World Poetry Day: A World of Poets


To mark World Poetry Day, all this week English PEN’s Writers at Risk Programme has been paying tribute to poets who have been persecuted or imprisoned in violation of their right to free expression.

  • Writer and activist Enoh Meyomesse is currently serving seven years in prison on charges that are widely believed to be politically motivated.
  • Activist and poet Maria Alyokhina, a member of the Russian punk collective, is serving a two-year prison sentence in a remote penal colony far from Moscow and her young son.
  • Poets and English PEN Honorary Members Shi Tao and Liu Xiaobo are both serving prison sentences of over a decade in P.R China.

Many thanks to everyone that has already taken our suggested actions. If you haven’t, please do spare a few minutes to read and share the work by our detained colleagues, and to show your support .

On a more celebratory note, as some of you may remember we ran a similar mini-series to coincide with last year’s World Poetry Day featuring poets Jack Mapanje (Malawi), Nguyen Xuan Nghia (Vietnam), Tal al Mallouhi (Syria) and Ericson Acosta (Philippines). We are delighted to report that poet, song-writer, journalist and activist Ericson Acosta has since been released: on 31 January 2013 the case against Acosta, who had been held without trial since February 2011, was finally dismissed for lack of evidence. The Philippines PEN Centre and other PEN centres worldwide have been part of a local and international campaign that is believed to have contributed to the decision to release him.

Ericson Acosta with Philippine PEN Board Member and fiction writer Jun Cruz Reyes
Ericson Acosta with Philippine PEN Board Member and fiction writer Jun Cruz Reyes

“I would personally thank everyone who campaigned for my release – my family, lawyers, friends, former classmates and colleagues, fellow artists and human rights advocates. Without their continuous support, authorities would not have taken action on my case… In jail, I yearned for sea and sky. Freedom cannot be achieved by mere yearning, only by struggle.”





Be wary you say

of its claims

lest you waive art

to us millions unworthy

of taste and manner

lest you be christened

peddler of images

alien in form

pagan in content

lest your license

be forfeited

your ear for resonance

your feel for the sublime.


And so while you summon

the litany of worlds

your own words fashion

you annul my existence

and those of millions

whose narratives you say

betray poetic tone

make burlesque of beauty

and thus like scarecrows

set even the most heretic

muses scurrying back

to their sanctum of rules.


And so in recollecting

your epiphanies

you elude the void

which is my hunger

the famine of millions

the empty bowl of history.


And so with your eulogies

to passion

to rage against time

to pledge withlife’s gift

you lull the birth

of noise

of revenge

of bloodshow

that shall feed millions

complete history

and perhaps spare poetry.


(Published in “F1”, the 1995 Literary Folio of the Philippine Collegian, U.P. Diliman, and edited by Ericson L. Acosta)


“AND SO YOUR POETRY MUST” in Kilometer 64 Blog

To read more of Ericson’s poems, please click here.


About Cat Lucas

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

View all posts by Cat Lucas →

2 Comments on “World Poetry Day: A World of Poets”

  1. Using poetry to expose the racism hidden amongst my family, I was held on remand in prison for 3.5 weeks, as well as being given a 5 year poetry censorship. Official crown court papers can be found @ #Injustice

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *