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Poets saving Palestine: I Remember My Name

By Stuart Rees - posted Thursday, 28 April 2016

Poetry’s Panacea

Conditions on the West Bank, in Gaza, in East Jerusalem and in myriad Palestinian refugee camps are monstrous.  What non-violent response can there be to the violence and hatred, the killings and the dispossession, the endlessly cruel siege of Gaza, the thuggery of settlers and the Netanyahu rants?

As if taking their cue from the English poet Shelley who said that poets were the unacknowledged legislators of the world, three Palestinian poets have crafted an inspiring and empowering response.


In the anthology, I remember my name, Samah Sabawi, Ramzy Baroud and Jehan Bseiso give the antidote to violence and stimulants to combat despair.

Ramzy Baroud displays an immediate clue to as to the essence of their panacea, ‘When words fail me I resort to poetry’. In La cafet he also reveals, ‘I seek solace in Forgetfulness, bleeding heart, faking a smile.’

In lines from Statuses and Headlines, satirist Samah Sabawi mocks, ‘War on terror, war of terror, war for terror.’

 Jehan Bseiso conjures optimism from Everyday Nakba. ‘Each year marks death, dispossession and occupation but also birth, and the celebration of memories and resistance.’

A Means Of Liberation

Here is a refuge which stores the story of Palestine, the bestial-like collective punishment of the people of Gaza and the international community’s collusion with such cruelty. Yet from the carnage you sense that these poets might save Palestine, even the world. In her Liberation Anthem, the passionate Samah writes, ’To the people of Israel who fear our freedom, Don’t be afraid, we will liberate you too.’ Later she assures Israelis, ‘You and I are no different, We are made of blood and tears.’


Almost in the same breath but in another poem, Verses and Spices Samah acknowledges the influence of her father, the celebrated but exiled Gazan poet Abdul Karim Sabawi:  ‘Growing up, my  father’s poems ran through my veins like blood, A necessary life ingredient, A rhythm that kept my heart pumping.’  Lines from her poem Words should jolt any reader: ‘Without naming the crimes they commit, without saying Ethnic Cleansing and Apartheid, Your words ring hollow.’

Ramzy links the suffering of Gazans to a wider world where violence is considered the only way to solve problems. His cosmopolitan perspectives show in his insistence that resistance to oppression has to be universal:  ‘My fist will rise from the charred earth, In a painting by Naji Ali, Through the thick walls of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, In the streets of Hanoi, Amid the rubble of a Gazan mosque.’

In her Brainstorming Naqba, Jehan explains why for decades it has been difficult for Palestinians to be understood in a world too easily influenced by American, European and Australian politicians brainwashed by the Israeli narrative and by an international media fascinated by massacres in another country or embedded in another war. Jehan writes, ‘We are bastard children of hyphens and supplements in sentences that start with, Originally I’m from…We read Kanafini, Darwiche and Said, When we found tongues, we learned to speak from the margins of pages.’

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I Remember My Name, Vacy Vlazna (Ed) London, Novum Publishing, 2016 To order at Amazon click here:

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About the Author

Stuart Rees is Professor Emeritus of the University of Sydney and Founder of the Sydney Peace Foundation. He is the former Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation (1998-2011) and of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (1988-2008), and a Professor of Social Work (1978-2000) at the University of Sydney.

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