‘Canon Down’ by Angye Gaona

I follow the path of the sternum,

I search the origin of thirst,
I go to the bottom of a silver coated cannon,
Solid at the mercy of time,
Moveable when flood,
When childhood, was glacial.

I collect the roots of thought.
I strap them to my bruised back
Alongside the wild oblivion that falls off me.

They appear
From tiny caves,
The signs of pain;
Agile trick the look
And go back hiding in the skin of the canon.

Written on the walls,
The unbreakable coordinates
Of the prehistoric ray
That formed my face.

Time of depth,
Time without syllable,
When I am just a sound
In transit to fatigue.

I search for a spring
That will bathe the question attached to my story.
I search new-born life
And salute thirst.

I follow the path of the sternum.

(Translation by Maitê)

Two New Translations of Poetry by Angye Gaona

We’re very excited to announce our first, original translations of the work of Colombian Surrealist poet Angye Gaona, by our very own Maitê.

Translation is a key part of PEN’s work to promote literature from those whose voices have been stoppered in their own countries. Despite the inevitable changes that translation causes in a work, translating literature into a new language gives the writer a voice within a new population. So, we warmly welcome to the English language, ‘Walk of the Jaguar on Blues‘ (‘Paso del Jaguar Sobre el Blues’) and ‘Once, When the War‘ (‘Una Vez, Cuando la Guerra’) into our Translation section. The works can be found in their original language (Spanish) here. Enjoy!


What I carry is sea;
Salty and blue is what I carry.

I blow it and and abyss sounds;
Soundless drum is what I carry.

What I carry comes with me,
From one side to another;
It remains although I change.

Prairie with no well,
Song of sand and thirst.
To the flower, the betrayal.
Traps camp in what I carry.

On the animal’s skin,
Facing fire I arrive and
This drop of salt,
This blue tear,
Come out of me,
Fall off onto the shiny shore.
To the truth,
To the truth fire, what I carry.



“Go to dawn or to death”
Eunice Odio

Do not provoke the lion
Who rests in his fields

What could involve you
His slow motion,
His calm truth?

If you can not resist it,
Your slope too much,
And you search for a lion who will serve
His own head on your table
And only one pair of claws,

You admit on earth,
Nothing can shelter you from it
And some trap,
Some mechanical eagle you’ll bring
To hunt down the lion.

Reigns the lion
Even though you encage him
And take him far from himself
Roaring in your circus,
Hiding his claws in your factories,
Unleashing the rage of the sun’s beasts
That you treasure in the vaults.

Reigns the lion and reigns the sword,
Only bush to grow wild
In the lands of the lion
That will not be given to you to exterminate
Even if you order it to arise in fire
To your throat

Autumn term campaigns – have a look!

Hi everybody,

I hope you enjoyed the meeting yesterday and that you found an element of PEN with which you’d like to get involved. I’m sorry for the change of room – I had hoped for somewhere more comfortable. Don’t worry if you didn’t make it, there will be a lot to talk about at the next meeting.

I feel that perhaps I ought to have been a little more explicit in explaining the kinds of work that PEN does as a society. The honest answer is that among the numerous PEN centres, the international society does a huge range of things. Most centrally comes writing letters to writers held as prisoners of conscience (PEN stands for ‘Poets, Essayists, Novelists’, though might also be interpreted as referring to penitentiaries), but with that has grown a culture of promotion and activism for literature and free speech issues in general, which each PEN centre tackles differently. In fact, just trying to write a small blog post summing up our talk from Baroness Jenny Tonge last year proved that even within York PEN the members had radically different focuses and priorities, and that the society could offer no coherent voice, which is the reason why we now publish all posts with a name or initials attached.

As a new branch of the PEN tree, we have autonomy over how we run ourselves, so long as we act responsibly under their name. And as a new society, I would encourage all of you feel open to running meetings however you think works best. Please feel comfortable, if you’d like to, in bringing poems that inspire you and bringing up cases that speak to you. Write to a local prisoner, or a prison warden, and set up a book donation service. Translate something, even badly in your opinion, and put it on the website. Write an article or response to a human rights violation, or a critique of libel law. Our website gets views from over 50 countries in every continent bar Antarctica, and we’ll publish it.

If you’re feeling lost as to where to start, sign up to English PEN’s mailing list (bottom of the page, in the middle) and have a read of Martha Spurrier’s excellent User’s Guide to Free Speech which will give you an over view to the legal stance of the UK in these matters – which is a benchmark, even if not yet the benchmark. They won’t spam you and you’ll find it extremely useful for staying in the loop with matters PEN. Have an explore of English PEN’s main page as well for the cases that have been most prevalent recently.

For the next meeting, please have a little think about how you’d like to get involved. Have a look back over our website for ideas – you could help run campaigns (as we did for Liu Xiaobo), fundraise for the charity (newly permitted by RAG), raise awareness on campus, talk to your colleagues about PEN, research or translate some poetry/prose/opinions, write an article about a country that interests you, respond to a post someone else wrote on the website, or simply come to the meetings and appreciate what we hope you’ll find interesting – that is in promoting literature as a means of communication between cultures and as a voice for those whose voice has been taken away. We want York PEN to be vibrant and teeming, with ideas and collaboration.

Under ‘Campaigns’ in the toolbar or in the three posts below are the three potential campaigns that we brought to the first meeting – the 21 year-old female Syrian poet Tal Al-Mallouhi, Colombian Surrealist poet and mother Angye Gaona, and 84 year-old Tibetan master printer Paljor Norbu. We’ll be holding a vote this week (facebook event here) for a main case, but it doesn’t mean we’ll be totally ignoring the other cases – please have a good look at each one, and we can start a campaign on campus as soon as possible. Because of issues with room booking, we’ll confirm the date and room on Facebook and by email.

Importantly, this list is not exclusive. If you’d like to recommend a case, please do so as soon as possible so that we can put a bio on the website and so everyone can see it.

Thanks again for signing up and coming to the meeting – we’ll do our best to keep you in the loop via email, and we’ll let you know which meetings are the most important. But do try to attend what you can, as we believe that it’s through physical presence and activity, and not simply ‘membership’, that the charity is going to flourish.

All the best,


Campaign Candidate #3 – Paljor Norbu


Paljor Norbu [CH: 班觉诺布;Pinyin: Panjue Nuobu]

The arrest and sentencing of Paljor Norbu, an 84 year-old Tibetan and master printer of Buddhist texts demonstrates the extreme injustice of the Chinese government’s crackdown in Tibet following the Uprising in 2008.

Paljor Norbu was arrested on 31 October 2008 under suspicion of printing “prohibited materials” including the Tibetan flag. In a secret trial in November, he was sentenced to seven years in prison. Chinese authorities have not disclosed the details of the trial but based on the length of his prison sentence, Human Rights Watch suggests he was likely convicted of “inciting separatism”. His family has not been allowed to see him.

Paljor Norbu began printing at the age of 11 when Tibet was an independent country. He was 21 years old when Chinese tanks first invaded eastern Tibet. A decade later, following the 1959 Tibetan National Uprising, he was imprisoned because he had been employed as a printer by the Tibetan government.

He survived the Cultural Revolution, martial law, and the waves of Chinese settlers to Lhasa. Through 50 years of Chinese occupation, Paljor Norbu preserved and upheld Tibetan culture and traditional forms of printing. Since his arrest in October, his print shop has been closed and all his employees have been discharged.

(Source: http://freetibetanheroes.org/hero-profiles/paljor-norbu/)



Campaign Candidate #2 – Angye Gaona

Angye Gaona


The poet and Surrealist Angye Gaona has now been charged formally by the Colombian prosecutors with the crimes of drug trafficking and “rebellion”.The trial is scheduled to start on 23 January at the special criminal court in Cartagena de Indias, and if found guilty Angye could face a jail term of 20 years. She is wholly innocent of the charges against her. (Ed. York PEN takes a neutral stance on her culpability but defends her right to a fair trial).

In press articles and interviews Angye has passionately defended the cause of indigenous people (many of whom are being killed by paramilitary gangs on the orders of land developers – Angye has called this “genocide”), trade unionists and the working class (who are constantly being repressed by government-backed industrialists). She has also called the current Colombian government “a terrorist government”. For these reasons she is considered a nuisance by the ultra-conservative government.

Angye was arrested in January last year on her way back to Colombia from a trip to Venezuela. At that point she was imprisoned without charge, but was later released following international pressure. After her release she was formally charged with drug trafficking. Once that charge was underway she was then also charged with “rebellion”; the prior charge of drug trafficking meant that she could not at that point apply to any foreign embassies for political asylum. Hence she had no choice but to face trial in Colombia. She is currently under house arrest in the single room she shares with her six-year-old daughter.

Her trial may have a very serious outcome if nothing is done. Colombia is known for its political trials. At the moment some 7,000 political prisoners are serving long sentences in terrible and overcrowded prisons. It is necessary therefore to make it clear to Colombia’s judiciary that Angye’s case is being closely followed worldwide.

To this end, Angye’s friends and supporters are being asked to write to the examining judge in her case to request a fair trial. The form of words below is based on a text suggested by Cristina Castello. To increase the pressure you may want to send a copy of the letter to the Colombian embassy or consulate in your own country. It will also be helpful to the campaign – and be a morale boost for Angye – if you would contact the campaign to let them know that you have sent the letter.

(Source: http://robberbridegroom.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/act-now-to-defend-poet-angye-gaona.html)

Down The Pipe by Angye Gaona

Translated by Nicolás Suescún


I follow the way of the sternum,

I search for the origin of thirst,

I go to the bottom of a pipe of silver walls,

solid due to time,

moving when the flood,

when childhood, was freezing.

I collect the rootlets of thought.

I carry them on my eroded back

next to the wild oblivion falling from me.

They look out

from small caves,

the signs of pain,

and fast elude the looks

and hide again in the skin of the pipe.

Inscribed on the walls

are the undecipherable coordinates

of the prehistoric ray

that formed my face.

It is a time of depths,

a time without syllable,

when I am only a sound

in transit to fatigue.

I search for a spring

to bathe the question affixed on my history.

I search for a new-born life

and I find thirst.

I follow the way of the sternum.

Campaign Candidate #1 – Tal Al-Mallouhi

 ­Tal Al-Mallouhi


English PEN condemns the five-year sentence handed down on 14 February 2011 to blogger, poet and high school student Tal Al-Mallouhi on the charge of ‘divulging information to a foreign state’. No evidence has been provided for the charge against her. PEN believes that Al-Mallouhi has been sentenced for her online writings and poems in violation of her right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a party. We are therefore calling for her immediate and unconditional release.

According to our information, Al-Mallouhi appeared before Damascus State Security Court in a closed session on 14 February 2011, and was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. The court did not disclose any evidence or details of the reason behind the verdict, and it is widely believed that she has targeted for her online poems and writings on political and social issues. The State Security Court’s verdict is final, and there is no possibility of appeal.

Al-Mallouhi was arrested on 27 December 2009 after being summoned for questioning about her blog entries. After her arrest, state security officers raided Tal Al-Mallouhi’s family home and confiscated her computer, notebook and other personal documents. She was held incommunicado at an undisclosed location without charge or access to her family for the first nine months of her detention. Her family was allowed to visit her once at Doma prison in Damascus on 30 September 2010. Initially, Al-Mallouhi’s family had sought her release through diplomatic negotiations and therefore did not want any publicity on the case. However on 2 September 2010 her mother published an open letter to the Syrian president seeking information about her daughter’s welfare and calling for her release. On 5 October 2010 it was reported that Al-Mallouhi had been charged with spying for a foreign country. Al-Mallouhi has no known political affiliations, and sources close to the family are baffled by the charges. It is feared that she could be targeted for comments and poems published in her blog (http://talmallohi.blogspot.com).

(Source: http://www.englishpen.org/syria-blogger-and-poet-sentenced/)

You will remain an example
- Tal al-Mallouhi

To Gandhi

I will walk with all walking people

And no

I will not stand still

Just to watch the passers by

This is my Homeland

In which 
I have

A palm tree

A drop in a cloud

And a grave to protect me

This is more beautiful

Than all cities of fog

And cities which

Do not recognise me

My master:

I would like to have power

Even for one day

To build the “republic of feelings”.

(Translation by Ghias al-Jundi)

York PEN’s first open meeting – this Friday 19th at 6.30, The Student Centre

Hello and welcome to all the new first years who signed up at the Freshers Fair or online!

York PEN is delighted to announce its first meeting this Friday 19th at 6.30 in the Student Centre – the swish new YUSU building with geometric sky-blue chairs, located near James hall and the YUSU offices.

It’ll be an informal affair where we’ll all be introducing ourselves as well as the society, and hopefully creating some interesting teams within the group. We’ll also be voting on our first campaign of the year and brainstorming ways to focus on it this term, so do try to make it if you can.

If you’d like to recommend a case, please come along with why you think we should pick them for a campaign, a bit about them, and if possible a piece of their work, whether it’s an article or a poem – we are all very open minded and would love to hear suggestions from all members. PEN is not a hierarchical society – all the members have an equal voice, and it’s as much a society for discussion as for working towards a cause.

Don’t forget that while we had some considerable success last year, many of our founding members have now left. York PEN is a newly ratified society and we’re looking for members to be involved at all levels of commitment, so do please come along.

*You don’t have to be paid member to come to this meeting, but will need to buy membership (£4 for the entire year) if you wish to vote*

All other meetings will be on Tuesdays at 6.30 (probably in the same place) so do feel free to come when you can. The first Tuesday meeting is next week, the 23rd when we’ll be letter writing to our chosen campaign and hosting our elections.

This website keeps a thorough record of our activity, but the one to join for day to day news and discussion is the facebook group. You can also follow our twitter, @YorkPEN, which is mostly active during events and at which we encourage you to tweet!

Some snacks will be provided and we’ll head to a bar afterwards for some drinks – see you there,


Did you find us at Freshers’ Fair?

You still can! We’re at stall 30 in the Physics Exhibition Centre, next door to the wonderful SAASY – if you don’t know them, check out their website.

And if you did, but didn’t hear us over the din, we’ll be emailing everyone who signed up over the next couple of days about our first meeting, which will be next week – we’re just waiting on confirmation on the room and time.

Membership is £4 for the year, (but you can come to the first two meetings for free!) Hope to see you next week – we’ll send out a newsletter confirming where and when.

Meanwhile, join the Facebook group and Twitter if you’d like to be a part of the really up to date news and discussions.


An early success, a Burma campaign, and talking to prisoners about poetry.

Welcome back to a new academic year and the first term of York PEN as a fully ratified society. A few things have been happening over the summer in terms of putting plans in place for this term, and this is a quick catch up for everyone. On 10th July English PEN held a student summit (of which you can read the write up here), which Seb, Carys, Ellie, Savannah and Emily attended. It was an exciting and informative day and enabled us to meet members from the other student groups around the country. In between singing rounds, poetry readings and writing our own impromptu poems we were helped to plan the structure of York PEN and think about potential events – we also won a book! So many thanks go to the team at English PEN for a fantastic and useful day.

Some of you may have heard about and signed the petition Seb started to allow charity societies to fundraise. At the YUSU society meeting we were informed that YUSU and RAG have already scrapped the policy which meant only RAG could fundraise. While it would have been nice to know about this before now, it is really great news and means we are free to hold fundraising events. The events and donations still have to be approved by RAG for anti-fraud purposes, but that is to be expected and we can focus on this as a positive start to the term already.

In terms of a campaign to start off the term, the group who attended the English PEN summit decided to focus on Burma. Future campaigns will of course be open to suggestions from the entire society, however we wanted to get the ball rolling and have a focus ready for Freshers’ Week. We chose to campaign on behalf of Aung Than who was sentenced to 19 years in Myanmar’s infamous Insein prison along with Zeya Aung for their book of poems called Dawn Mann (The Fighting Spirit of the Peacock). Ellie has emailed English PEN to see if we can get access to some of his poetry and are waiting response on this. If anyone has any ideas regarding this campaign they would be greatly appreciated.

Lastly and possibly most excitingly, York PEN has been approached by Imam Roderic Vassie from HMYOI Deerbolt, which holds 18-21 year olds serving four year sentence or less. He has asked if we would be interested in running a creative writing and poetry workshop with a particular emphasis on Islam, Africa, Asia or the Middle East. It sounds like a fantastic opportunity and shows that word of York PEN has already gotten out and people are interested in what we have to offer outside of the university. This is all in the early stages of organisation but it would be great to know if anyone is interested in participating in this. We are able to design the workshop as we wish so it would be a collaborative effort from all those wanting to be involved. Additionally, Seb has been in contact with Erwin James for some advice on how to engage the young offenders, and he was glad to hear about the project and thinks that the reception would be very positive.

So there is a lot to be excited about for York PEN’s first official term. We will let you all know when the first meeting is and the arrangements of the Freshers’ Fair on Saturday 13th October (Week 1). And we look forward to seeing you all again after what we hope has been a fun and relaxing summer!


Do you like literature, human rights and/or freedom of speech? Would you like to get involved with York PEN? Join our facebook group here and say hi (or even something a little more imaginative).