Sunday, November 16, 2008

Poetry Contest

Mark Bennett came up with a great idea for a blawgosphere poetry contest. The subject? Last week, as the Times of London reported:

An internet blogger and a writer who disguised an attack on Burma’s dictator in the form of a love poem were among dozens of activists sentenced to draconian jail terms as the junta ordered a fresh crackdown on dissidents.

Nay Myo Kyaw, 28, who wrote blogs under the name Nay Phone Latt, was sentenced to 20 years and 6 months in jail by a court in Rangoon. The poet, Saw Wai, received a two-year sentence for an eight-line Valentine’s Day verse published in a popular magazine.

Aung Thein, the lawyer for the men, was given four months in prison on Monday for contempt of court during his defence.

After I read Mark's post and the article, I felt compelled to write. I'd been listening to Victor Chan's The Wisdom of Forgiveness in the car on audiobook over the last couple weeks and some of those ideas showed up. In college I studied Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward thoroughly and still think of it all the time. Solzhenitsyn was "gulaged" for making derogatory comments in a letter to a friend about "the whiskered one," Joseph Stalin. Things my professor desciribed about Solzhenitsyn's experience showed up too.

I hadn't written any poetry, other than a couple poems at Trial Lawyers College, since college, so I wanted to try it again. I started the first one after dinner and finished about 10. There were some "spare parts" lying around that I put into a second one, which began at 5 am and ended about 6:30 when I had to let the dog out and wake everyone up.

Enter the contest, as I'm sure you'll do better than me. The two I wrote are below:

For Phone Latt

Manicured, gold-gilded hands,
Encircle an ivory pen,
Deliberately, dip its silver tip
Into thick, black ink.

The hand slides down the page,
Forms characters, into a sentence:
20 years, six months,
A violation of public tranquility.

Then the hand moves further down,
Signs its name, an official seal.
His crime? Hiding meaning
Inside a seven-line love poem.

Other saffron revolutionaries,
Some monks, sit, likewise,
Imprisoned, where this dangerous
poet serves, with 2000 others.

20 years six months:
That’s 560 moons. 7300 sunrises.
10 seasons for every line.
120 days per word.

The saving grace? Poet’s pens
Outlast swords, unjust judges:
In time, sentences are reversed.
Even worse, returned.

Here's the one that arrived the next morning:

Poets in Prison

Solzhenitsyn, gulaged, paperless,
scratched poems on bars
of soap, committed
lines to his memories,
then washed its surface clean,
To compose new verses.

And that Buddhist master,
A former “freedom fighter”
Survived prison, thrived even
Through forgiveness, learned
to purge revenge.

After his escape, his sentence,
Those torture tests, proved to raise
his practice, above those cloistered monks,
Prison surpassing monastery,
for training purpose.

In Burma, the poet’s pencil-calloused hands
Grasp bars, fingernails ooze pus, dried blood,
Remnants of unfathomable pain,
creating unexpected distance.

Still enclosed, his lines resonate
between bars, beyond walls,
Prove his convictions,
Achieve his release.

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