We begin the New Year here on My Poetic Side with a look at the poets who have been jailed in Russia and the funeral requests of the poet Benjamin Zephaniah.
Russian Poets Jailed
Lengthy jail sentences have been handed out to two Russian poets for the part that they played in a reading of anti-war poems in the capital city Moscow.
The court in Moscow has sentenced Artyom Kamardin to seven years in prison and Yegor Shtovba to five and a half years. Their crime was
. Both of the poets had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The charging of both poets is just the latest in the long line of such sentences that have been handed out in what rights groups are condemning as an unprecedented crackdown on dissent within Russia .
A third poet, Nikolai Dayneko, who had also taken part in the same poetry reading was sentenced earlier this year. He had pleaded guilty however, and was given a four year sentence for his co-operation in the investigations.
The “crime” took place on 25th September 2022 at the Mayakovski Readings, This is a poetry event that has been attracting activists and dissidents to Triumfalnaya Square (which was formerly known as Mayakovski Square – named after the poet Vladimir Mayakovski). The square is in central Moscow and the event has been taking place there since the 1950s.
During its history, the Mayakovski Readings organisers have been accused of anti-Soviet propaganda and have even been sentenced to years in the gulags. The group revived its activities in 2009 but in 2022 suspended activities due to the current situation in Russian stating that the
made it unsafe for those attending the gatherings. the gulags.
The sentences that the poets have received are not the harshest handed out, Vladimir Kara-Murza, an opposition activist was recently sentenced to 25 years in jail for his criticism of the war in Ukraine.
Fans Asked to Plant Flowers and Trees in Memory of Poet
The poet Benjamin Zephaniah who passed away earlier this month his diagnosis just eight weeks ago with a brain tumour has been laid to rest during a small private funeral ceremony.
His family had asked that fans of the author and poet plant flowers or tress in his memory rather than leaving flowers, and to plant them in his name. During his lifetime the poet often expressed his sadness at the idea of flowers without roots.
As an alternative those who didn’t want to plant something or were unable to do so were given the suggestion of sending money to either The Vegan Society or Inquest in the poet’s name. Inquest is a charity that helps the families of those who have died in prison or police custody, immigration detention, a mental health setting or where there have been failings by the state.
Both of these causes were ones that the poet had a deep respect for.