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Acceptance Speech

29 January 2007

My dear friends,

I was your guest thirty years ago, when Rafael Alberte had the honor of receiving the “Golden Wreath”. I fell in love with your country: the lake, the red roses, and the readers who prove to us that solitude is not the destiny of poets. I was young then, with great dreams. When I grew older I realized that 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. Poets need only believe in the effectiveness of this fragility. The higher the thud of brutality and hatred and war, the greater the need for its antidote: the sound of poetry… to intensify our perception and awareness of our humanity, and to persist with our dream of freedom and peace, and our belief in human commonalities.

I was your guest about thirty years ago, with other poets from all countries and languages: assorted flowers in one single open garden, without a center or a periphery. The concept of universal poetry is defined by the diversity of voices and points of reference. The true identity of poetry lies in its humanity and distinct aesthetics, and its capacity to travel freely amongst cultures and languages: we cannot imprison it within strict national walls. However, poetry does contribute to developing a cultural identity for a people whose identity is under attack, and defies whatever stands in the way of the people’s expression of their uniqueness. The poet cannot escape the “here” and the “now” to another time and place.

It gives me great pleasure to return to this beautiful country, to be honored by receiving your esteemed expression of appreciation of myself and what I represent, and to your noble attention to the intertwining between the personal and the public voice, the individual and the collective, in my poetic experience. I never dreamt of receiving this honor, of accepting your venerated prize: the Golden Wreath, thus joining the register of poets who have been my mentors. I consider it an honor to Arab poetry and an expression of moral support of the right of my country, Palestine, to join the family of free and independent nations.

With my deepest thanks and gratitude

Mahmoud Darwish