Mahmoud Darwish
Is probably the most famous
And I bet you haven’t heard of him

In exile, wondering
Without exile, who am I?

Mahmoud died in Texas
So don’t go looking for him

You’re too late

He was once arrested and imprisoned
For reciting poetry
Without a permit

How about Waleed Khazendar?

Last I heard, Waleed

Born in Gaza
Was working in Cairo

Saying, how our mistakes
Precede us to the pillow

They inform our dreams
I think he means

Or Zakaria Mohammed
Who left and came back
And, unless he’s dead
Is currently living in Ramallah

I just checked
To save you the trouble
He died this summer

But in Ramallah (as I said)




Steven Taylor



I’ve been into Modern Arab Poetry since the 90s through a magazine called Banipal and Saqi books, a publisher based in London. They used to have readings of Arab writers and I saw Mahmoud (definitely) and I think Waleed perform. It would often be one stanza in Arabic (by the writer) followed by a spoken translation – so you got the musicality and the meaning. Fabulous. The Modern Arab writers were very influenced by European Modernism …. all the Arab writers I met were living in exile, and what struck me (in addition to the brilliance of their poetry) was their kindness and generosity …. 






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