Mahmoud Darwish: Poet of the Palestinian People

One of the most noted poets of our time, Mahmoud Darwish died but five years ago in Texas at the age of 67. Multi-award winner and hailed the poet of the Palestinian nation he used religious, Islamic and cultural imagery to write about his homeland. His writings were first published at the age of 19 and he continued to write until his death. His prose is powerful and heartfelt, striking a chord among Arabs at home and abroad. His words speak of love, life and death – they reflect the sentiments of those away from home that have left forcibly or by choice and those searching for acceptance wherever they might be. As a patriot, he batted away allegations that he was an anti-Semite, affirming his love for his people but not hate for others. Much of his poetry has been set to music such as the following entitled On This Earth:

On this earth what makes life worth living:

The hesitance of April

The scent of bread at dawn

An amulet made by a woman for men

Aeschylus’s works

The beginnings of love

Moss on a stone

The mothers standing on the thinness of a flute

and the fear of invaders of memories.

On this earth what makes life worth living:

September’s end

a lady moving beyond her fortieth year without losing any of her grace

a sun clock in a prison

Clouds imitating a flock of creatures

Chants of a crowd for those meeting their end smiling

and the fear of tyrants of the songs.

On this earth what makes life worth living:

On this earth stands the mistress of the earth

Mother of beginnings

Mother of endings

It used to be known as Palestine

It became known as Palestine

My mistress:

I deserve, because you’re my mistress

I deserve life.

If you are looking to read more by Darwish, consider Mural a perfect introduction.

Noora Ismail


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