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I Always Learn From Criticism

The Star (Amman)
By Fakhri Saleh
Posted Tuesday August 7, 2001 - 05:44:56 PM EDT

Amman - ALTHOUGH RENOWNED Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish made remarkable strives in poetry, he is still not satisfied with his career.

He believes poetry is an open gate for poets to sail through in their thoughts. "I am more anxious than being satisfied about my achievements. And this is because I am always observing the present in tomorrow's eyes," Darwish told Ad Dustour. Darwish, who began his career in poetry more than 40 years ago, considers his relationship with poetry as stemming from the current political and cultural situation in the Arab world and Palestine in particular. "The relationship between me and my readers is dialectical, a free alliance that has inter-attraction from both sides," he explained, adding his readers are not privy to the anguish he goes through when he sits down to develop his ouvre.

However, they [readers] are always in my heart and mind, because I came to realize that poetry without readers means nothing." The 60-year-old Darwish wrote his first poems when he was in elementary school in the Dir Al Assad village. He and his family were forced to flee their hometown, Al Birwah village, near Akka, after the Zionists terrorists attacked their home in 1948. He pointed out the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation is open and will not end easily.

"The most important thing is to support the Palestinian people's steadfastness in this conflict." He believes the Palestinians will have to demand a proper settlement to end the conflict rather than lose time on pursuing peace.

"I believe the Palestinian and Israeli perspectives of peace will not meet. Not only a peace settlement is hard to achieve but the resumption of peace talks is really impossible." Despite the fact Darwish is living in the West Bank city of Ramallah, he still has fond memories of Akka and Haifa. Darwish is a fluent in English and French, something which helps him to enrich his poetry which is in Arabic.
Darwish is well-known among Arab readers for his inspirational and heroic epics about love and Palestine. Despite his long illness, Darwish believes his recent collection of poems, "Judarieh" (Mural), is a response to his illness. The collection is rather surreal, explaining his quaint admiration for the ideas of love and death. He points out these are two contradictory elements that compete with one another.

"Who will win in the end, love or death," said Darwish.

"To ask for love is like asking for life. Thus, the relation between love and death is hidden." Darwish's other collection, "Ahad Ashar Kawkaban" (Eleven Planets), is considered the best of his works.

"The collection presents a revelation of epic performance." The Palestinian poet said the collection focuses on two great historical changes in human history, and Arabic culture in particular. Both changes took place in the same year, 1492; the first was the discovery of America and the other was the expulsion of the Arabs from Andalusia.

"My own reading of Arab history always reminds me that our absconding from reality and world culture will continue. This helped me to project some of the historic events and occasions in some of my poetry epics." But the days of such epics no longer exist. "An epic means a nationalistic biography that tells the story of a struggle till it is finally settled. Our struggle is still going on. What poets can do is employ the spirit of the epic for writing better poetry.

Poetry today has become more lyrical and egoist.

"I consider myself a lyrical poet. And I believe it is good. I wrote many lyrical poems that talk about ancient legends in a modern language," explained Darwish, referring to his lyrical collection, called "Limatha Tarakt Al Hessan Wahidan?" (Why did you leave the horse alone)? He ended his interview with a confession. "I can criticize myself and always upgrade myself. But I won't consider this an apology or regret of any poems I wrote before. I always learn from criticism. A good poet is the one who reads a lot and be influenced by others."
© 2001 The Star (Amman). This news item is distributed via Middle East News Online (MiddleEastWire.com). For information about the content or for permission to redistribute, publish or use for broadcast, contact our syndication department.