‘Facing the Sea, with Spring Blossoms’ by Hai Zi

From tomorrow onwards, become a blissful man
Feed horses, chop firewood, traverse the world
From tomorrow onwards, care for grain and vegetables
I have a house, facing the sea, with spring blossoms.
From tomorrow onwards, write letters to each of my loved ones
Tell them about my happiness;
What that spark of bliss told me
I shall recount to every single one of them
Give every winding river and every mountain an endearing name
Stranger, I too wish you happiness
I wish for you a glittering path ahead
I wish for you to meet your lover, make a home
I wish for you to receive happiness in this world
I only wish to face the sea, with spring blossoms.
Hai Zi
(Zha Haisheng, 1964-1989)
Hai Zi
Translated from Simplified Chinese by Yuen Sin
Original text can be located here: http://zhidao.baidu.com/question/141808630.html

Am I Just A Sound?

On Monday 10th December, YorkPEN hosted Am I Just A Sound? An Evening of Contemporary Human Rights Poetry with readings of work from around the world and by a wide array of speakers translating from and reciting in several languages.

In particular, we welcomed William Gomes, Henry Raby, Ahmed Khaleel, eL and Ruki Fernando reading and/or talking about their own work, alongside readings of new translations of the work of Angye Gaona and Tal Al-Mallouhi, Poems for Pussy Riot and Write Against Impunity, and poetry from Belarus, to raise awareness of the current Free Belarus Now campaign, delivered by members of Amnesty International York.

We’ll be running another evening next term and are always looking for poets to submit and recite their work. Get in touch at yorkpen@yusu.org if you are interested.

‘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

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)