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Poetry in a heartless world

Colonial soldiers,
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
outside poetry?

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 his family.’”

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.

PS. Written for Indispire Edition 457: What do you think the role of poetry is in a world that is becoming increasingly heartless? #PoetryToday


  1. Hari OM
    Oh Tom... this brought me to tears... perfect. YAM xx

  2. I been thinking about Poetry lately. Also like to take a class on it.
    Coffee is on.

    1. That's nice, Dora. I'd love to hear more on your progress in this.

  3. Thank you for sending this info. I learned alot from it. I am grateful for the amount of time and effort you put into this helping us.
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