Mahmoud Darwish dies
August 9, 2008 2:36 PM   Subscribe

Mahmoud Darwish, Palestinian poet, has died.

Here's a good translated selection for English readers. More reading: articles, poems, bio, links
posted by RogerB (21 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Death, wait.
Have a seat and a glass of wine, but don't argue with me.
One such as you shouldn't argue with a mortal being.
As for me, I won't defy the servant of the Unseen.
Relax. Perhaps you are exhausted today,
dog-tired of warfare among the stars.
Who am I that you should pay me a visit?
Do you have the time to consider my poem?
Ah, no. It's none of your affair.
You are charged only with the earthly body of man,
not with his words and deeds.

O death, all the arts have defeated you, all the Mesopotamian songs.
The Egyptian obelisk, the Pharaoh's tombs, the engraved temple stones, all defeated you, all were victorious.
You cannot trap the immortal.
So do with us and with yourself whatever you wish.

(from "Mural," in Unfortunately, It Was Paradise)
posted by RogerB at 3:07 PM on August 9, 2008


See also his profound poem Ummi (trans: my mother), set to music by Ahmed Qaboor.
posted by The White Hat at 3:10 PM on August 9, 2008

They'd Love to See Me Dead
—Mahmud Darwish (translated by Abdullah al-Udhari)

They'd love to see me dead so they can say: he was one of us, he belonged to us.
For twenty years I've heard those very steps banging on the night's wall.
They came but did not open the door.
They have entered now. Then three of them went out: a poet, a killer and a reader. "Will you have a drink of wine?" I asked. "We'll have a drink", they said. "When will you shoot me?" I asked. They answered: "Take your time." They prepared the glasses and went on singing for the people. I said: "When will you start killing me?" They said: "We have started. Why did you send shoes to the soul?" "So it can walk on the land", I said. They said: "Why did you write a white poem when the land is jet black?" I answered: "Because thirty seas flow into my heart." They said: "Why do you like French wine?" I said: "Because I deserve the loveliest woman."
"How would you like your death?" "Blue like the stars pouring through the roof. Would you like some more wine?" They said: "We'll have some." I said: "I will ask you to do it slowly, to kill me slowly slowly so I can write the last poem for the wife of my heart." But they laughed and stole from the house only the words which I was going to say to the wife of my heart.....
posted by languagehat at 3:14 PM on August 9, 2008 [3 favorites]

posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 3:32 PM on August 9, 2008

posted by Riverine at 3:36 PM on August 9, 2008

posted by motty at 3:50 PM on August 9, 2008

Wine? was he Palestinian Muslim ?
posted by Postroad at 4:05 PM on August 9, 2008

You can hear him reading his own poems in Arabic here.
posted by Frankie Villon at 4:19 PM on August 9, 2008

'Ummi' -- Marcel Khalife's version ... powerful.

posted by Surfurrus at 6:00 PM on August 9, 2008

posted by etaoin at 6:44 PM on August 9, 2008

Oh gee, I'm feeling old and sad all of a sudden.
posted by zouhair at 6:55 PM on August 9, 2008

Bernie Mac's death is on the front page of Mahmoud Darwish's death "did not match any documents".

Postroad, there are fairly many Muslims who drink, just as there are fairly many Christians who regularly break the written rules of their religion.
posted by Slothrup at 8:04 PM on August 9, 2008

It appears that we published his final work during his lifetime, With the Mist So Dense on the Bridge," in VQR. Now I feel bad for hating him during the two hours it took me to mark up the HTML for that poem's fussy layout.
posted by waldo at 9:21 PM on August 9, 2008


posted by perilous at 9:43 PM on August 9, 2008

posted by felix betachat at 10:17 PM on August 9, 2008

posted by awenner at 2:37 AM on August 10, 2008

Aw, shit.

posted by By The Grace of God at 4:08 AM on August 10, 2008

A terrible shock to me. Darwish was one of those people who should have lived to be 90 or a hundred, enough to be the grand old man of Arab poets. Dying at 67 for a poet of his caliber is like being struck down in his prime, and an injustice to the world. And why did it have to be while the fools from Fatah and Hamas are shooting each other, of all things?

I read "Why did you leave the horse alone?" last year...the first poem, "I see my ghost coming from afar" is something so beautiful and so sad it strikes me all over again every time I read it.

@postroad: Wine/Muslim is of course not actually a contradiction in the real world, (any more than tasty fried shrimp/christian). Lots of people in that part of the world, including most prominent poets throughout muslim history have enjoyed the forbidden fruit now and then and been happy to write about it.
posted by jackbrown at 2:55 PM on August 10, 2008

Also, wine has a long history as a metaphor in islamic religious poetry, where it can refer to a state of spiritual intoxication. So a poet writing about wine does not necessarily equate to a poet who drinks. Think Rumi or Hafiz: So, even when he appears to be talking about passionate love or intoxicating wine--all of this is a metaphor for the surrender to God.
posted by BinGregory at 10:18 PM on August 10, 2008

@BinGregory: or, it might be even more meta than that--it's wine poetry which everyone pretends is actually metaphorically about god, etc., including the poet when he's attacked by the religious nuts, but actually, it really is just about the joy of getting uproariously drunk.
posted by jackbrown at 1:27 PM on August 11, 2008

There are memorial services for him all over the West Bank - there's a circus troupe from Hebron here in Manger Square to perform tonight - last night they all stood outside in the evening and sang some of his work... it was quite moving.

posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:29 AM on August 12, 2008

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