Mahmoud Darwish… In the presence of Absence

Mai Shible and Shatha al Khmor (Palestine, AC 07-09)

Mahmoud Darwish has quietly left us on Saturday 9 August 2008 after 67 years of a life jumping from one peak to another, rising higher every time. He was a beautiful human being, able to see what no one else could see: in life, politics, and even in people. He expressed his visions in a language that seemed to be made only for him to write with. When he decided to go through with the difficult surgery, we thought that he could beat death, like he did several times before… but it seems, with his prophetic insight, could clearly see his “ghost coming from afar”.


Darwish is considered to be the most important contemporary Arab poet working today. He was born in 1942 in  the village of Birweh near Haifa in Palestine, which was razed to the ground by the Israelis in 1948. As a result of his political activism he faced a house arrest and imprisonment. Darwish published his first book of poetry, Leaves of Olives, in 1964, at the age of 22 followed by many later. Darwish was also the editor of Ittihad Newspaper before leaving in 1971 to study for a year in the USSR. Then he went to Egypt where he worked in Cairo for Al-Ahram Newspaper and in Beirut, Lebanon as an editor of the Journal; “Palestinian Issues”. He was also the director of the Palestinian Research Center. Darwish was a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO and lived in exile between Beirut and Paris until his return in 1996 to Palestine.

His poems are known throughout the Arab world, and several of them have been put to music. His poetry has gained great sophistication over the years, and has enjoyed international fame for a long time. He has published around 30 poetry and prose collections, which have been translated into 35 different languages. He is the editor in chief and founder of the prestigious literary review Al Karmel, which has resumed publication in January 1997 out of the Sakakini Centre offices. In 1998 he published the poetry collection: Sareer el Ghariba (Bed of the Stranger) his first collection of love poems. In 2000 he published Jidariyya, (Mural) a book consisting of one poem about his near death experience in 1997. In that year a documentary was produced about him by noted a French-Israeli director; Simone Bitton. He is a commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters and Muhamoud Darwish was the winner of the 2001 Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom. The prize recognizes people whose extraordinary and courageous work celebrates the human right to freedom of imagination, inquiry, and expression. As defined by the foundation, cultural freedom is the right of individuals and communities to define and protect valued and diverse ways of life currently threatened by globalization.

MAHMUD DARWISH you left us but your poems will never leave us.


– United World College Student Magazine – 


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