Dispatches from the Poetry Wars has been posting alerts and articles about the shameful imprisonment of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour for many weeks now, hoping to rouse outraged attention to this vicious injustice and assault on poetry in the midst of general silence. Over the past months, the editors of Dispatches, along with one of its Contributing Editors–the poet, scholar, and activist Ammiel Alcalay–have consistently contacted the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet blog about the matter, sharing links, articles, international appeals, and so forth, asking Harriet to please post, as soon as possible, news of the urgent and scandalous case. We received no reply. 

At long last, around three weeks back, after the issue had been prominently in the international news for months, Harriet chose to link to it, albeit in a manner and tone suggesting they felt compelled to be “balanced,” as if there might be a case to be made for her poem (from which they selectively quoted) being “inciting” enough to justify her arrest (the poem, in its entirety, with our commentary, is reprinted as Dispatch #17, under June postings). Today, Harriet has finally blinked, linking to a Nomadics blog post on Tatour, by one of our contributors, Pierre Joris. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2016/07/new-poems-by-dareen-tatour-at-nomadics/

But why has it been apparently so difficult for Harriet to show interest for this remarkable issue—where a supposedly democratic country, a longtime ally of the “Free World,” has imprisoned a poet for writing and circulating a poem? Again, it’s not that the Poetry Foundation didn’t know about it—we’d been sending them unacknowledged links for a long time before they finally, half-heartedly did post something.

Of course, as anyone reading Dispatches knows, we have also been prominently criticizing and satirizing certain ethically questionable aspects and behaviors of the Poetry Foundation and its relentless institutionalization of poetry under the aegis of Big Money. And it appears the outfit is in something of a snit about it, accustomed as they are to being fawned over by U.S. poets far and wide in search of their attention and generous paychecks. 

Is it possible the Poetry Foundation puts more priority on playing the games of poetry politics than it does on the plight and suffering of a Palestinian poet? For if this were not the case, why would the Harriet blog refuse to link to the numerous materials we had shared with them? When we were, in fact, practically the only poetry-linked venue in the U.S. publicizing the case? 

The answer seems clear. The PF is determined, in its pettiness, to ignore Dispatches. And clearly their continued boycott of anything in relation to this magazine is a more important principle to them than the principle of quickly and without qualification standing up for the rights of an unjustly imprisoned poet (which, granted, may not be such a contradiction, after all, since the Poetry Foundation has a history of trying to get protesting poets thrown in prison–see various notices about this in past articles here). 

Not that we at all mind their disdain; indeed, we’re fairly pleased by it, and we’d be more than surprised if they did mention us with any kind of affirmation! We’re just saying, you know…

We call on writers everywhere to come to Dareen Tatour’s defense and to protest this outrage committed against the spirit of poetry and freedom of expression, everywhere. If it can happen there, it can also happen here.

And we alert you to another despicable attack on poetic liberty, this in Saudi Arabia, which we have previously posted on. See here, scrolling down a couple posts to Emergency Disptach #3, on the poet Ashraf Fayadh: http://dispatchespoetry.com/articles/dispatches

Good day and onward.

–Dispatches