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Mahmoud Darwish, 13th March 1941 - 9th August 2008

Posted by Angela Jarman, 22nd August 2008

I thought poetry could change everything, could change history and could humanise, and I think that the illusion is very necessary to push poets to be involved and to believe. But now I think that poetry changes only the poet.

This time he was wrong. This man's poetry has changed the language of Arabic writing and shifted readers' conceptions of resistance poetry. The drums receded to give way to the harp and the flute. Single-coloured khaki poems full of slogans gave way to rainbow-intertwined shades. Even the physical image of the victimised and the oppressed had to give way to Mahmoud's unmatched elegance in dress and in daily conversation alike.

...In this world of polluted international political language, where the word 'freedom' is abused in every manner, referring to everything from capitalism to the occupation of Iraq, Mahmoud's poetry and life were an attempt to give it back its meaning.

***

We were deeply saddened and affected to learn of the death of the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish on 9 August 2008. His friend and fellow poet, Mourid Baghouti, attended his funeral in Ramallah and his account of this, and of what Darwish meant to the Arab world and the world at large, appeared in The Guardian on 16 August 2008.

Read Mourid Baghouti's article in full.

Mourid Baghouti's first collection of poems to be published in the UK, Midnight and Other Poems, will appear in a bilingual edition from Arc Publications in October 2008