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Poets Sascha Akhtar, Nia Davies and Sophie Mayer explain the motivation behind an exciting social media platform
Like the Turkish resistance, the new rolling online anthology Solidarity Park Poetry: Poems for #ResistTurkey was aided and spurred on by social media.
Three poets came together.
Sascha Akhtar was moved by the non-violent, creative approach of the people of Turkey and their green agenda, and wanted to create a kind of reciprocal “gathering” of poets in anthology form.
Nia Davies, a translation and international literature activist who has spent time in Turkey, was inspired by the angry and inventive resistance of her Turkish friends.
And Sophie Mayer, co-editor of the poetry-activism projects Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot and Fit to Work: Poets against Atos, made a third.
Timing was the key question.
Events were – and are – unfolding at a rapid pace, so we did not want to waste resources trying to create something static or monumental that would not reflect the spirit of the resistance.
We decided the project would be a web-based “magazine” mixing new poetry, visual images and reportage.
We wanted to address the lack of coverage of the reality on the ground, in Turkey and increasingly internationally, as the news cycle moves on.
Turkish television stations were broadcasting documentaries about penguins when protesters were being shot with rubber bullets in Gezi Park.
The news stories shared on the site, and then via Facebook and Twitter, began to be shared by our poetic community – raising awareness immediately.
Within a few days of going live with poems by SJ Fowler and Sophia Pandeya, several Turkish poets and translators came to our aid, helping us translate the site and sending us the poems they had written in the middle of the protests.
Alongside the poems we are honoured to publish an English translation of novelist Burhan Soenmez’s inspiring and important poetic essay The Aesthetics of Resistance, written before the park was cleared of people and its amazing pop-up library.
He writes that during the resistance in Gezi Park “No-one is in need, everyone is equal. People donate what ‘they don’t need’ and everyone takes what ‘they need.’ No money, no ownership, no hungry people.”
Poets and artists have been at the forefront of the resistance in Turkey – meeting police violence with tango, gas-masked whirling dervishes, pop-up libraries, or by standing still reading a book.
They are meeting mind-dulling state propaganda and media manipulation with an explosion of art, essays, blogs and poems which are being published in real time on the internet and will form a rich counter-documentation of this period of history in years to come.
History may yet be written by the people, as the poets and writers are there now in the streets, writing for and with the protesters.
In the last month something extraordinary has been happening in Turkey.
A new “real democracy” is being demanded by people of every walk of life, in all kinds of languages, including the languages of poetry and art. And everyone is standing together.
Solidarity Park opens up this space created by the Turkish people to the poets of the world, inviting them to join their colleagues in Turkey in solidarity.
Poems continue to roll in and we continue to publish on a daily basis, including work from the Turkish poets Gonca Oezmen, Muesser Yeniay, Pelin Oezer and other internationally renowned poets such as K Satchidanandan, John Kinsella, Tomica Bajsic, plus a translation of revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz by British poet Rehan Qayoom.
We also were pleased to share Noam Chomsky’s video call to the world about the Turkish resistance which, thanks to the work of everywheretaksim.net, is available in 15 languages.
Although we can’t be in the park physically, we can be there in spirit through our writing. Or, to quote Soenmez:
“Hope, dream, utopia! And revolt!
Like a poem a youth reads out loud in the square: ‘With you, we rewrote all of our love stories on a clean slate'”.
Solidarity Park is accepting submissions. Please read our call out in Turkish and English at www.solidaritypark.wordpress.com/category/call-out/