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Arabeyes: Mourning for Mahmoud Darwish

Bloggers around the Arab world mourned the death of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish today. Scores of posts appeared online in Arabic and English even before news of his death was officially confirmed.

The award-winning poet, whose work has been translated to more than 22 languages, is best known for his poems which depict the suffering of Palestinian people, their longing for their homeland and infighting between various Palestinian factions. Born in historical Palestine, in what is now Israel, Darwish leaves behind over 30 volumes of poetry and eight books of prose, and millions of fans.

From Jerusalem, the UN-Truth‘s Marian Houk says news of Darwish's death is:

.. the top news story here. Never mind the Olympics, or John Edward’s affair….

She also describes what makes Darwish's poetry special:

It’s probably true that you need to understand the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in order to really appreciate the poignant and intense economy with which Mahmoud Darwish described how Palestinians see the situation.

The blogger, who has also met Darwish several times, says the world will never be the same without the poet:

I saw Mahmoud Darwish over more than two decades in Beirut, in Damascus, in Washington, in New York, in London, in Paris, in Geneva — and last month in Ramallah. He was part of my life, and part of the lives of every Palestinian in Jerusalem and Ramallah and everywhere. And now, he is gone, and the world is not the same.

She shares her favourite poem with us – a biblical story of Yousef:

Oh my father, I am Yusuf
Oh father, my brothers neither love me nor want me in their midst
They assault me and cast stones and words at me
They want me to die so they can eulogize me
They closed the door of your house and left me outside
They expelled me from the field
Oh my father, they poisoned my grapes
They destroyed my toys
When the gentle wind played with my hair, they were jealous
They flamed up with rage against me and you
What did I deprive them of, Oh my father?
The butterflies stopped on my shoulder
The bird hovered over my hand
What have I done, Oh my father?
Why me?
You named me Yusuf and they threw me into the well
They accused the wolf
The wolf is more merciful than my brothers
Oh, my father
Did I wrong anyone when I said that
I saw eleven stars and the sun and the moon
Saw them kneeling before me?

Jordanian Samer Marzouq, writing at Jazarah, says Darwish's death is a big loss for the Arab world.

Bad news, the greatest Arab poet, the Palestinian Mahmoud Darwish has died today in a hospital in Huston in the USA, this is a big loss for the Arab cultural scene, rest in peace Mahmoud Darwish, rest in peace.

Tunisian blog Khil We Lil [Ar] marks Darwish's death saying:

عملاق آخر يمضي

Another giant passes away.

Radwa Osama, from Egypt, is shocked at the news and awaits a message from Darwish – via another poet:

يخبرنى عمرو منذ قليل بلهجة حزينة – محمود درويش مات -أكدت عليه أكثر من مرة أن لا يخبرنى بأخبار الموت مرة واحدة – بعدها بقليل يدير صوت محمود درويش على الكمبيوتر – أسمعه بحزن صافى – لا أجد كلاما كثيرا يمكننى أن أضيفه مرة آخرى – لكنى عن جد حزينة – حزينة جدا – كنت أفكر فى المرة القادمة لزيارة محمود درويش الى القاهرة ، تخيلتها فى الجامعة المريكية ، كنت أحضر نفسى لتلك النشوة – ياااااه منذ وقت طويل لم اسمع درويش – كلما ضاقت روحى ، استمعت الى صوته ، فهو قادر على تهدئتى دوما-يسألنى عمرو “تفتكرى محمود درويش بيعمل ايه دلوقتى”-أفكر بمنطقية شديدة فيما يفعله محمود درويش الأن -ربما يتأمل التجربة بعمق ، ليكتب قصائد عديدة ليرسلها إلينا نحن المشتاقين دوما إلى كلمة حقيقية – بعد قليل سأفقد مذاق الشعر -محمود درويش أمازلت ترى أن الموت يخطئنا؟! -أنتظر منك ان ترسل بقصيدة مع أول عابر عندك – فالشعراء لا يموتون

In a sad tone, Amr told me that Mahmoud Darwish passed away. I have repeatedly asked him not to break such stories to me in one go. A little while later, we listened to Mahmood Darwish's voice on the computer. I can hear his clear sadness. I don't find a lot of words to add but I am extremely sad. I was thinking that next time his visited Cairo, it would be at the American University. I was preparing myself for that event. It has really been a long time since I last heard Darwish. I used to listen to him every time I felt annoyed. He was able to calm me down. Amr asks me: “What do you think Mahmoud Darwish is doing now?” I think logically and say: “Mahmoud Darwish is now contemplating on the experience (of death), in order to write a poem, and send it to us, the people who are eager for the truth. Very soon, I will stop enjoying poetry. Mahmoud Darwish, do you still think that death mistakes us?! I am looking forward for a poem from you, with the first person who contacts you. Poets never die.

Photo of Mahmoud Darwish from Wikimedia Commons

11 comments

  • m herdeck

    My press, Three Continents (Wash DC) published Ben Bennani’s translation of “Psalms” in 1994. I read “Psalm Eight” today:

    “Palestine . . .

    You spread onto my body like sweat
    You spread into my body like desire
    You take over my memory like an invader
    And occupy my brain like light.
    Die, that I may mourn you
    Or be my wife that I may know betrayal
    Once and for all.”

    There is nothing happy for the world about his passing, except that he is is freed from his longing.

  • […] out Global Voices for insights from the world blogosphere about Darwish’s legacy. Click here to read a sampling […]

  • Othman

    I stand in humility to your work, character and steadfastness. Your voice has been unlocked. To freedom you will go. May God bless your strong soul. Your quest is finally here and forever you shall now reset

  • […] on Global Voices Online: Arabeyes: Mourning for Mahmoud Darwish Posted by Naseem Tarawnah  Print Version Share […]

  • […] Also on Global Voices Online: Arabeyes: Mourning for Mahmoud Darwish […]

  • Hussam Atef Elkhatib

    I am deeply saddened beyond belief for the loss of a great man whom I have always sensed the pride of his presence, and the high morals of his character, and the sense of dignity of his entire being; a man that depicted with his expressions and words a picture of not only a great poet, but also a close family and one’s own as if you were talking to yourself from an outside world. Once in 1978 once, I attended one of his great poetry evenings in Kuwait. Since then and even before, he etched an image of dignity, pride, glory, and a great prestige in my memory, my mind, and in my heart. May God rest our late great beloved poet’s soul to heaven. Enna lellaah wa enna elayhe raaje3oon.

  • Thank you for this article Amira.

    Here is a homage to Mahmoud Darwish in the Maltese language: http://antoinecassar.googlepages.com/MahmoudDarwish1942-2008.pdf

  • […] the death of Mahmoud Darwish, the Arab world has mourned the loss of one of its greatest poets. However some Palestinians have been critical of Darwish. One […]

  • Fadi

    the world lost the word of mahmoud darwish,and for this great lost,there is no word too to discribe the depth of sadness to the end of all ends.we love you like the love you had in your heart even that there is no love in any heart the same you had.

  • Jenna Major

    For me, the most striking and admirable aspect of Darwish’s poetry is
    how it remained so resolutely humanist and universalist in its message.
    Never did Darwish succumb to cheap nationalism and chauvinism; never did
    he resort to vilification of his oppressors or the usual jingoism so
    common in political art and literature. Never did he forget that his
    oppressor too is human, just like him.San Antonio Lawyer

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