Poems for Pussy Riot: Lao Tzu’s Spear by A.F Moritz

Pussy Riot Featured image

On 10 October, the three detained members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot held on charges of ‘hooliganism motivated by religious hatred’ faced their second appeal hearing in Moscow. The hearing lasted approximately three hours and it was announced that the two-year jail term of band member Yekaterina Samutsevich was to be suspended, but that the sentences against her fellow defendants  Nadezdha Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina  would be upheld. On 15 October, it was confirmed that Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, both of whom have young children, would be required to serve out the remainder of their two-year sentences in prison colonies. 

On 22 October, their lawyers and supporters reported that Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina had been transferred to separate prison camps in Mordovia and Perm, east of Moscow, over the weekend. The Russian authorities reportedly have yet to confirm the transfer and it is not yet known exactly where they will be held. 

We will be continuing to monitor developments in the case closely and to do whatever we can to support them over the coming months.

To help maintain awareness of their case, we’ve been posting daily tributes to the band, in the form of some extraordinary poems and images, on our website. These pieces and many more were published as an anthology, CATECHISM: POEMS FOR PUSSY RIOT, to coincide with the first appeal hearing on 1 October. Both e-book and print on demand versions of the collection are now available, with all proceeds going to Pussy Riot’s legal fund and our Writers at Risk programme.

We are determined to keep their case in the public eye and will be continuing to post more Poems for Pussy Riot on our website. Please help us by downloading, reading, sharing, tweeting, translating and remixing the amazing work produced by our Poets for Pussy Riot.


The following contribution is by A.F. Moritz and translated by Svitlana Kobets.


Lao Tzu’s Spear


Be female and a destroyer

of empire, sang Lao Tzu in his wisdom book:

it seems the old master used to love to lie in dreams

in the blossoming forest, under the breasts of the hills,

under the hair of the trees. He dreamed of

the spear of his mind

raised as though he were still a young hero,

a wandering outcast on the run,

pursued through the alleys of his country:

a young man with the hair of a black sun,

hunted by many haters, as he went seeking

justice for his people. He dreamed the spear of his mind

raised up, even in old age,

by the sight, touch, and scent of the rosy

crack in a warm moss-shadowed stone

that lay beside him in the woods as he wrote and loved,

wrote and loved freedom, and drank

the perfect peace that is also the pounding,

criminal, street-urchin beat of the world.


Копье Лао-Цзы

                        Посвящается Pussy Riot


Будь женьщиной и разрушай


Пел Лао-Цзы

В книге мудрости Дао.

В грезах своих

старый мастер, казалось, любил

в цветущем лесу


на лоне холмов,

под волосами деревьев.

В грезах своих старый мастер

Был все еще юным


Беглым изгнанником

Крепко держащим копье

воинственной мысли.


С шапкой волос

черного солнца

правды искал он

для своего народа.

Но был ненавидим, гоним

он за правду эту.

В грезах своих

Видел он

Как вздымается вверх

копье его мысли—

Что ему возраст?—

Видя, вдыхая и трогая

Нежный излом в

Камне замшелом и теплом

Том, у которого

Лежа в лесу он писал и любил

Писал и любил свободу,


Полным покоем—

Этим мятежно пульсирующим,

Вечно крамольным,

Мальчишески дерзким

ритмом мира.




– Join our Thunderclap for Pussy Riot

Support our Thunderclap for Pussy Riot via Facebook or Twitter and if we reach 100 supporters by 25 October, a mass message goes out! 


– Download the e-book: ePUB, Kindle and PDF versions available

The book is distributed on the ‘Pay What You Think It’s Worth’ model popularised by Radiohead and others. We recommend £5, but any amount is welcome and you can download for free if you wish. Click here to download.


– Order your print on demand copy

Due to popular demand, a print on demand copy of CATECHISM: POEMS FOR PUSSY RIOT is now available, and costs £7.95 (+ P&P). We’d also be really grateful if you could spare a few minutes to rate and review the book. Click here to order.

All profits from both e-book and print on demand copies will go to the Pussy Riot Legal fund and the English PEN Writers at Risk Programme.


– Send letters of appeal

– Expressing shock that the two year sentences against Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova have been upheld;
– Welcoming the suspended release on appeal of Yekaterina Samusevich, but noting that her freedom is not unconditional
– Pointing out that the harsh sentence is clearly in retaliation for the lyrics of the song performed by Pussy Riot members, containing language that is strongly critical of the Church and of President Putin in particular, and is this in breach of international conventions, specifically Article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, to which Russia is a signatory;
– Therefore calling for the immediate and unconditional release of both Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova, and the complete dismissal of the charges against all three women.

You can send messages to President Putin via the Kremlin website or to the following address:

President Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation
23, Ilyinka Street,
Moscow, 103132

We would also recommend that you write to the Russian Embassy in the UK:

His Excellency Dr Alexander Vladimirovich Yakovenko
6/7 Kensington Palace Gardens,
W8 4QP
Fax: 020 7727 8625


– Send messages of solidarity

Messages of solidarity to the prisoners can be sent via the FreePussyRiot website: www.freepussyriot.org


About Cat Lucas

Cat Lucas is English PEN's Writers at Risk Programme Manager

View all posts by Cat Lucas →

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