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Saturday July 10, 2010 12:49 PM (EST+7)
As its greats pass on, Palestinian poetry seeks new footing

Read more: poetry, literature, culture, Ahmad Ashqar, Mahmoud Darwish

RAMALLAH, July 10 (JMCC) – Palestinian poetry is passing into the hands of a new generation, as illustrated by a recently-released collection of poems entitled “Labor of Space.”

The collection by Ahmad Ashqar describes Palestinian political divisions and regressing Palestinian cultural space, particularly after the 208 death of revered Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.

“My works are different in their timing from that of Darwish’s,” says Ashqar. “He is connected to the revolution, while we are connected to the state of cultural breakage and political division.”

The thirty-year-old Ashqar says his book, published in Arabic by Ugarit Cultural Center, captures the current state of Palestinian affairs, where dreams of statehood have been dashed, and Palestinian divisions abound.

“It demonstrates the state of trickery and separation between thought and action,” he muses. “It reflects the boring details we’ve been living and repeating for 60 years.”

The collection comprises 68 compositions in poetry and prose, on 117 pages.

“’Labor of Space’ is oblivion,” explains the author of the collection. “The soul is pregnant with what I desire: no water on earth nor that in the trunk of a palm tree. The orphan is born deformed in silence and with a predatory nature. I will one day be called a prophet, with nothing to shelter me but myself as if the wind erodes my very insides. I have no soul but my loss.”

Ashwar’s poems describe the disillusionment of a generation that has invested years in peace negotiations, to no avail.

“The fox is in the barn,” writes Ashqar, “the sheep sleep dreaming of green grass and vast fields/the sheep do not know the fox is their sponsor/ and that the green grass is nothing but unsheathed swords.”

But Ashqar’s disillusionment is not only reserved for the peace process. His cutting poetry critiques the fragmentation of Palestinian culture and the “fathers” of its literature.

In pre-Islamic literature, cultural greats gathered in the market of Okaz to battle in verbal contests of poetry.  One of Ashqar’s poems lays down the gauntlet for him and his peers: “Conspirators of Okaz market,” he writes. “This bread is mine.”

This theme continues in another work, where he writes, “The players are in the large field, shaking off the dust/ playing what’s left of the game of death/ shaking off the dust of their day as the night approaches/ they have 90 years of barren lust, their miseries a ball of snow.”

In yet another poem, the poet writes an elegy to Palestinian political division.

“Oh deceased,” he writes, “fight among yourselves at the Gaza sea/ chant your tune/ pass through history towards dormancy/ scream at us and die so we can declare mourning/ put up the white flags, and take off our pants.”







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