Paata Shamugia is the most influential and provocative contemporary Georgian poet. He was born in March 1983 in Georgia. He graduated from philological faculty at Tbilisi state university. Since 2018 year Paata Shamugia is a president of the Georgian Pen Center.
Paata’s texts, according to Georgian literary scholars, comprise a high amount of self-irony and sometimes even weird linguistic performances. In 2015 year he became the first Georgian poet to get the most prestigious SABA literary prize twice.
After publishing his début poem "Panther's Skin" in 2006 (in which author countered so-called "Georgian Bible" "The knight in the panther's skin"), he gained wide popularity in Georgian public. During several months in the Georgian press and TV people had disputed around this book. Even the Georgian parliament members damended to ban the book because of its “harmful behavior” and disrespect of the tradition. The members of the radical orthodox parents’ union published a letter dedicated to Shamugia in the newspaper “Asaval-Dasavali”, in which they asked to Georgian Orthodox Church to pronounce him an anathema.
After 3 years, in 2010 Paata Shamugia published book "Preference", which was commended by the critics and estimated as an author's best book.
In 2012 Paata Shamugia won SABA - the most prestigious literary award of Georgia and his book Acatiste was named as the best book of the year. In the same year the Art magazine Hot Chocolate named Paata Shamugia the person of the Year.
In 2015 Paata Shamugia won SABA literary prize for the second time - and his book Schizo-national Anthems was named as the best book of the year.
Paata Shamugia was born in 1983 and lives in Tbilisi. He is a refugee in his own country and can’t return to his home village in Abkhazia—a region still occupied by Russia. Since his father took part in the resistance against Russia during the war in Abkhazia in the early nineties, even Paata is banned from entering the occupied zone—anyhow, his childhood home has been demolished, as well as other houses owned by Georgian combatants from the conflict. “I have never written about Abkhazia, or about my position as a refugee,” he explains. “I don’t know why. Maybe because it is to painful. Abkhazia is a highly charged subject for Georgia, particularly in relation to Russia. I know that I always write about myself even when I am writing about other things, as all writers do in all honesty, but I have yet to relate to Abkhazia in my poetry.” “Do you feel any hatred?” “I would say that almost everyone in this country is a patriot, but I have another way of being that, and for this reason there’s a lot of affiliations in Georgia that would consider me being a traitor. But I think we need more equality and democracy—while they believe we need more religion and traditions. I can’t picture them aiming for the future. Unfortunately we are in minority in the country, we who think like that, the younger generations included—who has been indoctrinated by their parents. They have become conservative. Their parents are first and foremost afraid of things like sexual liberation, drugs and all experiences they never had themselves.” As a poet Shamugia is tremendously playful, with a tender but distinctive irony throughout his poems. An irony bordering satire, but still considered harmless by a reader from a fully secularized country. As is not the case of Georgia. “My latest book is titled Mother Tongue, which was also the name of the first Georgian textbook for children—written by Jacob Gogebashvili, and published in 1876. That book still plays a major role for Georgians in general—and there are a lot of people who have some kind of religious resistance to any ‘abuse’ of the classics. Modernists always violate the classics, but in Georgia people take offence and feel hurt by it.” Mother Tongue is the seventh book since his debut in 2007. He has certainly become notorious, but at the same time widely acclaimed, within the establishment as well. Hence I ask him: “How does it feel to be the first poet to be awarded twice with the national Saba Prize for best poetry collection of the year?” Conservative newspapers called me both ‘bastard’ and ‘traitor’ already when i published my first book of poems— in Anti Epos (in Georgia known as The Anti Tiger’s Skin), I made a parody of the Georgian national epos: The Knight in the Tiger’s Skin [aka The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, for English readers] by Shota Rustaveli. I interposed quite a few erotic passages as well, and made a parody of the standpoints of the Orthodox Church. But in my poems ‘God’ is just a small portion of the dialectical play, and I enjoy having imaginary friends, such as God and other monsters. However, God has no unique position in this case, I write about fishes and birds too.” “Do you feel restrained in your work due to the abusive criticism?” “No… And thus the conservative media still calls me ‘bastard’ and ‘traitor’. You know, in Georgia we have something called ‘The Society of Orthodox Parents’—they bought all copies they could get hold of to prevent my first book to be spread. And burned the books, for real. It was good for me, though—as I then could receive payment for the whole edition, while having the sensation that my writings made an impact. Although it turned into a rather dangerous situation as well, since I got death threats by orthodox extremists.” I made my first interview with Paata Shamugia in Kazbegi, a small village surrounded by beautiful views of the Caucasus Mountain peaks. Little did I know that this region until recently was included in the dissuasion against travel—leaving me, at that time, in a position where I unknowingly had neglected the advice and regulations of my home country. Of course every inch of land was soothingly calm, even the old Military Road onward to the Russian border. The misrepresentation of Georgia seems to indefinitely confuse people; to the point that even officials forget to, in due time, define some specific portions of the country as being safe. Rest asured, now Kazbegi is ‘officialy’ safe too. On the other hand Abkhazia has been occupied by Russia for twenty years now. And being back in Georgia, driving the slow highway from Tbilisi to Batumi, alongside the mountain range, there were also the view of villages built for internal refugees from South Ossetia—the second of the occupied regions in Georgia. Last time, Shamugia asked me to what extent people would care about the specifics of Georgian culture. “Let them be replaced in my poems, by more common experiences,” he said. And I kind of refused. This time he reminds me, looking at these “preliminary” villages: “What do people care about the state of Georgian sovereignty?” Well, who cares about anything nowadays, outside of their own realms—other than whatever people make a big fuss about? The details are essential. In the details of Shamugia’s poems, we find the exiled individual fighting the church, the curruption of the state, the distortion of human decency, the prominent pseudo-evidence against his own rights. At another passage in between mountains, he suggests the elevated position of some wind turbines could be a nice spot for placing a gargantuan Don Quixote. Any occupation by foreign power, that the surrounding world won’t take seriously enough, will surely make citizens feel like Don Quixote. Until having assured themselves that it is the world that has gone mad.
by Kristian Carlsson
Literature and Technology /
I hurled a great novel by Camilo José Cela
at the night butterfly, smashing it against the wall.
Got it? Step by step literature becomes practical,
while technology tries to somehow take its place:
The iPhone fits the hand better,
seems to have surrendered to the shape of fingers.
Well, let’s not behave as ungrateful people,
but Camilo José Cela, we have to confess,
is better at killing butterflies.
Once I used to bring a paperback edition of Lasha Nadareishvili
to the bathroom
but then the super soft toilet paper appeared
(God bless high tech!)
and his books became useless.
That’s a pity, but what to do? That’s how
technology deals with literature.
I have nothing against my fridge from Bosch—
it freezes better than, say, Camilo José Cela,
but, to be honest, with a book titled The Family of Pascual Duarte
you can thoroughly ruin a complete family of butterflies.
Look, this is where its power lies—
in practice, in destruction… Who would expect that!?
I’m looking at the butterfly right now, like a speechless mourner.
It seems to have become the sacrifice of great literature.
I think we might be able to understand each other better now—
me and the butterfly.
(The publicist’s poem-manifesto)
Dedicated to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, that banned
the movieLoveby Gaspar Noé, chosing to regard it as pornography.
Also dedicated to people who publish illegal records of private life.
Among public activities
nothing is as noble as pornography.
Sasha Grey is the single public figure
who has contributed more to the education of these generations
than Noam Chomsky, Friedrich Hegel or Dimitri Uznadze.
It’s time to put porn on the curriculum
from the very first grade, teaching kids this way:
This is a violet. This is a finger, namely, the middle finger.
Teachers must appear naked at work.
Any dressed teacher would be considered reactionary, a frigid relict of the past.
The children have the right to know the truth:
Santa Claus does not exist, while Indigo Augustine does,
and her amazing breasts exist even more.
Confessions by Saint Indigo Augustine - seems to be apocryphal porn.
We shouldn’t consider her deep throat to be some banal eroticism.
It’s the continuation of an ancient ritual, or just a literary allusion
that brings to mind the actions of the Phallic cult.
The children should learn what their parents hide from them,
why the hands of their elder brothers tremble
when touching objects with cavities;
why their fathers show signs of desire
when the short dress of a neighborhood girl
lingers in the air like an interrogation mark.
That’s why we should teach pornography in school,
better to teach Jenna Jameson and Nina Mercedez
than Friedrich Schiller, Galaktion Tabidze and Homer.
(Sasha Grey is essential to pornography, so let’s get back to her later on.)
Famous intellectuals should leave place for public pornographers,
may the new generations learn!
Classes in cunnilingus will be held in ninth grade,
while final exams in BDSM are for graduates.
Any good student is sure to be whipped.
“A dildo, it’s a cold iron, isn’t it?” the policeman asks.
“Dildos—Prose,” the young poet with a new rhyme
will shoot a round of bukkake at the ignorant policeman
(Japanese technology is always reliable!).
Some years ago Irakli Kakabadze made plans for a performance
of group-masturbation in front of the Parliament building.
But our current members of parliament did steal that idea
and perform it on a daily basis now
without defending the rights of immaterial property.
By the way, you can join them if you still put such a deep trust in your libido.
The Porn Developing Society-
such a wonderful name for an organization
that will create an esthetic platform
for changing the basics of our ethics.
It’s an oxymoron but we need to believe in it,
as Martin Luther believed in his “95 Theses,”
as Putin believes in a reunion of the Soviet Union,
as Trump believes that war can make peace,
as Bidzina Ivanishvili believes in Bidzina Ivanishvili.
There are people who walk as if
they don’t touch ground at all—
and they say that porn is the perversion.
When they utter this phrase they shape their mouths
as if intending to say “O” with a grin.
One might think they weren’t born after coitus
but straight out of the head of Zeus like Pallas Athena.
Pornography is a distinguished profession,
a kind of social work, the general discourse.
Each phallus ejaculating on Sasha Grey’s face
equals a political statement, or an important social announcement -
We must treat it seriously
and think it thoroughly through,
we must also investigate the trajectory
as it is about to set our future - I mean by the investment of chromosomes
in various women, the penis is like a pen writing the matrix of genes on vaginas.
You experience the mystery of porn, the grammar of bodies,
when your noun penetrates her verb.
It couldn’t be more scientific, more precise, or even clearer.
What else could a state provide?
Our country is only waiting for the ghosts of misunderstanding
when there is talk about Gaspar Noé— although the State is against porn,
it is Love it fights, including that of Gaspar Noé, it fights the concept of Love as Love is not money
and won’t be followed by investments.
It won’t increase the budget (rather the other way around).
Oh, my God, what a crude pragmatism…
Leave us something sacred
uncorrupted by your political Darwinism.
Don’t touch the innocent lagoons of RedTube, PornHub and YouPorn!
Hey, you, government officials, keep your hands off my genitalia!
Keep your hands off my hands (one is already busy).
I’ll tell you a psychological fable:
Here you have the children, traumatized by porn:
the producer is ruthless:
in one of the close-ups the vagina looks directly into
the wide open eyes of the children.
A gaze so familiar and frightening, the children think,
and experience remorse.
They have yet to hear about Plato’s cave story,
that’s why their associations are limited to simple feelings of fear.
As grown-ups that gazing close-up
will always remind them of the birth of death.
Let there be houses for the homeless,
millions for the broke,
inspiration for the poets,
a skeleton for the tongue,
sheep for the sleepless—one sheep, two sheep, three sheep…
let there be strenght for those in love
to spead themselves in each other,
let there be toys for the kids,
for the dictators too,
let there be freedom for the imagination
and food for the hungry,
let there be trees for the winds
to get some rest in the branches,
let there be nothing at all for the politicians.
Even if my Lord defends the city,
the vigilance of the watchman is pointless - nobody will survive.
Houses will be set on fire, roads will sway,
all infants will climb out of their cradles
and kill themselves in front of people
because nobody will survive.
The legs will start to melt on the one who is treading the long way
and a man half-buried in his own limbs
can’t be saved by anyone;
snakes will flourish in our beds and the split tongues will sprout from the walls,
and they will tell everything that was inappropriate to talk about before.
The vigilance of a watchman,
the vigilance of mothers is pointless - nobody will survive.
Fortune-tellers won’t be able to read any palms,
readers won’t be able to read any poems,
worshippers won’t be able to read any prayers,
politicians won’t talk so loudly,
instead they will cough and throw their bleeding tonsils away - nobody will survive.
Plane trees will sprout leaves of cement, passengers will lose their shadows,
words will be as heavy as stones, our mouths will be fed up with stones
and our shadows will murmur in our place.
Nobody will survive.
All baby-sitters will abandon the babies,
with rifles carried across their shoulders they are shaped as crosses
and bless everybody in sight with a bullet
(as for the already dead, they will get their blessings
discharged just in case) -
nobody will survive.
Even the one likely to survive will not survive at all,
because nobody will survive
the most severe intersection of reason and result,
a fatal attack of happiness and accidentality.
Nobody will survive.
It was wrong to believe they would fathom the reasons,
provide themselves with alibis or make arrangements.
The vigilance of the watchman is pointless,
in vain as the vigilance of cities,
meaningless as the vigilance of parents,
doing anything is like chasing the wind,
nobody will survive.
A Busy Poet /
No visa is required from my language,
I obtain business contracts from verbs and nouns,
I use intermissions for interjections,
I’m a busy poet.
I lead diplomatic negotiations with binary oppositions,
I stand after a prefix—like a gentleman,
but I turn a blind eye to the past—impudent!
I check my base—I have to stand strong,
I’m a busy poet.
I practice all forms of interrelations—I’m in shape.
I rebuild the crumbed infrastructure of my body—I run.
For leisure I invest my hormones in the first girl I meet—oops!
Nothing personal, just poetry,
I’m a busy poet.
I set everyone free
from a life in the prison of ready-made answers.
It’s time to be sentenced to peace!
It’s time to be sentenced to love!
We deserve even worse!
Zero tolerance for petty obsessions!
I’m a busy poet.
I try to eliminate the separatism—
the separation of language (AKA the State)
and human beings (AKA human beings).
The one who speaks is always lying.
The one who writes is always
exposed by the lies he writes.
My lies are ordinary,
my poems extraordinary.
I’m a busy poet.
Why do I Write? /
I often ask myself this question
although unable to answer
and left without answers
I always write.
Thus, I write because I have no answer:
which could be the answer to this question—
an oblique stone thrown simultaneously
into the gardens of the questioner and the answerer.
Hopefully my next poem
will begin by depicting a beautiful landscape,
tottering infants in the green mall,
I will let a cute dog into the poem
for enhanced reactions
(after all, this common symbol of devotion
stimulates positive emotions),
and the poem will be doomed to be an answer,
to be as trustworthy as eyewitnesses.
I will provide poetry as evidence:
the whole poetry and nothing but the poetry.
But still, when I’m asked:
Why do I keep writing?
I fearfully stare at the humpback abyss
in between the question mark and my body.
A Television Commercial /
Yearning for home.
Yearning for tea.
Yearning for coffee.
Yearning for sex.
Yearning for sex in Cleopatra’s bathroom.
Yearning for a television commercial.
Yearning for the second volume of psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud,
and the third volume of psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud,
and the fourth volume of psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud.
I need evolution.
I need psychological mutation.
I need for me to be Walt Whitman
and for you to be terrorists.
Need the EU and the EU standards in repair works.
Yearning for fizzlings,
for fine fieldfares,
for Fred and the fortress,
forIt’s Far to Gurjistan
for a furious man with black fur hat.
I need black asphalt.
I need Linda.
I need pandas.
Yearning for inclusive angels
and exclusive BBC programs.
Need to have 100 million on my private bank account
and an appointed private meeting with Miss USA.
I need coffee.
I need coffee,
a cup of coffee on wasteland islands.
Yearning for asymmetrical gods
and symmetrical friendship.
I need to know the formula for economical collapses
and for human happiness too.
I need cheap vodka
and a yacht in the Pacific.
I need The Goncourt Prize and after that
I need The Booker Prize and after that
I need The Nobel Prize as well.
I need prizes to buy a house,
to buy dolls for my wife,
to buy myself a tranquil death,
to buy a small piece of land in Paradise
where I could oversleep.