The passing of a major poet

As reported in The New York Times recently, “Yevgeny Yevtushenko, an internationally acclaimed poet with the charisma of an actor and the instincts of a politician whose defiant verse inspired a generation of young Russians in their fight against Stalinism during the Cold War, died on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he had been teaching for many years. He was 83.”

Yevtushenko is survived by his wife, Maria Novikova, and their two sons, Dmitry and Yevgeny. His family were reportedly at the poet’s bedside when he died.

Yevtushenko’s poems of protest did much to encapsulate the mixed feelings of the young people of the Soviet Union after the death of the totalitarian Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, on 5 March 1953.

Such was his popularity in Russia that Yevtushenko gave 250 poetry readings in 1961.

Yevtushenko with Richard Nixon [1972]
President Nixon meets with Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, 1972. Public domain image via Wikipedia

After 2007, Yevtushenko spent an increasing amount of his time in America, teaching and giving readings of his work. One American writer described him as “a graying lion of Russian letters”. He taught and lectured for years at several American universities, including the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma.

Yevtushenko was very much admired by generations of his fellow Soviet citizens, both before and after the collapse of the USSR.

One of his most famous poems was Babi Yar which bore witness to the Nazi atrocities against the Jews in Kiev in the Soviet Union during World War Two.

Find out more

 

Poetry at Parklands: the Poet Within

2016 Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day 2016 hits New Zealand on Friday 26 August and the celebration unleashes the power of poetry all around our great nation with lots of events and poetry competitions.

Parklands Library draws on “the poet within”, within the Christchurch City Libraries that is. That’s right, many of our librarians are writers too. Instead of dispensing poetry books to customers, on Saturday 27 August 2016 at 2pm four of our librarian poets will be reading their own work.

Poetry

The poets:

Damien Taylor is a street poet who loves to retell his experiences from deprived small town aspirations to broken big smoke dreams. He likes to call himself Tīhore and wishes he was more Māori than he actually is.

Rob Lees is a born and bred Cantabrian and Goddess of the Knowledge Mountain, according to her husband. She says that her poetry is a reflection of her life experiences and is a way of keeping the voices in her head out!!

dYLAN kEMP is an artist of some renown. Not heaps, but some. He has published 3 books of poetry, all available from Christchurch City Libraries. He also paints, drums, dances like a wild man, and tickles his children.

Andrew M. Bell has published two books of poetry, Green Gecko Dreaming and Clawed Rains, and one book of short stories Aotearoa Sunrise (all available from Christchurch City Libraries). His work has been published and broadcast in Aotearoa, Australia, England, Israel and USA.
CoverCoverCover

Hack Attack: WORD Festival Event 12 May 2015

Cover of Hack AttackNick Davies, the author of Hack Attack: How the Truth Caught Up with Rupert Murdoch, was the subject of a Q&A session with Joanna Norris, the editor of The Press, in the chair.

We learned from Joanna Norris’ introduction that George Clooney was making a movie based on the book.

When asked about the difficulty of digging deeply into the phone hacking scandal for several years, Davies answered that he had a very reliable source who had guided him through his investigation for over two years. He said it was clear from the outset how extensive the crimes were, but the difficulty was in proving the truth of the story when up against a powerful corporation headed by a ruthless operator like Rupert Murdoch.

All along through the investigation, paradoxically, the impetus was driven by News Corp. itself because the company’s staff acted stupidly, arrogantly and aggressively. News Corp. kept up relentless attacks on Davies and The Guardian, which spurred Davies and his editor on to follow the story, knowing it must have substance.

Cover of Flat Earth NewsThe ball got rolling when Davies was giving a radio interview about a previous book, Flat Earth News: An Award-Winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media. His source was listening to the interview and contacted him about the dodgy dealings that were going on at The Sun and News of the World, both Murdoch tabloid newspapers.

When asked if he thought his book had made any difference to the behaviour of the UK press, Davies answered that, unfortunately, it was business as usual. It remained a “journalist’s fantasy” that writing about a bad thing could make it stop. He gave, as an example, The Sun conducting a campaign to undermine Labour in the most recent UK election as proof Murdoch’s power remained unchanged.

Davies disclosed that he had discovered that UK tabloids were “peculiarly ruthless” and the journalists who staffed them were “almost like a parody of themselves”.

It was Davies’ belief that it was the arrival of Princess Diana that triggered this avalanche of celebrity investigative digging and bred an attitude of journalistic cruelty where “nothing is off limits, nothing is private”. But the tabloid journalists’ hypocrisy was astounding. Andy Coulson and Rebecca Brooks were having an eight-year-long affair while callously exposing the sex lives of public figures.

All through the long investigation by The Guardian into the phone hacking scandal, Davies was pilloried in all the right-wing Murdoch newspapers. He observed that no-one threatened him with physical violence to stop investigating, but the Murdoch empire indulges in what Davies called “reputational violence”, trying to ruin people’s reputations.

Towards the end of the session, in response to questions from the audience, Davies gave the view that the internet had broken the model of newspapers across the world and journalists no longer had the funding nor the resources needed to do their jobs properly.

He thought that the Leveson Enquiry was a powerful one, but Lord Justice Leveson’s report had been deliberately smothered by powerful people in the UK.

The audience got the impression that Nick Davies would go on fighting the good fight, but he was weary and cynical as to the extent he could make a change for a better society.

Read our other blog posts about Hack Attack by Nick Davies.

Hack attack by Nick Davies

It is nearly time for the WORD Christchurch Autumn season. Come along and hear Nick Davies interviewed by Joanna Norris, editor of The Press and chair of the Media Freedom Committee,  Tuesday 12 May, 8pm at Charles Luney Auditorium, St Margaret’s College. Get your tickets now. He is also appearing at the Auckland Writers Festival.

Nick Davies

Cover of Hack AttackHack attack: How the Truth Caught up With Rupert Murdoch by Nick Davies is a work of investigative journalism at its best. Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who had subsequently worked as David Cameron’s head spin doctor, was sentenced in July 2014 to eighteen months in prison for overseeing the phone hacking of celebrities and ordinary folk who were unwittingly caught up in news events.

Nick Davies had said he felt some small sympathy for Coulson, that is until he recalled the chilling lack of compassion shown by Coulson to a plea by David Blunkett, the blind Home Secretary in the then government, to respect his privacy. During his trial, Coulson had shunted home all the blame for hacking Blunkett’s voicemails to his former chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, but the court didn’t buy his protestations of innocence.

The temptation of newspaper-selling headlines was much stronger for Coulson than any moral reservations he may have entertained about the damage the story would wreak in the lives of David Blunkett, a senior Labour cabinet minister, and Kimberley Fortier, publisher of the Spectator, a high-profile English magazine.

Davies writes in Hack Attack, his book about the UK phone-hacking scandal

I remember all the others who suffered the same fate, left behind like roadkill as Coulson roared off into his gilded future.

In the headlong rush to fulfil the dictates of the ruthless, Aussie media baron, Rupert Murdoch, Andy Coulson and his boss, Rebekah Brooks, displayed a heartlessness that almost beggared belief.

In their prurient tabloids, the News of the World and the Sun, Brooks, Coulson and the reporters who worked for them hypocritically exposed the affairs of people in the public eye while carrying on in like fashion in their own private lives.

In fact, Hack Attack reveals a degree of amorality and immorality that goes far beyond anything the newspapers’ victims could be accused of. Davies reveals that the senior figures at News of the World like Coulson, news-desk editor, Greg Miskiw, and chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, carried on their rampant espionage and dirty dealing unchecked and undiscovered for decades.

Hack Attack is an important book for any readers interested in the landscape of the 21st century global media. Despite the fact that the modern thriller looms large on our bookshelves and television sets; Hack Attack proves yet again that old adage: truth is stranger than fiction. Police corruption and cover-ups, dirty politics, and the relentless global steamroller that rolled over hundreds of lives to satisfy Rupert Murdoch’s ruthless acquisition of power – you wouldn’t read about it. Or would you?

WORD Christchurch recommends