Near the grave of Darwish, Ramallah …poetry is difficult yet possible, but it cannot change the world. However, it can light little candles in the dark.
Mahmoud Darwish, If I were Another <> translation, Fady Joudah, Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2009.
Mahmoud Darwish, If I were Another. I love this book! Finally an Arabic-to-English translation that gives me an elegant bridge of words between two languages. These languages are distant, so far from one another that the intuitive engineering is a feat that deserves profound and grateful recognition, especially for the epic poems. Fady Joudah, thank you for this achievement. (He won the 2010 PEN Literary Award for the translation). He also translatedThe Butterfly’s Burden by Darwish, 2007.
I was struck by the book’s cover photograph. I had the rare feeling that I really knew this person, although I never met him. How beautifully the picture captures the qualities of dignity and intelligence! How perfect his suit is – finely crafted, the color, elegant. This man is the Poet of the Palestinian people! I offer a prayer for all Palestinians: Ya Salam! May Allah create peace, may you find a refuge of peace, be safe and slowly heal, secure from harm.
Poet, Naomi Shihab Nye, has said, “Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008) is the Essential Breath of the Palestinian people, the eloquent witness of exile and belonging, exquisitely tuned singer of images that invoke, link, and shine a brilliant light into the world’s whole heart. What he speaks has been embraced by readers around the world—his in an utterly necessary voice, unforgettable once discovered.” [www.poets.org]
Darwish was born in 1942 into a land-owning Sunni Muslim family in Birweh, a village in Galilee, under the British mandate in Palestine. When he was six, the Israeli army occupied Birweh and Darwish’s family joined the exodus of Palestinian refugees, estimated by the UN at between 726,000 and 900,000. The family spent a year in Lebanon on UN handouts. After Israel’s creation and the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, the family returned “illegally” in 1949, but found Birweh was one of at least 400 Palestinian villages razed and depopulated of Arabs, Israeli colonies built on its ruins. Darwish says, “We lived again as refugees, this time in our own country. It’s a collective experience. This wound I’ll never forget.”
The family lost everything, says Darwish, the second oldest of four brothers and three sisters. His father, Salim, was reduced to agricultural labour. “My grandfather chose to live on a hill overlooking his land. Until he died he would watch [Jewish] immigrants from Yemen living in his place, which he was unable even to visit.” <
“…poetry is difficult yet possible, but it cannot change the world. However, it can light little candles in the dark. It is true that poetry is fragile, but it has the strength of silk and the sturdiness of honey.” MD
POEMS: excerpts from Counterpoint, Mural, and Rita’s Winter follow ~Counterpoint, 2005, [a farewell conversation between himself and Palestinian-American Edward Said, who died in 2003]. …On the wind he walks. And on the wind He knows who he is. There is no ceiling for the wind And no house. The wind is a compass To the stranger’s north. He says: I am from there, I am from here, But I am neither there nor here…. (Darwish asks him): –Then you are prone to the affliction of longing? –A longing for tomorrow is farther and higher. My dream leads my steps. And my vision Seats my dream on my knees like a cat. My dream is the realistic imaginary and the son of will…. (and here they both share this terrible reality): …Blood and blood and blood in your land in my name and yours, in the almond blossom, in the banana peel, in the infant’s milk, in light and shadow, in wheat grains, in the salt container. Proficient snipers hit their marks with excellence and blood and blood and blood…
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Mural, 2000, a 45 page epic poem about his engagement with Death, a hospital room, and visions. He begins talking to himself:…I am other than me. The fig orchards haven’t ripened around the girls’ dresses. The phoenix feather hasn’t birthed me. There’s no one there waiting for me. I came before, I came after, but found no one who believes what I see… ––Death, be a kind friend…And you might have saddled a horse for me to kill me on it. As if my language, when I remember forgetfulness, can rescue my present. As if I were forever present. Forever a bird. As if my language, since I’ve known you, has become addicted to its fragility on your white vehicles, higher than the clouds of sleep, when feeling is liberated from the burden of all the elements. Because you and I on God’s road are two Sufis who are governed by vision but don’t see.
<> <> <>from the love poem: Rita’s Winter [from Eleven Planets, 1992] …Rita cracks the walnut of my days, and the fields expand and this small earth becomes mine,/ like a room on the ground floor in a building on a street on a mountain that overlooks the sea air. I have a moon of wine/ and I have a burnished stone… …And she broke the ceramic of the day/ against the iron windowpane placed her handgun on the poem’s draft threw her stockings on the chair, and the cooing broke… then she went barefoot to the unknown, and departure reached me
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(no punctuation on the last word of this 6 page poem)
Re: Arab schools in Israel: The Education Ministry has approved the inclusion of the works of the Palestinian national poet, Mahmoud Darwish, in the Israeli-Arab curriculum starting next year. The additions mark the end of a decades-long struggle to bring controversial writers to an impoverished list…. Raymond Marjiya and Omri Meniv report.(March 29, 2012) Read more:
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