from Russian Folk Music which has been transformed and is now closer to acid house. They will perform a semi improvised spoken word performance over the top in which they explore ideas of freedom and expression in public space.

 

Going to this event put me in touch with Poets for Pussy Riot, a project initiated by Sophie Mayer. Some really great pieces responding to the situation. Good to see Ira Lightman’s piece also, inspiring stuff.

Line 1: Lauren Bolger (merged two lines)

Line 2: Chris Stephenson

Line 3: Steve Whaling (title of poem)

Line 4: Phil Davenport

Line 5: John Calvert

Line 6: Gareth Twose

Line 7:  Sarah Crewe

Line 8: Steph Pike reading Audre Lorde

 

Stealing inspiration from many places, I’ve tried to write a piece:

 

Discard

Anything that could be considered a weapon

Like a word, or a thought, or a gesture

The bared teeth of a smile

Give your smiles wisely, floss

Gargle minty liquid

That burns your tonsils

Make your demands politely,

Do not howl, or stomp

You will be considered a child

You will be a kitten inside a red cloak

When you admire the salty crimson

Of a wolf’s throat

As it swallows you, swallows you

Your silence worn

No longer a shield, your silence itself

Demanding answers, in the peace

Of a closed mouth you are shouting

Throwing a tantrum.

Discard anything that could be a weapon

The sharp words, the odd thoughts,

The two fingers holding a V.

 

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