Missing Poet Action Needed/Russian Teacher Resigns Over Poetry – Poetry News Roundup February 9th

Today in our poetry news story round up we look at the writers calling for action over a poet who has been missing for a year, and the teacher who recited poetry and was forced out of her job.

Margaret Atwood Joins Call for Action Over Missing Poet

Over 100 writers from all over the globe have written to the President of Rwanda asking him to look into the case of Innocent Bahati, a poet who disappeared exactly 12 months ago.

Margaret Attwood has been joined by over 100 other writers including JM Coetzee, Michael Ondaatje and Ben Okri to ask for the president’s assistance in the matter. Bahati was last seen in a hotel in Rwanda on 7th February 2021. His disappearance was reported to the police two days later and his phone has been switched off since that time of his disappearance. The poet is well known in Rwanda, where he has not only published a number of his own works but is a regular performer at live poetry events.

The police have stated that he is not in their custody but that they are currently in the middle of an investigation into his disappearance. The group of writers who have written to the president believe that his poetry, which is often influenced by critical expression and many of the issues that affect contemporary society in Rwanda, may be the reason for his disappearance.

This is not the first time that the poet has disappeared. In 2017, there were similar reports of a disappearance after he had posted a comment that was rather critical on Facebook. That time however he was found several days later in police custody, he was then put in prison without a trial for three months and then released as a result of a court order.

The letter points out that a rather unusual speech was made in the media in March 2021 following the poet’s disappearance. The Secretary in charge of culture spoke about poetry loosing its way and the need to reprimand those who strayed from the correct path. PEN, a worldwide association of writers, who often campaign on behalf of poets and other writers who have “lost” their voice, believe that Bahati’s whereabouts is known by someone in the country’s administration.

Russian Teacher Forced to Resign Over Poetry Recital

A teacher in St Petersburg, Russia says that she was forced out of her job for reciting the works of Daniil Kharmsand Alexander Vvedensky to her students. The poets have often been declared “enemies of the people.”

The administration of the school declared that the poets in question had deservedly been arrested and tortured by the Russian secret police during the 1930s and 1940s. Both of the poets were in fact imprisoned in 1931 and again in 1941 under the accusation that their work was anti-Soviet. They were then rehabilitated at some point in the 1960’s.

The class and the recitation had in fact been approved by the vice principal of the school, but when it was brought to the board of the school there were a number of people who were not happy. The teacher was threatened with the sack, and it was suggested that it would be better for her to resign.

The local authority are now looking into the matter, stating that there should have been no problem with the work of these particular poets being recited in the school.

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