Statues Causing Controversy – Poetry news Roundup July 24th

Our final news round-up of the week takes a look at two statues causing controversy, one in Georgia and the other in the US.

Historic Tensions Highlighted by Writers Statue

40 kilometres away from Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, lies a small park in front of the cultural centre of the town of Marneuli.

The shiny black plinth is topped with a grey statue of a half-length figure. The figure is holding a book in one hand, with the other the figure is leaning on a ledge. There are red plastic tulips piled on the floor at the foot of the statue. This is Nariman Narimanov, a 19th-century Azerbaijani teacher Bolshevik and writer. The statue is at the heart of a controversy which has deep-rooted political and ethnic tensions. Narimanov is an important role model to them, however, to the other 20% he is a controversial figure who played a big part in bringing the Red Army to Georgia.

Restoration work is being carried out on the statue at the moment, but many people are not happy, and tensions are rising. This isn’t just a recent issue, for the last 5 years the complaints about the statue have been increasing and unfortunately, there seems to be no end in sight for a town who are at loggerheads about a statue and the past that it represents.

Walt Whitman Statue Under Threat

A petition to remove the statue of the poet Walt Whitman from Rutgers University-Camden is gaining increasing momentum,

Whitman is considered to be one of the most influential and famous poets in America, but the University has come under increasing fire to have the statue removed. The central campus statue was erected to pay homage to the poet who penned “Leaves of Grass” – he lived in Camden at the time of his death at the age of 72 in 1892.

Whitman is sometimes referred to as the “Bard of Democracy” and whilst his poetry is often praised it contains some racist notions with regards to African Americans and for this reason, an increasing number of people want the statue removed. The petition states “the statue of Walt Whitman glorifies a man who we should not hold such a place of honour on our campus.”

The petition has currently gained 3724 signatures and is being looked at by the chancellor and a committee that has been put together to look at any issues of social justice on campus.

The racist beliefs of the poet have not been lost on observers who fall very much into two different camps. Those who believe that the statue in his honour is unacceptable and those who feel that the poet should be studied and remembered despite the beliefs that he held which were not uncommon for the time in which he lived. By keeping him in the curriculum and people’s minds so that can learn what might have been acceptable in the past and why it no longer is.

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