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“O Captain! My Captain!” – Poets Detained while Reciting Poems


Aleko Tskitishvili
On August 14th, the publicist Irakli Kakabadze, and the poets Shota Gagarini and Aleksi Chigvinadze, held a protest rally on George Bush St. The public learned about the rally through the social network “facebook.’’ According to the organizers, they were going to protest against the title of the George Bush Street and ask to name it after an American poet, Walt Whitman. The art protest rally “Down with Bush! Long live Whitman!” – ended with the arrest of the poets.

“George Bush is not a symbol of America. Bush is a symbol of war for oil, the president who disrupted the idea of America. Walt Whitman’s poem “O Captain, My Captain” is dedicated to real America, which will definitely achieve its goal even if the captain gets killed by the corporatocrat. Nowadays, America is no longer Bush’s America. And to express our respect to the American people, we have a street of an idiot President, idiot in the eyes of his own people. When we talk about America, in the first place, we should recall the free spirit, the visionary seekers, bold ideas and the cultural innovations that changed America for the better. Walt Whitman is a part of this tradition. Bush’s presidentship is a thorn in the ass, pulling out of which took 8 years. Walt Whitman is infinite. Down with Bush, long live Whitman!” – wrote Shota Gagarini on facebook the day before the rally.

On August 14th, the poets gathered in Isani, the beginning of George Bush Street, where a huge image of Bush is hanging. They hurried up a little and started the rally 15 minutes earlier than planned. First, with a black paint, they rewrote Walt Whitman Street on George Bush Street. They dyed the signboard where the ex-president of the USA, George Bush Jr. is reflected. The police arrived when the participants were reciting poems.

Aleksi Chigvinadze recalls: “We were standing in the so-called “safe island” reciting the poems of Whitman, Ginsberg, Ashbery, and the ones of their own. The pathway of the road was free. “O Captain! My Captain!” – reading it polyphonically, the phrases mingled and created different poems. The noise of cars was added up to it. O Captain! My Captain! This is the innocent ritual of street baptism and purification. O Captain! My Captain! We want Whitman’s America and not the idiot Bush’s America, - was the main message.”

They were arrested right when Irakli Kakabadze was reciting the poem “dogs, dogs.” They were convicted for the police resistance and detained in the building of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in the cell of preliminary detainment.

Next day, on August 15th, the detainees were issued an administrative fine of 400-400 lari for each and were dismissed from the court hall.

Irakli Kakabadze’s lawyer Gela Nikolaishvili considers the decision of the Tbilisi City Court unjust. According to him, the judge didn’t wish to see the video material presented by him as evidence that showed the reality of the protest rally. “The judge believed only to the testimonies of the policemen,” – stated the lawyer. He says that the defense side will definitely appeal against the court decision.

“We were convicted in malicious resistance of the police. This was the article. All three cases were united. Nobody clarified the rights of detainees. In a report they wrote that “we refused to take a lawyer because the whole matter is a lie. We were treated well under the detainment. We are definitely going to appeal against the court decision. The tapes of journalists and “Kavkasiuri Sakhli” recorded that no resistance occurred against the police,” – says Shota Gagarini.

The video material refused by the court soon appeared on facebook (see the link):

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