Sunday, April 18, 2010

The poetry of Mourid Barghouti

The Pillow
by Mourid Barghoiti

The pillow said:
at the end of the long day
only I know
the confident man’s confusion,
the nun’s desire,
the slight quiver in the tyrant’s eyelash,
the preacher’s obscenity,
the soul’s longing
for a warm body where flying sparks
become a glowing coal.
Only I know
the grandeur of unnoticed little things;
only I know the loser’s dignity,
the winner’s loneliness
and the stupid coldness one feels
when a wish has been granted
The Palestinian writer Mourid Barghouti is best known in the West for his book I Saw Ramalallah, a memoir of exile and displacement. Barghouti is also distinguished poet who has published ten books of poetry in Arabic.

Midnight and other Poems
is his second book of poetry in English, but the most comprehensive collection of his work available.

The UK Independent has a review of the book here from which this extract is taken:

"There is not a single line of propaganda in this book. You will search in vain for any didactic message about Israel-Palestine politics. The only poem clearly prompted by a public event, the televised killing of a small boy by occupying forces on the West Bank, segues into a poignant ghost story in which dream – and dream alone – redeems an accursed time.

Instead of polemic and accusation, Barghouti fashions harrowing elegies, mordant ironies, and a gallows humour as bitter as the coffee grounds marking one of the small rituals that help make the days of dispossession bearable. He quotes Yeats and Shakespeare; he can sound, in his weary, sardonic pluck, much like Auden or Brecht.

This bone-bred sadness does not make Barghouti a detached or "neutral" voice. He bears witness to a people's tragedy that men, not fate, have made – but men in several different uniforms. And, in many poems, the life that coercion cannot kill – the memory of an orange grove, a woman's love, the creatures of the earth and the stars in the sky – kicks against the dark. Barghouti never openly indicts but, an emissary of the defeated, he does ask the victors – any of history's victors – why they find it so hard to sleep soundly".

Barghouti's writings in English are available on his website.

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