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Margie Orford writes to Stella Nyanzi - Day of the Imprisoned Writer 2019

Friday 15 November 2019 - 9:00am

Stella Nyanzi

Dear Stella,

Before I had spent time in prison myself, I knew of so many who had their freedom taken away from them simply for speaking out. I could never have imagined what it would feel like when the doors shut and I was left alone in that prison cell. Suddenly I was completely alone and the way time passed changed. That time stays with me still. I wonder how you pass the time? Do you write? Are you able to read the letters that are sent to you? Do you hear about all the people who are standing with you and fighting for you? I keep thinking about you and the injustice of what you are facing. To have your freedom taken away for a poem is unconscionable, but this is not first time that words have threatened those in power.

When you receive this letter, I want you to know that every day there are people across the world raising your case, speaking your name. When they imprisoned you, they tried to silence you, but what they have done is spark energy within a global community who refuses to be silent. Your courage and defiance are more powerful than the authority of those that have imprisoned you. Your words travel further now than ever before.

“Teach the nation poetry.
Handcuffs cannot contain the potency of poems.
Arrest warrants cannot disappear memorized verses
Poetry can never be detained in gaol.”

These words will resonate with so many who, like us, have faced governments bent on repressing their people. Your writings cannot and will not be suppressed. We will make sure of it. Today, PEN Centres around the world are sharing your words and calling for your release.

I have faith that we will see you out of prison soon.

Margie Orford