Poems for Pussy Riot: Ne (No) by Wayne Burrows

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 On 13 September, English PEN launched ‘Poems for Pussy Riot‘ in support of three members of the Russian punk band –  Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich – who are currently serving a  two year prison sentence. We will be posting poems dedicated to Nadezdha, Maria and Yekaterina in the weeks leading up to their appeal hearing on 1 October.

The following contribution comes from writer Wayne Burrows.

 

Ne (No) was recorded by the Czech singer Marta Kubisova in 1969 but left unreleased until 1990. Kubisova’s outspoken opposition to the ‘normalisation’ process after the 1968 invasion led to her being banned from performing, recording or travelling in 1970, a ban that remained in place until 1990. Thoughout this period she continued to be a key dissident voice and was one of the first signatories of Charter 77.

 

Ne (No)

 
(after Otakar Petrina/Zdenek Rytir, 1969)
 
I’d buy all the Pacific, and the other seas besides,
 
with storms and hurricanes scattered here and there.
 
I’d build a house on the deepest ocean’s floor
 
if it meant I’d be clear of this country’s shores
 
where fear rules and false accusations are bold.
 
Does anyone here want to live in that world?
 
No.
 
I’d buy spring sky and the beauty of all its stars,
 
with wind sometimes, on its journey home.
 
I’d build my castle walls on a foundation of clouds
 
and hope by some miracle it wouldn’t fall.
 
This country is ruled by fear, kills innocence.
 
Would anyone here want to return to this?
 
No.
 
But I’d find the sea lanes are guarded by warships,
 
carrying tons and kilos of bullets and bombs.
 
If I went under, deeper, submarines would plunge
 
and soon find my home in the water-caves.
 
In the sky are airplanes and satellites, as you know –
 
is there anywhere, then, where I might go?
 
No.
 
So we’re all caged here, and keep ourselves quiet,
 
but might sail out, sometimes, under camouflage.
 
Should we be grateful that we’re granted permission to live?
 
That if we just say nothing, we’ll be left in peace?
 
Fear rules this place, false accusations grow bold.
 
Does anyone here want to remain in this world?
 
No.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poems for Pussy Riot posts

Poems for Pussy Riot – an introduction to the project

Soutien-Gorge: Ira Lightman

Vagina: Sophie Mayer

Song: Ali Smith

Abridged and Complete Biography of Olympe de Gouge: Claire Trévien

Women of the Year: Betty Doyle

Weapons of Minor Destruction: Sandra Alland

Our Glorious Leader Putin: Jack Underwood

Cat Power: Amy Key

Avoid using the word “pussy”: Charlotte Geater

Poem with Four Vaginal Walls: Mark Burnhope

Sheela na gig (deconstructed): Sarah Crewe

Dance of the Seven Veils: Alison Croggon

Skylined: Gareth Evans

Vox Populi (A poem for voices): Steve Heighton

The Eye of the Needle: Aoife Mannix

Comments

5 Comments on Poems for Pussy Riot: Ne (No) by Wayne Burrows - Leave a comment

Agnes Marton

My poem for Pussy Riot:
 
EXTINCT

Not for the keepsake, not for the grab
Not for the squeamish go-it-let

(Are you a sweetdream-architect
or just an item I collect?)

Spare to share: not a hamsty-dial
Life is tough like a pantyliner

(Pain-balloon to a plenty-liar,
am I a species in denial?)

Prayer leads sometimes to trial
surfacing the inmost layer

Are we stuck, fellow-ladybirds?
Who can repair the pussy-player?

Reply to this comment
loukash

“Ne” actually was released in 1969 on Kubišová’s first solo album “Songy a balady”, Supraphon 1130587. But that version was withdrawn after a couple of months and the album was re-released in 1970 as Supraphon 1130855. “Ne” and “Modlitba pro Martu” were replaced by two other “less problematic” (well, not really) songs, “Zlý dlouhý půst” and “Kdo ti radu dá”. The second version was eventually withdrawn as well, after Kubišová’s ban became official.
Compare also:
http://www.discogs.com/release/1899910 (1st pressing)
http://www.discogs.com/release/2857553 (censored pressing)

Reply to this comment
Wayne Burrows

Hi Lukas,

I was never a hundred percent sure, as I’d seen a few listings with ‘Ne’ in the track list but had never seen a copy of the ‘uncensored’ issue of the LP, or knew anyone who had, so I’m pleased to know it did exist, even if only briefly (and as you say, the less ‘problematic’ songs that replaced the censored ones are hardly without their own bite). Sometimes it’s hard to be sure about what did escape into circulation at that time: one long-time collector told me very authoritatively that ‘Tys bejval mámin hodnej syn’ was never issued, which I had no reason to doubt for many years – until I found a copy, complete with the purposefully truncated ending. Hope things are well with you and further releases from the Czech archives might be forthcoming: did that Atlantis ‘Odyssea and 45s’ compilation you once mentioned ever come to fruition? Thanks for posting the info, incredibly useful to know! 

Wayne 
 

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