what have they been doing
to my poetry all these years
when I could have easily killed them
in my poems
as they’ve killed my family
Palestinian poet Ahlam Bsharat wrote the above lines
in 2021 in a poem titled ‘How I
Kill Soldiers’. Poetry in a heartless world may pretend to be heartless too
like in these lines. The poet wants to kill just like the soldiers. But poets
cannot kill – that’s the fact. They have a heart.
Poetry is as much about the heart as
war is about armaments and attacks. As much as science is about the brain.
Plato wanted to banish poets from his Republic because the philosopher didn’t
think poetic passions would do any good to the nation. William Wordsworth told
us that poetry is the distil of our refined emotions. T S Eliot, however,
brought his sophisticated brain into poetry.
We live in a dark world. Dark and
evil. Poets are some of the people who bring some light, though feeble and flickering,
to that dark wickedness. Ahlam Bsharat’s poem cited above concludes with the
assurance that the light brought by the poet will outlive the “dead sound”
brought by the soldier.
Plato was wrong. It was the soldier
who needed to be banished from the Republic. Plato’s Philosopher King should
have acquired a poetic heart too.
Palestine’s sworn enemy, Israel, has
its poets too. Yehuda Amichai [1924-2000] is a prominent one among them. In one
of his poems, Tourists, he presents some tourists visiting the Holocaust
Memorial. These tourists “put on grave faces at the Wailing Wall / And they
laugh behind heavy curtains / In their hotels.”
In a kind of post-script, the poet quotes
one of the tourist guides who is pointing out at the poet who is sitting near
David’s Tower with two heavy baskets by his side, “You see that man with the
baskets? Just right of his head there’s an arch from the Roman period. The
poet-persona tells himself: “redemption will come only if their guide tells
them, ‘You see that arch from the Roman period? It’s not important: but next to
it, left and down a bit, there sits a man who’s bought fruit and vegetables for
Israel is suffering too.
Whose suffering is more painful:
Israel’s or Palestine’s?
[Have we forgotten Ukraine?]
Listen to the poets from both the
countries and you will understand that pain has no religion. Pain belongs to
the heart. The heart has no religion. Poetry comes from the heart. If only
there were more poets than patriots and fanatics in the human world!
Palestine’s famous poet, Mahmoud
Darwish (1941-2008), said, “Poetry and beauty are always making peace. When you
read something beautiful you find coexistence; it breaks walls down.” Let there
be more poetry, more beauty, less walls… more heart.
Written for Indispire Edition 457: What do you think the role of
poetry is in a world that is becoming increasingly heartless? #PoetryToday