Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot wins Best Poetry Anthology in the 2013 Saboteur Awards

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English PEN is delighted to announce that Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot has been voted Best Poetry Anthology in the 2013 Saboteur Awards.

Awarded annually by the team at Sabotage, the Saboteur Awards honour the Indie Lit publications they’ve most enjoyed during the year. Over a thousand members of the public voted for both the shortlist and the winners of the 12 categories, which were announced on 29 May at the Book Club, London, at a party to mark Sabotage’s third anniversary, featuring an indie book fair and performances by award nominees.

The Best Poetry Anthology category was a fiercely fought group, with some excellent competition from The Centrifugal Eye’s 5th Anniversary Anthology (ed. E.A. Hanninen), Rhyming Thunder – the Alternative Book of Young Poets (Burning Eye), Sculpted: Poetry of the North West (North-West Poets Group, ed. L. Holland and A. Topping) and runner up Adventures in Form (Penned in the Margins, ed. Tom Chivers).

Sophie Mayer, editor of Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot, said:

Pussy Riot’s Punk Prayer proved the power of words: as poets, we want to amplify their call for freedom, and continue their argument against rhetorics of repression. When I and my co-editors Mark Burnhope and Sarah Crewe started a poems for Pussy Riot writing project with a call-out to friends on Facebook in September 2012, we didn’t imagine co-producing a book in association with English PEN, let alone winning an – aptly named – Saboteur Award! We’re thrilled that Catechism, which included 110 poets and involved two dozen translators, has reached so many readers, and that Sabotage have given us the opportunity to reach more. The votes for Catechism are votes for and from an engaged poetry community to carry on the riot in writing.

Whilst we are enormously grateful to everyone who voted for Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot, we remain gravely concerned for those who inspired both the collection and the poems therein.

Earlier today, Wednesday 29 May, Moscow’s highest court rejected Pussy Riot’s appeal against their two-year sentence, denying that the charges against them were politically motivated. Yesterday, 28 May, a week into her hunger strike, detained Pussy Riot member Maria Alykohina had to be transferred to hospital in her prison colony in Berezniki. Alyokhina, who announced the hunger strike last week in protest at having been barred from attending her own court hearing, has been denied parole for having ‘systematically disobeyed prison authorities and failed to repent for her crime’. Meanwhile, in April 2013, a court in the province of Mordovia also denied fellow band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova parole, for ‘not always [having] followed the rules of behaviour’.

English PEN and our colleagues at PEN International consider the detention of Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova to be in retaliation for the criticisms the band have made of Putin and the Orthodox Church, and therefore in breach of the International Convention on Political and Civil Rights, to which Russia is a signatory. We continue to call on the Russian authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally.

Background information

Following the now infamous performance of their Punk Prayer in a Moscow Cathedral in February 2012, members of the Russian punk collective Pussy Riot were arrested on charges of hooliganism and sentenced to two years in prison. More than a year later and in spite of an outpouring of support from across the globe, two members of the group, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, remain detained in remote penal colonies, far from Moscow and their young children.

In order to rally support for Pussy Riot in the run up to their appeal hearing in October 2012, English PEN helped to launch ‘Poems for Pussy Riot’, inviting poets from all over the world, including Phill Jupitus, Ali Smith, Deborah Levy and John Kinsella, to write creative responses to the case. We received more than 100 submissions within a matter of weeks and began posting the extraordinary poems and images as daily online tributes to the band on our website, as a way of raising and maintaining awareness of the case.

An e-book collection of the submissions, Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot, edited by poets Mark Burnhope, Sarah Crewe and Sophie Mayer, was published on 1 October 2012 to coincide with their appeal hearing. The book was distributed on the ‘Pay What You Think It’s Worth’ model popularised by Radiohead and others. Due to popular demand, a print on demand version of the collection was made available shortly afterwards, with all proceeds going to the Pussy Riot Legal fund and our Writers at Risk programme.

Poems from the collection have also been posted in Russian on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, helping to bring the Catechism poems to readers in Russia. http://www.svoboda.org/content/article/24908759.html

Notes

Since 2010, Sabotage has posted reviews of pamphlets, small presses, poetry and fictions magazines, manifestos, online journals, stapled pieces of paper, installation poetry, performed poetry… in other words, those ephemeral works that are often created on a small budget and distributed to a limited amount of people. Annually, Sabotage celebrates these forms with the Saboteur Awards, nominated and voted for by members of the reading public. Sabotage Reviews is being archived for posterity by the British Library. It was nominated by members of The Alliance for Independent Authors for their Top Website for Self-Publishers Award, and is available as a free iPhone app and Kindle blog. http://sabotagereviews.com/

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7 Comments on Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot wins Best Poetry Anthology in the 2013 Saboteur Awards - Leave a comment

- Flamme Forlag

[…] Pussy Riots stayerevne på den offentlige scene. Boka Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot vant nylig en Saboteur-pris for «beste diktantologi», i går var det premiere på en mye omtalt HBO-dokumentar om gruppa, og […]

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