Memoirs of a Palestinian Love

“I thought poetry could change everything, could change history and could humanize, and I think that the illusion is very necessary to push poets to be involved and to believe, but now I think that poetry changes only the poet,” this is what the late renowned lyricist Mahmoud Darwish have once said. A quote he had left to inspire people and a statement to be quoted as exemplary in articles like that of Nathalie Handal’s and Richard Silverstein’s works.

This avowal might have been what Darwish have first thought, for being a poet and seeing the world in a vastly different perspective had changed his views concerning the issues surrounding his homeland, and the ideals he have further pursued. Yet in reality, his poems so regally done, have not only affected him but had also moved his fellow Palestinians and the whole world at most.

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His choice of words had always been straightforward and evocative, filled with passion and heart. This is true and apparent in virtually his entire pieces. Although most of his works reveal how critical of a thinker he is, he was more known to be sometimes radically frank and open. His poems show his steadfast impressions on issues he regards with respect, love, or dislike. But it is his patriotism, his love for his native land that stands out in most of his works.

Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian lawmaker even said of Darwish: “He started out as a poet of resistance and then he became a poet of conscience. He embodied the best in Palestinians … even though he became iconic he never lost his sense of humanity. We have lost part of our essence, the essence of the Palestinian being.”

Indeed, it was none other than Mahmoud Darwish who had given back his people the quintessence of being born in the glorious land of Palestine, the modern day Israel, the feeling and experience of being a Palestinian, and the ultimate splendor of being a Palestinian.

His exquisite love for his country, which was exalted in his literary works, had transcended the indifference among his people and had, in a way, closed the gap between his fellowmen and the Jews. Although there had been accusations of him having revulsion against the Jews as it is what some critics imply of his poem “Passing in Passing Words,” used by 1988 Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in a Parliamentary speech, it was his peace-loving nature and admirable personality that had indubitably overtook the suspicions and insecurity that builds in other people’s mind.

As he had even said before, “I will continue to humanise even the enemy… The first teacher who taught me Hebrew was a Jew. The first love affair in my life was with a Jewish girl. The first judge who sent me to prison was a Jewish woman. So from the beginning, I didn’t see Jews as devils or angels but as human beings. Several poems are to Jewish lovers. These poems take the side of love not war.”

The vivid descriptions and substantial passions in his verses such as his “I Come from There,” “Under Siege,” “Passport,” “Nothing but Iraq,” “We Have the Right to Love Autumn,” and the series of his “Psalms” represent how great of a writer, with his eloquence and simplicity, Mahmoud Darwish had been and would always be.

He was the iconic persona that Palestinians would be looking up to when they feel down and longing. Whenever there’s a feeling of being alone and indifferent, there would be the proud feeling, the knowledge that there’s always their dear homeland to comfort them.

This very feeling that every Palestinian would agree to behold, is the same sentiment that every other nation have felt so warmly. Because of his poem’s awe-inspiring emotions that go beyond the limits of culture, tradition, and language, Mahmoud Darwish’s poetical pieces have not only been recognized as outstanding by different award-giving bodies but have also been a subject translated into varied foreign languages all over the world.

Among all of his volumes of poetry and books of prose, each conveying an inspirational note, several are set into music, into melodies and songs that further echo the message Darwish hoped people to hear. Even his life, however humble Mahmoud Darwish might have looked at it, had been an encouragement to those who have learned of it that some have tried to communicate this very inspiration they have gotten by producing a documentary of Darwish’s life.

And though the great Palestinian poet had already departed unto his next great adventure in the afterlife, he would still be remembered by this generation and the generations to come; it would be instilled in history that once there had been a person who had urged the people to see that there’s more to peace than to war. And that by ways of words and writing, one could really bridge the fissures of the world.

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