Taken from the Letters With Wings Page“And so, her name at the top left-hand side of the envelope; under it, the address of her prison” - Joseph AndrasFor Poetry Day Ireland, in a difficult moment where people all over the world are locked up at home because of the pandemic, we want to bond with artists and activists who are kept in prisons for their art or for practicing freedom of speech, or because they are fighting for human rights.
I'm not a poet so my best effort at supporting this is by sharing information, and reading down the list of artists on the Letters With Wings Facebook Page, this young woman stood out to me.
Nûdem Durak is a Kurdish folk singer who is in prison in Turkey for singing in her own language. Originally she was imprisoned for one year and then the sentence was extended by another 19 years! She was charged under "the vague notion of propagandising for singing in her own language" which was banned until the early 90s.
I have a particular resonance with her. Back in the 90s Tom and I were doing a gig onboard a ferry between Larne and Stranraer. It was mid summer and the lounge was packed. Some tourists travelling from England asked for an Irish song (which I was studiously avoiding beccaues there were a lot of football supporters in the bar). So I opted to sing The Mountains of Mourne, written by the wonderful Percy French, thinking at least it's a Northern Irish based topic.
At the end of the gig, waiting for disembarkation in Larne, while Tom was off the boat getting our car to load up, the aforementioned football supporters cornered me and called me a string of names and really frightened the life out of me telling me I was an IRA blah blah blah and that my father should rot in prison. I was so shaken that I reported the incident to the bar staff. To my shock they said I was singing songs to incite violence! And we lost the gig - I wouldn't have gone back anyway.
Reading Nudem's story last night this incident has been really fresh in my mind - However, in spite of the nastiness and partisanship here, I wasn't locked up. Can you imagine what that must be like.
If you are into poetry please check out the Facebook page - my friend Csilla is one of the people behind this project - and leave a message for an artist who isn't allowed to speak out.