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Great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish dies

Mahmoud Darwish
(15 March 1941 – 9 August 2008)

“Darwish is the Essential Breath of the Palestinian people, the eloquent witness of exile and belonging….”

In memory of the great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish who died on August 9th.

All commiserations to his family and loved ones.

Darwish is considered one of the most important poets of modern times, and is recognised as a major literary voice for the Palestinian people.

All poetry is emotional and Palestinian poetry is especially so.

Palestinian poets often try to put into words the harsh reality of living under occupation. Bemoaning the loss of their land, they tell their stories with sorrow, pain, and hope.

Mahmoud Darwish is well known for this. His poems are a tribute to the Palestinian struggle and resistance.

Mahmoud was born in 1942 in the village of Birwa in the Galilee, in the northern region of what was then Palestine.

In 1948, the Darwish family left their hometown after the area was declared part of the new state of Israel, and settled in a town called Dayru I-Assad.

Over the ensuing years, he was subject to house arrests and imprisonments for political activism. His poetry is reflective of the struggles he encountered living under occupation during this time.

In 1970, Darwish spent one year of study at a university in Moscow, and made the decision to not return to his homeland. He spent the next twenty-six years living in Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia and Paris and finally returned to his native land for a visit in 1995.

He had been living in the West Bank for some years prior to his unfortunate demise.

His poems are mostly composed of plain words and a simple style. Yet with their simpleness, his words are profoundly felt. The following poem, “A Lover From Palestine”, is an example.

A Lover From Palestine

Her eyes are Palestinian
Her name is Palestinian
Her dress and sorrow Palestinian
Her kerchief, her feet and body Palestinian
Her words and silence Palestinian
Her voice Palestinian
Her birth and her death Palestinian

Throughout his poetry, Mahmoud Darwish expresses strong sentiments about his love for his homeland, his pain over the occupation of it, and his undying hope for its return. His intense longing for his home is evident in the following poem “I Am There.”

I Am There

I come from there and remember,
I was born like everyone is born, I have a mother
and a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends and a prison.
I have a wave that sea-gulls snatched away.
I have a view of my own and an extra blade of grass.
I have a moon past the peak of words.
I have the godsent food of birds and an olive tree beyond the kent of time.
I have traversed the land before swords turned bodies into banquets.

I come from there, I return the sky to its mother when for its mother the
sky cries, and I weep for a returning cloud to know me.
I have learned the words of blood-stained courts in order to break the rules.
I have learned and dismantled all the words to construct a single one:

Following his first return to his home in 1995, Darwish reflected on the sorrow and longing he felt for his homeland, and said “As long as my soul is alive no one can smother my feeling of nostalgia to a country which I still consider as Palestine.” (see ‘Poetical Myths of Mahmoud Darwish’).

Mahmoud Darwish published over thirty volumes of poetry and eight books of prose. He was editor of Al-Jadid, Al-Fajr, Shu’un Filistiniyya and Al-Karmel (1981). Translated into 35 languages, his work is admired not only among Arabs but throughout the world.

His first poetry collection to be published “Leaves of Olives” included the poem “Identity Card“, written in 1964:

Record! I am an Arab

And my identity card is number fifty thousand

I have eight children

And the ninth is coming after a summer

Will you be angry?


I am an Arab

I have a name without a title

Patient in a country

Where people are enraged. . .

I do not hate people

Nor do I encroach

But if I become hungry

The usurper’s flesh will be my food



Of my hunger

And my anger!

For these and other poems by Darwish, see Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre

For other poems, see Mahmoud Darwish, Poetry


August 13, 2008 Posted by | Mahmoud Darwish, OTHER_ARTICLE, _POETRY | 2 Comments