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Read for Liu Xiaobo!
PEN International, in partnership with the Dublin-based human rights group Frontline Defenders (www.frontlinedefenders.org), will be launching an international campaign for imprisoned Chinese poet and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo in early December 2012, and is asking for your support. The campaign is aimed at pressuring the Chinese authorities at this time of leadership transition to release the acclaimed writer from his harsh imprisonment, the fourth year of which will be marked on 8 December 2012.
We are gathering video recordings of writers and poets around the world reading excerpts of Liu Xiaobo’s poetry, which will be uploaded onto a website and used as the basis for a series of actions and events leading up to 10 December (International Human Rights Day). The videos will be placed online at the launch of the campaign, and an edited compilation will be created for use in campaign events.
The process for uploading a video is very simple. Please click here for instructions for submitting your video recording, and writing samples by Liu Xiaobo (in English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Farsi and Chinese). A campaign paper with recommended actions will follow next week.
Thank you for taking part in this campaign.
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I send you my heart’s warmth from behind the iron doors and bars and damp, cold, wet walls of prison. I sincerely thank PEN International, which has supported me for these past three years.
As a human rights advocate, lawyer and writer for 12 years I have worked for the Human Rights Association, compiling reports on human rights violations in Diyarbakir and the region. The Human Rights Association has always been on the side of the oppressed everywhere and in every setting. I have been incarcerated for the last three years under the charge of ‘slandering the state’s military and police’ because of the speeches I have made on human rights and the peaceful resolution of the Kurdish issue at parliaments in Britain, Sweden, Belgium and at the UN in Geneva. My speeches and comments never contained words of violence. And then, for making my deposition in Kurdish, have not been released.
Childhood is where our dreams originate. Every remembrance of beautiful things is either wrapped in a dream or in childhood memories. I wanted to expand the world of my childhood where everyone was equal. I dedicated the 17th Ludovic Trarieux 2012 International Human Rights Award I received to all those who pursue their childhood dreams. Unfortunately, I am not able to attend the award ceremony on November 30 on account of my heavy workload.
Heavy and dark clouds roam over Turkey. These clouds can only be dispelled when we agree to coexist, empowered by our differences and not by hatred. Unhappiness is the basis for all the personal and social transformation and change. We the Kurds, the others, those who have different ideas are not happy in turkey. We the others and the unhappy, we demand more democracy, we demand more change. Here in prison I stumble upon tales of those who want this transformation. Friends of this land and of the globe stop the hunger strikes before deaths occur. Deaths should end. No one should become their identity or ideas become the other, or unhappy.
With hopes of seeing you in a Turkey that is free.
Lawyer, IHD Vice President, Writer, PEN member.
High Security Type D Prison, Diyarbekir, Turkey.
Read by Eugene Schoulgin at the Day of the Imprisoned Writer in Istanbul, Turkey on November 15, 2012
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday considers whether to allow a challenge to a federal law that provides for large-scale electronic surveillance of international phone calls and emails. The case is not a direct test of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Rather, it is a test of whether the law can even be challenged in court at all.
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BP MARKOWITZ, AT&T JOIN BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL “AT&T FAN FAVE” WINNER PAUL AUSTER TO PRESENT $3,000 PRIZE TO PEN AMERICAN CENTER’S FREEDOM TO WRITE PROGRAM
On Wednesday, October 24, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz joined Neil Giaccobi from AT&T at Brooklyn Borough Hall to award Paul Auster—winner of this year’s AT&T Fan Fave at the Brooklyn Book Festival—his $3,000 top prize, donated to the PEN American Center’s Freedom to Write Program and accepted by PEN American Center’s president, Peter Godwin, and the director of the Freedom to Write Program, Larry Siems.
Auster, whose participation in this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival coincided with the release of his latest novel, the memoir Winter Journal, finished first in fan voting; Dan Savage (donating his winnings to First Book) and Edwidge Danticat (donating her award to Three Little Flowers Center Inc.) placed second and third place, respectively.
“This is the first popularity contest I have ever won,” said Paul Auster, “but I’m glad it came with some money attached to it so I could give it to the most important literary organization in the world—PEN—the only human rights organization devoted exclusively to the defense of writers.”
“We are so grateful to the Brooklyn Book Festival and AT&T for making this possible, and to Paul both for honoring us today and for his constant support for PEN’s efforts to protect writers and defend freedom of expression around the world,” said Larry Siems, director of the PEN American Center’s Freedom to Write Program. “The Brooklyn Book Festival is a wonderful celebration of literature and the freedom to write. That spirit infuses and energizes our work throughout the year—and even more so this year, thanks to this very special recognition.”
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September is all about banned books here at PEN American. We reached out to writers, editors, literary illuminati, and PEN staff to write about the banned books that matter to them most. Today’s piece comes from Larry Siems, director of PEN’s Freedom to Write program.
Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream Angels! Crazy
in Moloch! Cocksucker in Moloch! Lacklove and manless in
Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a
consciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out
of my natural ecstasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in
Moloch! Light streaming out of the sky!
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton
treasuries! blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral
nations! invincible mad houses! granite cocks! monstrous
They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees,
radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is
everywhere about us!
Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the
Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of
Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions! gone down the
flood! Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs! Ten years’ animal
screams and suicides! Minds! New loves! Mad generation!
down on the rocks of Time!
Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the wild eyes! the
holy yells! They bade farewell! They jumped off the roof! to
solitude! waving! Carrying flowers! Down to the river! into
—from “Howl,” Part II
When I was 19 and Ginsberg was in his early 50s, I won the job—won because I had a car—of picking him up at O’Hare Airport and driving him to South Bend, where every year Notre Dame had the bad judgment to give a band of sophomores $15,000 to organize a literary festival. I knew nothing and my car, a fishtailing behemoth of a Buick, sucked; its systems could go dark and shut down for no reason, even at highway speeds. I dreaded a breakdown, or anything else that would drag out what were sure to be 120 very awkward miles.
But Ginsberg was lovely. Cheerful, comfortable, sane, witty, he shared just enough of himself to put me at ease, so by the time the snow starting falling there was no anxiety at all to settling in to a cautious, responsible speed.
Somewhere near Gary, mid-conversation, Ginsberg dove for his shoulder bag and scribbled a note. I was dying to know, and within a few miles I’d worked up the nerve to ask him what he wrote.
“Did you see that last sign?”
I tried to picture it coming toward me again in the snow.
“It’s a perfect haiku,” he said.
And as he said that, I could read it. And it was true:
Indiana State Police
No Public Restrooms
I saw, for the first time, what it really means to be a poet—to have the habit of mind where the universe reveals itself through linguistic forms the way, for physicists, it whispers its truths through math equations.
That was in February, 1979, twenty-three years after the first public recitation of “Howl” and twenty-one years after a California judge cleared Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg’s publisher, and Shig Murao, the City Lights Bookstore manager who sold a copy ofHowl and Other Poemsto an undercover cop, of obscenity charges.
Nearly three decades later, closing in on the age Ginsberg was that winter, I found myself summoning a box of files from the PEN archives because, incredibly, “Howl” still scared people. A few years before, the FCC had raised the fine for violations of its obscenity standards to up to $325,000 per offending word. Now, on the 50th anniversary of Ferlinghetti’s and Murao’s court victory, WBAI-FM radio in New York was balking at broadcasting the poem for fear of incurring bankrupting fines.
The box contained records, some with Ginsberg’s own comments and correspondence, of earlier FCC skirmishes, most recently a 1995 decision in a case in which PEN and Ginsberg were co-petitioners. That decision had widened the window during which “Howl” and other material deemed not obscene but indecent could be broadcast, from midnight to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Now, in 2007, we had lost Ginsberg, and things were clearly trending in the opposite direction.
In that same box was another batch of files filled with messages and notes from Ginsberg, these ones often fired off and faxed as he was preparing to travel overseas. I’m heading to these countries, he would say. Who are the writers in jail or in trouble there? Whose case should I be pressing?
I’d been to some of those same countries by then. I hadn’t known I was following in his footsteps, in a way, not as a poet but as a representative of PEN. But wherever I went, it was clear he had been there; the worse the repression a country had suffered, the more the writers remembered Ginsberg’s visits, and the better they knew his work. “Howl” may still agitate censors in the U.S., but I’ve heard the phrase “starving hysterical naked” in so many beautiful strange accents and cadences that I hear it now as a natural exhalation of the earth.
To read more pieces from Banned Books Month, click here.
Larry Siems is the author of The Torture Report,which presents a comprehensive analysis of torture in the post-9/11 years, and editor of Between the Lines: Letters between Undocumented Mexican and Central American Immigrants and Their Families and Friends.
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For the majority of people, hating a book means they might tweet about it or if it isn’t to their taste, they might bypass it on a trip to the bookshop. However, a UK-based women’s refuge feel so strongly about the perceived message in Fifty Shades of Grey that they are planning a bonfire of the popular novel on November 5 of this year. They are encouraging people to burn their copies of the book, claiming that it glamorises abusive relationships and Clare Phillipson, director of Wearside Women in Need, has even compared what happens in Christian Grey’s “red room of pain” to what serial killer Fred West inflicted on his victims.
“Our concern is not the graphic depiction of sex — this is an abusive relationship presented as a love story,” she has said. “It normalises abuse, degrades women and encourages sexual violence … Some of what happens in the book, Fred West did to his victims in his cellar. I fail to see what is erotic about that.”
…In a statement about the controversy surrounding the burning of Fifty Shades of Grey, Irish PEN said that the move to burn books is a “step backwards”. “In this case it simplifies the issue of domestic abuse. We ultimately support the freedom of writers and readers, and it is repugnant to PEN to burn books, persecute writers, and support censorship in today’s world. Each year, with this objective, PEN marks the Day of the Imprisoned Writer on November 15 and we look forward to doing so again this year in Dublin.”
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Enoh Meyomesse is the author of 15 books and a founding member of the Cameroon Writers Association. In October 2011, he ran for office against President Paul Biya, but had his candidacy revoked after the government claimed he did not properly register. On November 22, 2011, Meyomesse was…