November 30, 2023

Palestine and Poetry

Much has been said about poets—

that we are daydreamers, 

that we are detached from reality, 

that we see everything through rose-tinted glasses.

Such accusations only prove that poetry has been severely misunderstood and underestimated by those who wish to quell its potential. I’m under no illusion that poetry can save us from this burning planet, but then again it was never supposed to. What makes poetry important is what it is more than capable of opening up. 


Write down on the top of the first page:

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!

–Mahmoud Darwish, “Identity Card”


Every poet should learn from the Palestinians. They weave poetry into their daily existence. Their poetic sensibility is unmatched, even if they are not poets by trade. Take for example the grieving grandfather who referred to his martyred grandchildren as “the souls of my soul,” or the man who wrote a farewell poem on his martyred wife’s shroud. I’m not suggesting that Palestinians are poetic because of their suffering, but I believe that poetry offers them a space for gentle defiance, if not outright resistance. I mean, what is there to do when your existence is denied over and over again? What is there to do when every piece of evidence of violence inflicted upon you and your people is dismissed as a lie? Poetry then becomes a way of archiving life.


I document as argument;

I exist. I learn this from watching my father

alone in the night

drawing and redrawing

a map

of Palestine, green ink.

—Noor Hindi, “I Once Looked in a Mirror but Couldn’t See My Body”


I’m reminded of Bifo’s assertion that poetry is "language's excess." The oppression that Palestinians continue to endure and fight against is something that goes beyond language not because there aren’t enough words to describe it, but precisely because there can never be enough. Bifo again: “Poetry is the reopening of the indefinite, the ironic act of exceeding the established meaning of words.” Perhaps this is why poetry comes so naturally to Palestinians. It is the perfect medium for them to articulate their grief and most of all, their love for one another and for their land, from the river to the sea. 

Visit Publishers for Palestine to access works of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.