Poetry can inspire by acknowledging a person, telling their story, celebrating their life’s witness. I just came across a poem by Luci Shaw, which tells us another poet/person’s story, their persistence through harsh circumstances. Encouraging. Luci’s poem begins with her introduction to Irina, in italics.
—Russian poet and physicist who was sentenced
to seven years in a Soviet labor camp for writing about
freedom and God. We met at a conference in Oxford
and gave a joint poetry reading.
In the gulag, denied paper, she wrote her
words on soap, then rinsed them off into the icy air
like breathing hope into the world. The words
she held safe in the wide freedom of her memory.
They were words of faith and love and outrage.
They were like her children, held in her mind’s
embrace for all those years until she could
speak them aloud and own them without fear,
un-silenced and un-cowed.
I have her little gold pill box, a love gift, still
holding in its minor space a breath of her courage.
Irina Ratushinkaya‘s account of her gulag imprisonment and how she and the other women survived, supporting one another, is published in her book: “Grey is the Colour of Hope” (resissued Hodder and Stoughton, 2016, Sceptre imprint. ISBN: 9781473637214 available as paperback and e-book/Kindle)
Part of Irina’s poetry, in the poem “I will live and survive” is quoted in the Guardian’s fascinating obituary:
And I will tell of the first beauty
I saw in captivity.
A frost-covered window! No spy-holes, nor walls,
Nor cell-bars, nor the long endured pain –
Only a blue radiance on a tiny pane of glass,
A cast pattern – none more beautiful could be dreamt!
The more clearly you looked the more powerfully blossomed
Those brigand forests, campfires and birds!
And how many times there was bitter cold weather
And how many windows sparkled after that one –
But never was it repeated
That upheaval of rainbow ice!
If you’d like to read more of her poetry, its books are titled:
- “No, I’m not afraid”
- “Beyond the Limit”
- “Pencil Letter”
- “Dance with a shadow”
early formative memoir: Irina Ratushinskaya
She has written the memoir of her earlier years as: “In the beginning: The formative years of a dissident poet”.
Her novels are “Fictions and Lies” and “The Odessans”
Do you know someone who you deeply admire for their persistence through life, despite great difficulties? Perhaps they could be a theme to inspire your song/poetry/visual art/dance/craft. You may find this an encouraging exercise, which strengthens your own resilience in life.