April 29th, 2016
What Can Poetry Do?
Our celebration of world literature would not be complete without a post to celebrate world poetry, especially during National Poetry Month.
The International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong is a biennial gala celebrating poetry that brings together poets from all over the world and unites them under a single theme. Each festival yields a box set of chapbooks written in connection with the festival’s theme and an anthology, which collects selections of the participating poets work, both are published by The Chinese University Press. The theme for the 2015 festival was: Poetry and Conflict.
In his foreword to the Poetry and Conflict anthology co-editor Bei Dao writes:
Since antiquity, poetry has been sourced in humanity’s suffering, a driving force for the overcoming of darkness toward the light. Now, amid proposed conflicts between civilizations, histories, religions, and languages, what can poetry do? In the bedlam of the morbid fantasies of our world, what can poetry do? In this moment of mystery when land and air are collapsing, what can poetry do? In retracing the source and course of our spiritual knocking at language’s door, what can poetry do?
In the work contained in this collection the poets answer. Over and over again they show us what poetry can do. Here are a few highlights:
From Najwan Darwish, a Palestinian poet, who is one of the foremost Arabic language poets of his generation:
Even in War
I considered looking at my lower half
where I could feel the pain
but held back for the moment, fearing
not to find some part of me
I kept on down the stairs, my missing part
still with me, and here I am
climbing into bed with my wanting body
(still not looking), and it no longer matters
where the damage is, and it will do no good
to remember how I was wounded
Even in war, I was just a passer-by
(Translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid) Read the rest of this entry »