G Spot

Sharper than the blade

By Virginia Jasmin Pasalo

IN times of oppressive regimes, the poet, more than any other artist, is exposed to the most hideous of possibilities: imprisonment and death. Those in power, although not fully aware of the meaning and relevance of the poem, are fearful of the written word, particularly verses that move people to take collective action.

Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca was executed in 1936 by firing squad per orders of Franco-era officials, per documents obtained just recently, in 2015. Before then, it was thought that he was executed by a “rightwing firing squad along with three others.” The documents suggest García Lorca was persecuted for being a “socialist and a freemason,” and for being a “homosexual”.

Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour, an Israeli citizen from the Galilee village of Reineh, was convicted of incitement to violence and supporting terrorism through her poems, and was sentenced to five months in prison. “One of the main pieces of evidence against Tatour is a poem she wrote in Arabic called “Qawem ya sha’abi, qawemhum.” (“Resist, my people, resist them.”)

A court in Saudi Arabia ordered the beheading of Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, convicted of apostasy, but the punishment was revised reducing to eight years in prison, 800 lashes and public repentance, due to international pressure. “His legal troubles began when he was arrested in 2013 after an argument in a cafe. He was released without charge, but rearrested later and accused of blasphemy and illicit relationships with women. The charges were based on photographs and the contents of his poetry book published abroad years before, according to court documents.”

For her activist views and being the widow of a Nobel Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, Liu Xia, a poet, was put on house arrest and detained after the death of her husband.

Turkish writer Aslı Erdoğan was sent to prison on charges of “membership of a terrorist organisation” and “undermining national unity.” Ash Erdogan is the author of “The City in Crimson Cloak”, referred as “a poem-novel, poetry of the twilight zone, and verses of poetry saturated with bitter juice of life and existential suffering.”

So many others, who wrote about their beliefs, challenged the predominant order and pushed for human rights were either killed, imprisoned, or just disappeared.

English novelist Edward George Bulwer Lytton was right, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” The pen can indeed liberate minds and free nations. But, the pen, as sharp as the blade, can harm those closest to it, and can become lethal to the one who is most skillful at using it.

Pen, Pen

pen, pen, the sarapen
de kutsilyo, de almasen
bang, bang, kasebeg to,

anlong ya andukey
narel na saray uley
anlong ya antikey
akulong, inatey.

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