March 19, 2019

Hi everyone,

We are reading first 50 pages of Memory for Forgetfulness by Mahmoud Darwish (first 50 pages of the pdf). To be exact, the last page ends in this line: “And for the poor to grow poorer.”

Please read this beautiful poetic piece and bring your copies to class and be prepared to discuss it so we can avoid yawning. I will be curious to hear about your favorite passages, which will not hopefully all reside in the first couple of pages. Meaning, read the whole thing. I assume most probably you have experienced living through a war, but this piece gives us a perspective of what goes on within human mind and the environment ravaged by senseless destruction.

In response write a “prose poem” (Minimum 200 words) to express your emotional reflection on this piece. You can also pick a specific passage and reflect on it. In case you decide to do the latter, please copy and paste the passage which you were inspired by. Word count for your writing does not include the quote.

You can do a bit of research about prose poem, but we have certainly read likes of it Natalie Diaz’s book: “The Last Mojave Indian Barbie” & “A Woman with No Legs”. Here is another example of prose poem which lives as an installation piece in High Line.

Definition: Prose Poem is a piece of writing in prose having obvious poetic qualities, including intensity, compactness, prominent rhythms, and imagery.

Have a great weekend and I’m looking forward to reading your pieces.

Kind regards,



  1. The piece about the aroma of coffee stood out to me.
    What the aroma does to the author, it tends to do to me as well but maybe,
    people drink coffee not simply for the taste but for the buzz of caffeine it gives us,
    for the energy we need to get up early in the morning and start our days without a fuss.
    “Coffee, for an addict like me, is the key to the day”.
    Fortunate enough for me, I despise the taste and the jitters it brings my way.
    Coffee seems like it holds the author together and makes him feel whole.
    Him and his coffee need each other in search of another place on their stroll.
    The aroma is often compared to a person that brings the author peace.
    If only he was granted 5 minutes to make just one cup, his sadness would decrease.
    I get the sense he is lonely, and coffee is the only one there for him.
    The aroma of coffee is far beyond just that, but what makes his day seem less dim.
    The first cup of coffee starts out the day and prepares for what it may bring.
    Caffeine is a stimulant drug and with just one sip, controls everything.

    1. Reading rhymes is always entertaining and interesting. I really like the way you put all of this together. I always believe that rhyming is a must in poetry and you found the words that best rhymed and still made sense. You were also able to describe your take on the reading and comment on the narrators position while still maintaining the style, it was a fun reading.

    2. Lovely work Brianna!

      “Coffee seems like it holds the author together and makes him feel whole.”—> Great. Sense of hope…

      “I get the sense he is lonely” —> Where do we see this?

  2. Why?
    Killing for religion, an ideal.
    What is the point to war when it’s a war of words, to fight under a mythical being that has abandoned millions of people? There’s no proof of anything, yet this mysterious being is able to compel millions to plunge into terrorism.
    Killing for religion, an ideal.
    Burning bodies in the street, the smell of charred flesh. You’ll find some bits of limbs here and there. Still, there is that one body you can’t quite put your finger on. It contains a necklace, slightly melted and inside a picture that has burned. A body of a young girl, it seems, and a familiar necklace. Your niece went missing recently, but no one can seem to find her.
    Killing for religion, an ideal.
    Convincing others of wrongdoings when it’s also flipped. Every coin has two sides, but it’s the same coin. The cries of children fill the streets, crying for parents. What parents? There are no more. Move on.
    Killing for religion, an ideal.
    What does one do when they see this. Do they stop and ponder? Do they watch as people suffer? What happens, why should it happen. Words on words, merely speech. Nothing happens. The guilty dies, but along with millions. People barred, thrown into camps. What else is there to do. An enemy is an enemy. A state of emergency. Nothing else, right?

    1. Hi Robin,

      You are very good at incorporating imagery into your work. this piece was very powerful and intense as a prose poem is. your word choice was very good at setting the tone of the poem and reflect the style of some of the poems stated in the passages.

  3. I read this passage in “Memory for Forgetfulness” while I sat outside and could simultaneously hear birds chirping and airplanes flying overhead to the nearby airports. Mahmoud Darwish describes Beirut at dawn, at six in the morning when the birds are singing their songs amidst the booms of artillery fire from the ships out at sea. The birds will continue to sing throughout the pandemonium that takes place all around them until they no longer feel safe. Darwish compares the birds to the military airplanes taking flight over Beirut; their anatomical similarities such as wings, a beak, and belly full of cargo. He also pairs those similarities with their stark differences, feathers versus steel, a beak for songs versus mechanical wiring, and a cargo of wheat and seeds rather than ammunition and guns. This is something I’ve also often wondered, are the birds affected by the loud roar of the airplanes overhead even when they’re full of passengers instead of materials for war? In the passage, the birds are suddenly quiet which I imagine is similar to when all the birds cease to sing before a large storm approaches. The shells released from the massive steel birds begin to fly towards the earth.


  4. The reality of the world we live in. People forget to be respectful to others and their situations. It does not matter if at a funeral or at church, people always find negative chatter and critique. This is unfortunate but true. In this passage the author is obsessed about what will happen to his corpse. He describes his funeral and how it starts out with mourning and sadness and ends with the attendees gossiping about him. The people are whispering and discussing his personal life in a negative light. It should be a celebration of his life, happy chatter, reflecting on good and happy times. The human impulse and the inability to be compassionate or sympathetic is unexplainable.  It’s a domino effect. It only takes one person, and one negative comment to get things going.  Gossip and negativity is hard to resist… This happens in our everyday lives. Gossip, misunderstandings, confrontation: These are all part of a recipe contributing to WAR. This passage made me think of many situations I have witnessed. When you’re at your best or highest points there will always be someone happy to bring you down, and when you are at you lowest or saddest point there is someone secretly happy and celebrating. It can really get to a person and push a person to want to scream ENOUGH! STOP IT! as the author described. Throughout the story and this passage the author seems to point out so much of the imperfections of our society. Things you realize and reflect on when you are in a dire situation such as a war

    I also want to eavesdrop on their mocking comments: “He was a womanizer.” “He was a dandy in his choice of
    clothes.” “The rugs in his house are so plush you sink into them up to your knees.” “He
    had a palace on the French Riviera, a villa in Spain, and a secret bank account in Zurich.
    And he kept a private plane, secretly, and five luxury cars in a garage in Beirut.” “We
    don’t know if he had a yacht in Greece, but he had enough sea shells in his house to build
    a whole refugee camp.” “He used to lie to women.” “The poet is dead, and his poetry
    with him. What’s left of him? His role is finished, and we’re done with his legend. He
    took his poetry with him and disappeared. Anyway, his nose was long, and his tongue.”
    I’ll hear even harsher stuff than this, once the imagination has been let loose. I’ll smile in
    my coffin and try to say, “Enough!” I’ll try to come back to life, but I won’t be able

    1. Jenise, it is also interesting to me how the author brings up his death and his corpse several times. Why the mention of death so much. Let’s discuss this in class tomorrow. Good work!

  5. Two opposing forces act upon the youth as they are conditioned for this sport of war. “Older men start wars, younger men fight them.”* The decrepitude men act as direct catalyst for the retribution of the juvenescent. Yet these youthful fighters play the sport of war with identity shredded with the fiery barrage of steel riddling their former selves. I feel the sting of injustice placed upon the backs of the youth, like a cross being carried for the redemption of their people. The characteristics seen here I feel have been imitated throughout the world at the forefront of each war. The youth displaced into a state of confusion, uncertain of the paths which they tread, unsure of what binds them to their homelands. Yet, they seem to hold heroism in the face of oppression, fending the land from the tyrannical West. They resisted the persecutors with the price of their blood. I see the foreign invaders encroaching upon the sovereignty of the people of Beirut. Innocent lives lost at the hands of Western invaders so prominent in history. The destabilization of Beirut at the hands of the invaders merely benefited the Israeli state, allowing them to share in the spoils of war, while the natives fended for their lives and the livelihood of their city.

    (But do they realize, these youths armed to the teeth with a creative ignorance of the
    balance of forces and with the opening words of old songs, with hand grenades and
    burning beer bottles, with the desires of girls in air-raid shelters and pieces of torn
    identities, with a clear wish to take vengeance on prudent parents and with what they do
    not know of the sport of active death; armed with a rage for release from the senility of
    the Idea—do they realize that with their wounds and inventive recklessness they are
    correcting the ink of a language that (from the siege of Acre in the Middle Ages to the
    present siege of Beirut whose aim is revenge for all medieval history) has driven the
    whole area east of the Mediterranean toward a West that has wanted nothing more from
    slavery than to make enslavement easier?)

    *Albert Einstein

    1. Great work Brandon. Poetic sensibility mingled with the logic that nature of history is repetitive and where does this tyranny lie?… Here are a couple of parts I found intriguing:

      “I feel the sting of injustice placed upon the backs of the youth, like a cross being carried for the redemption of their people”—> Why this perpetual burden?

      ” The characteristics seen here I feel have been imitated throughout the world at the forefront of each war. The youth displaced into a state of confusion, uncertain of the paths which they tread, unsure of what binds them to their homelands.” reminds me of the passage in Wisdom sits in places when the guy who lived in LA described the state of youth and being displaced.

  6. War is part of nature. well to be frank we have made it seem natural. Now a days we can’t really imagine a nation without some sort of war history behind its curtains. It is what made it be how it is now. Countries learn from it but those individuals that fought the fight are the reminiscences of a broken country. In this reading the main character relates his war story with a lot of metaphors, which for me is a way to paint reality with pink. it is a way for him to escape the gore images that war left behind. “I want the aroma of coffee. I need five minutes. I want a five-minute truce for the sake of coffee”. The coffee is a perfect example. It is a way to escape the reality , every part of it from how it was made, how it is composed, its taste and its smell forms part of his thoughts that will take him somewhere else, metaphorically speaking of course at least for a short time he will not be in the battlefield. I think i see war as how he sees it. Going with a purpose, to protect a nation and families but when the action the main actions starts, everything is forgotten they will not fight for something else but for themselves, it becomes a battle for survival. “I plugged my ears with cotton and went to sleep after hearing the last newscast. It didn’t report I was dead. That means I’m still alive. Examine the parts of my body and find them all there.” In this passage he is worried, to plug his ears with cotton is a way to forget the sounds of war , to check his body is way to say that he is complete. This passage means that the war didn’t give him physical scars, it gave him scars on his mind, it affected his sanity. Therefore coffee becomes for him an imaginary shield, an illusion of security .

      1. This was one of my favorite passages. “The aroma of coffee can absorb sounds and will go rancid…” was a little bit of humor in a dark story. I also liked that he hid behind the comfort he found in the coffee.

    1. Interesting viewpoint about war, Ramon. It reminds me of a play by Federico Garcia Lorca called: “Bodas de sangre”, which revolves around the theme of revenge. Do we revenge because this domino effect has started at some point and there is no end to it?

  7. “I’m stocking up” I say, “to the point of choking. And i’m mocked by friends who say, “what use is poetry? What use will it be when the war ends?” but I am screaming at a moment when screams can go nowhere. And it strikes me that language must force itself into a battle in which the voices are not equal.

    This passage stuck out to me because writing and creative expression can be misunderstood and underappreciated in times of destruction. Some might wonder how you can create beauty when there is so much darkness around you, you almost feel selfish for trying to be optimistic in such dark times. However, it is through poetry and creative expression that you can heal wounds. It is mentioned that poetry was not what the people needed, the people needed water, food and assistance but the poets were being asked to assist with their words and eyewitness accounts that were occurring. The last line of this quote spoke to me because you must work harder and your passion for your work is stronger when it is not equal and when you have to fight to be heard and let the world know the truth of what you are going through it is that much more powerful. Later in the passages, the author writes, “Either the poem is to be born now or it will lose its right to be born.” I felt that the poets have an important job as there words can help people get through the war but in turn, they are damaging themselves as being exposed to such harsh conditions can break a person. literature, language, stories, music are all forms of expression that people have used in history to help overcome the negativity and destruction of war and they also help us remember these events.

    1. It’s a very interesting question you raise here Rachel. The author discusses this at various points and once mentions:

      -And when will you go back to writing poetry?
      -When the guns quiet down a little. When I explode my silence, which is full of all these voices. When I find the appropriate language.

      Let’s discuss this in class tomorrow.

  8. A face with blinking eyes, in the same place almost all the time, floating on a cloud. Rays of sunlight enter the monastery. Ready for the morning and ready for the day, but not ready to leave the bed. So many places the mind imagines, but the hours days and weeks are reserved for stability. It is still possible to be positive and depressed at the same time.

    Pisces swirling around buddha, but just the spherical head. The sound of small birds, hungry cats, and the Indian flute. Lost in dreams, a white mansion. Oh, this must be where all the kids go when they die. Loneliness is a plane ticket to other worlds. Fast forward, and a tsunami swipes over the head. But there is safety, and although the legs were tired, the hill was climbed. All the way up into the bright light.

    Now free, and time really does heal wounds. Relapse is not the same feeling as the feeling felt before. The body fights for you when the mind is against you and the mind fights for you when the body surrenders. When all is said and done, a distant memory, a new freedom begins.

    Passage of reflection: the prisoner’s traditional comparison of the outside, and its apparent freedom, with the inside, and its imagined freedom, a freedom that springs from firm convictions, peace of

    mind, and the link to the world outside, held as a model. We’ve gotten used to the

    complaints of those who come out of their inner freedom into our distorted freedom, just

    as we’ve grown accustomed to their disappointment with all that distorts their idea of us

    and their image of what it’s like on the outside

    drew one of its constitutive elements from the solidarity of Arab governments, not with

    the Organization but within it.

    1. Hi Melissa,

      Your writing really captured my attention as if it was part of the literature. It was really descriptive and connected to the passage you reflected on in a great way. I actually can sense amd visualize what you were describing. Great job

    2. Very interesting choice Melissa. I love how you took this idea in your own world and developed it into a new piece. This is another concept I’d like to discuss tomorrow in class if we get a chance.

  9. Passage: “Gently place one spoonful of the ground coffee, electrified with the aroma of cardamom,on the rippling surface of the hot water, then stir slowly, first clockwise, then up and down. Add the second spoonful and stir up and down, then counterclockwise. Now add the third. Between spoonfuls, take the pot away from the fire and bring it back. For the final touch, dip the spoon in the melting powder, fill and raise it a little over the pot, then let it drop back. Repeat this several times until the water boils again and a small mass of the blond coffee remains on the surface, rippling and ready to sink. Don’t let it sink. Turnoff the heat, and pay no heed to the rockets. Take the coffee to the narrow corridor and pour it lovingly and with a sure hand into a little white cup: dark-colored cups spoil the freedom of the coffee. Observe the paths of the steam and the tent of rising aroma. Now light your first cigarette, made for this cup of coffee, the cigarette with the flavor of existence itself, unequaled by the taste of any other except that which follows love, as the woman smokes away the last sweat and the fading voice.”
    This passage depicts the simplicity of this person’s morning routine and how it impacts him during war times. He talks about what seems like him talking about making his special coffee but then it somewhat turns into something else. First he notes like all the small details that goes into making the coffee just the way he enjoys it. It seems like he is looking at the simple things to bring him pleasure during times of war. In the middle of him explaining it he says “Turn off the heat, and pay no heed to the rockets”, I first found this amusing just for the humor but I realized after that this is probably the daily occurrence for the people living there, it could just be a normal morning for them and then suddenly a rocket can fly right by there window. Then he mentions how using a dark cup instead of a white cup spoils the freedom of the coffee, it just makes you wonder how? And to wrap it up he kind of says like drink this cup of freedom coffee and smoke this cigarette with it cause it might be your last.

    1. Essential in time of war: ” It seems like he is looking at the simple things to bring him pleasure during times of war.”
      The recurring thought of “any action being your last” during war time, is what lies within core of each moment, it feels as if life expands and stretches itself to remind you of its existence.

  10. Passage – “Water under these conditions comes to us like a miracle. Who says water has no color,flavor, or smell? Water does have a color that reveals itself in the unfolding of thirst.Water has the color of bird sounds, that of sparrows in particular—birds that pay no heed to this war approaching from the sea, so long as their space is safe. And water has the flavor of water, and a fragrance that is the scent of the afternoon breeze blown from afield with full ears of wheat waving in a luminous expanse strewn like the flickering spots of light left by the wings of a small sparrow fluttering low. Not everything that flies is an airplane. (Perhaps one of the worst Arabic words is Ta:’irah—airplane—which is the feminine form of Ta:’ir—bird.) The birds carry on with their song, insistent in the midst of the naval artillery’s roar. Who said water has no flavor, color, or smell, and that this jet is the feminine form of this bird”

    What struck me in this passage is the part when the author talks about Water and when he says “water under these conditions comes to us like a miracle”. This particular line made me think how a lot of people take things for granted until it’s gone or when situations change. Most people now a days take the little everyday things that they have for granted like food, water, shelter and etc because they are so used to it and used to having it in their lives and don’t actually stop and take a minute to be thankful for all of the little things they have. When the author described that under the current conditions he was in with the war going on that water comes as a miracle, it just really made me think and just be more humble and thankful for what I have because it can be taken away in a matter of seconds, and before reading this passage and before writing this I was one of those people that I described that take little everyday things for granted and weren’t really thankful and this passage like I said made me sit back and think about it.

    1. Very good point Jahcari. Scarcity during war times is a routine. It’s a routine to the extent that you forget there was once abundance. But there is a lesson within this scarcity. It’s what you pointed at: Being grateful for each and every blessing we have.

  11. The aroma of the coffee is just one of the things that the author misses
    Throughout our days, we come across many different scents
    But what is most important are the scents during our daily routines
    When you are on your way to school or to work, the smell of fresh bread being baked or the sell of your local pizzerias.
    They may seem insignificant until the day we move away or until the day that they close down that local shop.
    Since the author considers himself as an “addict”
    He was used to making his own coffee but now he isn’t even allowed 5 simple minutes
    To some of us, the aroma of the coffee may be insignificant if we dislike the scent or the smell of “coffee breath”
    However, if we were in the same position as the author was in,
    We may miss passing by our local coffee shop and seeing everyone enjoy their quick breakfast
    Coffee may be one of the only things that can bring him back into that peace temporarily.
    At the moment he will forget everything that is going on, outside of the doors and will be indulging his coffee.

  12. Passage: “No coffee is like another. Every house has its coffee, and every hand too, because no soul is like another. I can tell coffee from far away: it moves in a straight line at first, then zigzags, winds, bends, sighs, and turns on flat, rocky surfaces and slopes; it wraps itself around an oak, then loosens and drops into a wadi, looks back, and melts with longing to go up the mountain. It does go up the mountain as it disperses in the gossamer of a shepherd’s pipe taking it back to its first home.”
    This passage stood out to me in many different ways. The writer portrayed coffee to a person’s inner soul. I interpreted it as everyone has their own individual personality where we go through our own struggles to get to our accomplishments. In life we may start off on a smooth steady pace but in the middle we tend to fall apart and get off track not knowing what to do with our lives. Then in the end we realize we were on the wrong path and start where we began in the beginning to not give up and to walk on the right path. One’s life is to be spent being who we are and not what others want us to become. The writer described how the scent of coffee could be distinguished from its surroundings even if far away. It’s distinct scent is strong and powerful. This represents that no matter how far we go in life or if we get off track, we as humans have the power within us to steer life in the right direction.

  13. ”Where is the newspaper? It’s six o’clock in the morning, and I’m in hell itself. But the news is that which is read, not heard. And before it is recorded, the event is not exactly an event. I know a researcher in Israeli affairs who kept denying the “rumor” that Beirut was under siege simply because what he read was not the truth unless it was written in Hebrew. And since Israeli newspapers had not yet reached him, he wouldn’t acknowledge that Beirut was under siege. But this is not a madness I suffer from. For me,the morning paper is an addiction. Where is the newspaper?” (p. 11)
    Whats motivates someone to get the day started? Is it a cup of coffee in the morning? or is it the newspaper?
    Some need both.
    Exploring in a small but powerful way the importance or the insignificance of a newspaper to a person.
    Every morning we receive new information from some type of source and as we all know we live in a present where the media is a big part of our lives and it is controlling the world right now.
    Is that true?
    I read/saw the opposite of this somewhere else, which is it?
    Are the questions that pop in our heads after reading an article or watching an informative video, but it is up to us to believe what we read or see until proven otherwise.
    In the case of this passage the ignorance of the Israeli researcher, is the one that determines what he believes and
    it is because he has not yet read in his native speaking language the news, that Beirut was in fact under siege.
    We know this because the narrator is in the middle of this war detailing everything going on with him.
    Some people don’t care for the words written on it, its just to accompany them with their morning coffee, its just part of the routine …

  14. With all the chaos and destruction that is happening, all you could think about is death. Throughout the passage the author talks about death and some instances he talks about ways he would rather die. He is concerned about if it will be a painful and slow death or would he rather something quick and painless. Sometimes when you are in a toxic environment, you hope for better days, but when you wake up, if you even get to wake up because of these conditions, it’s like you still see the same chaos every day. You try to find things to make you positive but most of the times the bad outweighs the good. You don’t know if you will see the next day. You can’t think about the future too much because there may not be one. Being in the military myself, we train and focus on getting the enemy. When we go to war for various reasons, the last thing on our mind is the civilians and the society. We can cause so much destruction in another place and don’t even realize how that effects everyone else. Whether the war is done, or it continues, some people are trying to survive. They are left with no homes because there is so much rubble.

    “The truth of the matter is that I am terrified of falling among the ruins,
    prey to a moaning no one can hear. And that is painful. Painful to the extent of my feeling
    the pain as if the event had actually happened. I’m now there, in the rubble. I feel the pain
    of the animal crushed inside me. I cry out in pain but no one hears me. This is a phantom
    pain, coming from an opposite direction—out of what might happen. Some of those hit in
    the leg continue to feel pain there for several years after amputation. They reach out to
    feel the pain in a place where there is no longer a limb. This phantom, imaginary pain
    may pursue them to the end of their days. As for me, I feel the pain of an injury that
    hasn’t happened. My legs have been crushed under the rubble.”

    1. Very interesting argument Samantha. I liked the passage you picked as your choice with respect to your field, and how the author imagines his own body and his death in various ways and various scenarios. I grew up during a war and shellings, it ended when I was 7. The proximity of life and death (coffee versus corpse in case of this text), is so evident during times of war, that one can sometimes only resign to plunging into one or the other. It feels like constantly walking on the edge of a sword. It is both highly depressive and exhilarating, since one is constantly hyper aware of this gift called life.

  15. War can suck the happiness out of you, War is like a vacuum being sucked into a cartridge filled with toxicity, filth and greed. War is looking for conflict just like a robber entering one’s own sanction and take complete control. War is the enemy but giving up is letting the enemy win. So, what should we do? leave and let the enemy win or stay because leaving will only make us weak.
    In the beginning, the author is describing his experience of the war as its happening comparing it towards a dream. he asks himself if he’s alive and he replies back “almost”. In my experience when I dream, the dream become real as it continues. he mentions himself being woken up by “the stir in her belly, I knew I was your coffin”. There he is feeling a sense of death and not feeling completely alive. The opening of the story begins when he states he is slowly entering a nightmare coming from the sea. He wished it was a dream after all. Referring to the passage, I can tell that the author was angry when “Y” questions her what’s the use of poetry? he says, “But I’m screaming at a moment when the scream goes nowhere”. he feels that his way of writing poetry is the only way for people to understand what the people are going through during the war in Beirut. The writer was questioned what are you going to write about? he replies my silence. The war is going on and all he can ingest is the jets flying over the sky, and gun shots, everything surrounding him is war affiliated. Once the noise of gunshots and jets become silent, he can go back to writing poetry, but in the meantime, he is placing his attention towards the people Beirut. There are times where we become in rage that sometimes we speak before we think, its natural but it’s not the answer nor the solution. I also noticed that place played an important role when the author stated, “My role is outside the poem” it shows that he put the people, culture and country first rather than choosing to write “a great story”.

    Attachment 1: Out of one dream, another dream is born:
    —Are you well? I mean, are you alive?[*]
    —How did you know I was just this moment laying my head on your knee to sleep?
    —Because you woke me up when you stirred in my belly. I knew then I was your coffin.
    Are you alive? Can you hear me?
    —Does it happen much, that you are awakened from one dream by another, itself the
    interpretation of the dream?
    —Here it is, happening to you and to me. Are you alive?
    —And have the devils cast their spell on you?
    —I don’t know, but in time there’s room for death.
    —Don’t die completely.
    —I’ll try not to.
    —Don’t die at all.
    —I’ll try not to.
    Attachment 2: At the Hotel Commodore, the stronghold of foreign journalists, an American newsman
    questions me: “What are you writing in this war, Poet?”
    —I’m writing my silence.
    —Do you mean that now the guns should speak?
    —Yes. Their sound is louder than my voice.
    —What are you doing then?
    —I’m calling for steadfastness.
    —And will you win this war?
    —No. The important thing is to hold on. Holding on is a victory in itself.
    —And what after that?
    —A new age will start.
    —And when will you go back to writing poetry?
    —When the guns quiet down a little. When I explode my silence, which is full of all
    these voices. When I find the appropriate language.
    —Is there no role for you then?
    —No. No role for me in poetry now. My role is outside the poem. My role is to be here,
    with citizens and fighters.

    1. Samantha,
      I really like this interpretation of war you posted. It shows how it seems the general population perceives it. Sometimes its difficult to put into finer words and instead we say things like “war is bad” or “war is cruel”. This passage also stood out to me and I ended up reflecting on it as well. You made some points that I wanted to express in my writing as well and I admired the approach you took to further interpret it. Great job.

    2. Great work Samantha. I especially found your mention of the city’s soundescape interesting. One is so engulfed with noise and explosion vibrations that there is no time to think. Having read your proposal and a bit about your history, this piece of writing makes sense and seems timely to me.
      I also have the same question you raised in your first paragraph which I discussed in Ramon’s piece.

  16. The nonchalant memory in which he goes about speaking of his death and funeral is quite odd. He touches on all the aspects and what comes with it. “And I want a radio announcer who’s not a chatterer. Whose voice is not too throaty , and who can put on a convincing show of sadness. “ It seems like he’s more worried about these small irrelevant details rather than death itself. Its like war normalizes death so much that it doesn’t ever matter to those in that situation. Maybe he’s just a self-centered man who doesn’t worry about anything other than himself. Typically when someone is facing near death experiences they tend to talk about their lives of loved ones. They reminisce on life accomplishments or even regrets/mistakes they’ve made. All he seems to care is this the little details of a funeral. Maybe that is more a truthful point of view of those who go through these experiences. “I want to sneak a look at how they stand, walk, and sign and how they convert their spittles into tears.” He’s even more concerned about how people will stand, walk, sign at his funeral than more important thoughts. I think in that situation. I might want to be more concerned with how I spent my last day or what the last things ill see, smell, hear, touch, or even taste. Think about the safety of my family or how my death will effect them, but not flower arrangements at my funeral.

    But why am I so concerned with what will happen to my corpse and where it will end up? I don’t know. I want a well-organized funeral, in which they’ll put my body whole, not mangled, in a wooden coffin wrapped in a flag with the four colors clearly visible (even if their names come from a line of poetry whose sounds don’t signify their meanings), carried on the shoulders of my friends and those of my friends who are my enemies.[8]

    And I want wreaths of red and yellow roses. I don’t want the cheap pink color, and I don’t want violets, because they spread the smell of death. And I want a radio announcer who’s not a chatterer, whose voice is not too throaty, and who can put on a convincing show of sadness. Between tapes carrying my words, I want him to make little speeches. I want a calm, orderly funeral; and I want it big, that leave-taking, unlike meeting, may be beautiful. How good is the fortune of the recently dead on the first day of mourning, when the mourners compete in praise of them! They’re knights for one day, loved for a day, and innocent for that day. No slander, no curses, and no envy. It’ll be even better for me, because I’ve no wife or children. That’ll save friends the effort of having to put on the long, sad act that doesn’t end until the widow feels compassion for the mourner. It’ll also save the children the indignity of having to stand at the doors of institutions run by tribal bureaucracies. It’s good I’m alone, alone, alone. For that reason my funeral will be free of charge, no one having to keep an account of reciprocal courtesy, so that after the funeral those who walked in the procession can go back to their daily affairs. I want a funeral with an elegant coffin, from which I can peep out over the mourners, just as the playwright Tawfiq al-Hakim wanted to do. I want to sneak a look at how they stand, walk, and sigh and how they convert their spittle into tears. I also want to eavesdrop on their mocking comments: “He was a womanizer.” “He was a dandy in his choice of clothes.” “The rugs in his house are so plush you sink into them up to your knees.” “He had a palace on the French Riviera, a villa in Spain, and a secret bank account in Zurich. And he kept a private plane, secretly, and five luxury cars in a garage in Beirut.” “We don’t know if he had a yacht in Greece, but he had enough sea shells in his house to build a whole refugee camp.” “He used to lie to women.” “The poet is dead, and his poetry with him. What’s left of him? His role is finished, and we’re done with his legend. He took his poetry with him and disappeared. Anyway, his nose was long, and his tongue.” I’ll hear even harsher stuff than this, once the imagination has been let loose. I’ll smile in my coffin and try to say, “Enough!” I’ll try to come back to life, but I won’t be able.

    1. Good work Kevin. The depiction of death has come up a few times in responses. It’s a very good point you raised it is indeed odd that he is so concerned with these mundane details. Read my response to Samantha Henry.

  17. PASSAGE:
    In response to cultural residues within us that link the war cry to stirring verse—survivalsthat assume the poet’s role is that of a commentator on events, an inciter to jihad, or awar correspondent—the Arabic literary milieu has become used to posing the question ofpoetry in the middle of raging war. In every battle they raise the question, “Where’s thepoem?” The political conception of poetry has become confused with the notion of event,regardless of historical context.And at this particular moment, with jets plowing our bodies, these intellectuals, hoveringover a missing body, are demanding poems that match air raids or at least upset thebalance of forces. If the poem is not born “now,” then when will it be born? And if it’s tobe born later, what value has it “now”? A question both easy and difficult, in need of acomplex answer, like being permitted to say, for example, that a poem may be born in acertain place, in a certain language and body, but that it does not reach throat and paper.An innocent question, needing an innocent answer, except that—in this company—it isfilled with the desire to assassinate the poet who dares to announce he is writing hissilence.It is galling that we should be ready during these air raids to steal time for all this chatter,defending the role of the poet whose writing is unique because it is rooted in hisrelationship to the actual as it unfolds, that we should be doing this at a moment in whicheverything has stopped talking, a moment of shared creativity when the people’s epic isshaping its own history. Beirut itself is the writing, rousing and creative. Its true poetsand singers are its people and fighters, who don’t need to be entertained or spurred by alute with broken strings. They are the genuine founders of a writing that for a long, longtime will have to search for a linguistic equivalent to their heroism and their amazinglives. How then can the new writing—which needs time enough for leisure—crystallizeand take form in a battle that has such a rhythm of rockets? And how can traditional verse—and all verse is traditional at this moment—define the poetry now fermenting in thebelly of the volcano?Patience, intellectuals! For the question of life and death which is now supreme, thequestion of a will committing all its weapons to the battlefield, the question of anexistence taking its divine and material shape—these are more important than ethicalquestions about the role of poetry and the poet. And it is fitting that we should honor theawe which these hours unfold, the hours of the transfer of human existence from oneshore to another and from one state of being to another. It is fitting also that traditionalpoetry should know how to hold its humble silence in the presence of this newborn. Andif it becomes necessary for intellectuals to turn into snipers, then let them snipe at theirold concepts, their old questions, and their old ethics. We are not now to describe, asmuch as we are to be described. We’re being born totally, or else dying totally.

    I feel that this passage of the reading ties many other passages together to explain one idea. The idea that the author says came up in an interview, ” whether a writer or a poem is revolutionary.”, ignites my train of thought and soon leads me to question the intentions behind poetry or expressive writing. Considering this place setting and circumstances, most will agree that a place under siege does not seek “creative expression” but rather “human commitment” and that descriptiveness and dramatic imagery do not matter to those who are suffering. I follow up with a curiosity: how necessary then is poetry during something as intense and powerful as war? Perhaps “necessary” is not the most appropriate terminology to use in this context. It seems, however, that that descriptive writing and expressive words is sort of a natural ability and coping mechanism for the author. All through the reading you’ll find that the author has almost like an innate desire to overemphasize even the simplest of things and add dramatic elements to their physical or symbolic representation. You can find this most when he mentions the importance of coffee, especially its aroma, the newspaper, or other stimulants like cigarettes. I saw this as things that were keeping him alive and giving him hope as well as distracting from the reality of the situation. In addition, the author goes on to say that “Beirut itself is the writing, rousing and creative” my interpretation of this is that the place itself, despite its conditions, provides the perfect foundation for inspiration and demonstrates true strength within itself and its people.

    1. Amazing reflection and a very essential question Daniella. I particularly liked this part: “Considering this place setting and circumstances, most will agree that a place under siege does not seek “creative expression” but rather “human commitment” and that descriptiveness and dramatic imagery do not matter to those who are suffering.”

      Also read my response to Rachel.

      1. Hi Daniella,your writing was interesting to read, I liked how you picked the passage about how the commentators asked the author wheres the poem? the political conception of poetry has become confused with the notion of event, regardless of historical context. What also caught my attention was how can poetry be as more powerful in relation to war? he makes a good viewpoint when he states a place is under siege does not seek “creative oppression” but rather “human commitment”. I also liked your approach on the way you mention symbolic representation with the aroma of coffee,the newspaper and stimulants of cigarettes. Lastly, I agree with you on the place itself is the foundation for inspiration within itself and it’s people.

  18. A tall red brick wall. Imposing and heavy. You wonder what is on the other side. You prod with a light poke of your finger. The wall pushes back with a rough assurance of its strength. You use two fingers rougher still. then your whole hand. the wall pushes back softly now like wet cardboard. Step back and look at the wall again. Still imposing still heavy? Both hands now push they sink in. Pull away and the imprints of your hands linger. Harder now push again with two hands. Let them sink it and feel like they could be stuck in its spongy surface forever. Pull them out and parts of the wall get pulled out with them. You have wall on your hands now. The pieces are wet and clump together like oatmeal. They fall way with thick thuds. The wall is no longer heavy. It’s no longer imposing. It is in your way. Push again with both hands. With both arms. Pull away and more wall will fall away. With every push and pull your feel closer to the end. The thoughts of what answers you will find other side excite you. All at once, one more time. This time with your whole body to throw yourself at the wall. The wall pushes back with a rough assurance of its strength. You step back.

  19. Identity is something that represents us and who we are.
    The author comes across meeting some many people in the city of Beirut. At the time of war, he sees destruction. He identifies himself as an Arab nationalist. During the time of war, the citizens of the country are most affected because they’re forced to accept the exclusion of human rights. With all of this going on, the author doesn’t seem bothered. “They can aim sea, sky, and earth at me, but they cannot root the aroma of coffee out of me. I shall make my coffee now. I will drink coffee now. Right now, I will be sated with the aroma of coffee, that I may at least distinguish myself from a sheep and live one more day, or die, with the aroma of coffee all around me”. This line stood out to me the most because the environment that he is in isn’t changing him as a person. The aroma of coffee adds a sense of imagery because it represents peace of mind. Even though the time of war is tough it’s sometimes hard not to lose hope.

    Fine, fine. He knows his duty: my identity—my gun. Why then do they level against himcountless accusations: making trouble, violating the rules of hospitality, creatingproblems, and spreading the contagion of arms? When he holds his peace, his soul istaken out to the stray dogs; and when he moves toward the homeland, his body is draggedout to the dogs. The intellectuals, capable of trying on the latest models in theory, haveconvinced him he’s the only alternative to the status quo; yet when the status quopounces on him, they demand self-criticism because he has gone too far in his patriotism:he has gone so far as to put himself beyond the fold of the status quo. Conditions are notripe. Conditions are not yet ripe. He has to wait. What must he do? Chatter his life awayin the coffee shops of Beirut? He had already prattled so long he was told Beirut hadcorrupted him.

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