Spoken word, Pussy Riot honored by poetry course at upcoming events

Emerson Malone, Arts Editor

The ENG217P – Creative Writing: Poetry course will end this semester with a public exhibition of poetry and politics on campus.

The first performance is “The Event,” an annual showcase of spoken word performances as written by students and Poetry Club members. It takes place 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 27 in Administration Building Room-211.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the students of the college,” said Chella Courington, the professor of the poetry course. “It seems like often times it’s the visual arts are in the theater. They get their talent showcase, but we don’t tend to showcase our writers as much as we should.”

There will be roughly 30 students reading their poetry at The Event. Their works will range from rap to slam poetry.

Courington described The Event as “a perfect vehicle for the spoken word” since poetry originated as an oral ritual.

“A-211 can accommodate a greater number of a people as a stage,” she said. “The setting is conducive to a stage performance. The spoken word is performing the word using the body [and] the environment to convey your message.”

The poetry course’s second event will be a demonstration of free speech paying reverence to the recently incarcerated members of Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist punk band.

“Artists are always challenging the status quo and revisiting what’s going on,” Courington said. “They’re the first people to suffer the repercussions with issues of control. Controlling speech is the key thing for people in control to do.”

Court statements from the trial will be read at noon on Wednesday, Dec. 12 in the Friendship Plaza. This day will be the twenty-first anniversary of the Russian Federation gaining liberation from the Union of Soviet Social Republics.

Students are encouraged to read anything with a political message as long as they find it relevant.

“If someone wants to read part of the court statement, or has a political poem, or wants to read part of the Constitution, or ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ or from Malcolm X’s autobiography, [it will be allowed],” Courington said.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich of Pussy Riot staged a protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin in a Moscow cathedral in late February this year. The women were arrested on charges of “premeditated hooliganism” motivated by “religious hostility.”

“It seems like a false premise for arrest,” Courington said. “These women are bold and strong because they realized that in their lifetime, they’re speaking out so other people can have a place to speak.”

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were sentenced to two-year jail terms in a penal colony outside Moscow while Samutsevich was recognized as a political prisoner before being released on probation in October.

“They are a classic example of Russian thug-ocracy,” said Poetry Club president Nathaniel Guzik, “and in a world ever more accepting and liberal, it’s sickly refreshing to see there is still a machine which can be raged against.”

International Literature Festival Berlin (ILB), an annual event based in Berlin honoring developments in poetry and written word, is organizing the event worldwide.

“Our actions can have an effect on free speech,” Courington said, “Not just here, but throughout the universe. I like the notion that on that day, writers [and] political activists all over will be having their events. We’ll be connected by the Pussy Riot punk band and what they were trying to say in Russia.”

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