Moscow’s Poetry Stroll


by Heathcote Williams,
Narration and montage by Alan Cox.



A headline in the Irish Times reads, “In Moscow poetry replaces placards as Russia’s Occupy protesters camp out.” In a part of Moscow called the Clean Ponds, the Irish paper reports that “A slender young man is performing an impassioned rap poem to an applauding crowd.”1

“Welcome to Occupy Abai, Moscow’s street sit-in.” The Russian Occcupation is named after Abai Kunanbayev. Kazakstan’s poet and takes place by his monument, in Chistye Prudy, the Clean Lakes, Moscow.

The Abai occupation has a free market Where everyone can leave their goods, And choose anything else left by other people.

People have erected beds near the statue of Abay, And they disarm the OMAN or Moscow’s riot police by telling them their Occupation isn’t an anti-Putin rally but a celebration of the life of the Kazakh poet.

photo: Vladimir Telegin

Despite a Putin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov,
saying that “all protesters should have their livers smeared on the asphalt” the Mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, overrules Putin’s plans to break up this poetry sit-in and Occupation – which then turns into a march, although marches are banned. 
But cunningly the march is disguised as “a poetic stroll” between the monuments of Alexander Pushkin and Alexander Griboyedov. The participants hold white ribbons “It’ s for the spirit of poetry,” someone says, “and then there’ s a red one, not for communism or for blood, but for a brand new kind of passion!”

The poet, Boris Akunin, organizing the stroll, tells the crowd: “The point of this walk is simple. We have to teach the authorities. To deal with their people politely and with respect, not via sticks or the police.” The march is silent so that people can hear Pushkin’s words:

On a naked tree-limb, blasted By winter’s whistling chill,
 A single leaf which has outlasted Its season is trembling still.”

People quietly, Occupy Moscow! More remembered verses crop up from all over the crowd.
They’re always rounded off by ‘Occupy Moscow!’ One man is shouting into his telephone: “I’ve realized what Moscow needs is a POETRY President – Not a KGB president like Putin.” He’s greeted by hearty cheers from neighbouring walkers overhearing him. Elsewhere on the walk someone has a poem that is simply a laundry list of all Putin’s possessions:

“It’s a poem”, he says, “That no publishing house will agree to publish it”, he says “is a sign of the level of fear that there is of the authorities.”

The poem runs: “Greetings! From Putin’s 700,000 dollar collection of watches to his palaces, and from his residences all over Russia; from his pools, and his tennis courts, and his helipads for his 43 helicopters, with his bowling alleys, and his movie theaters maintained by the Bureau of Presidential Affairs. Greetings from the forty-three planes that connect them one of which has a toilet on it that cost $75,000. Greetings too from Putin’s 15 helicopters, and from the four luxury yachts Putin has use of, including one that’s among the world’s top 100 mega- yachts – the 187-foot boat which boasts mahogany finishes, a Jacuzzi, and which is worth $50 million. Greetings too from his second-best yacht which was acquired in 2011 and valued at $37 million having its own wine cellar and a spa complete with waterfall.”

And the unknown performer rounds off his recitation with,

“And lastly, greetings from the sixteen poets he has in prison,
Which every dictator must have!”


1 Poetry replaces placards as Russia’s Occupy protesters camp out’ 16 May 2012



By Heathcote Williams

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