Analysis of Palestinian Poetry

“…the importance of [the 1950 Book] Canto General is that it ‘shows us the history of the Americas … [from] the point of view of the people themselves, not the history told by the conquerors.'” Source: “What We Can Learn from Neruda’s Poetry of Resistance”, Mark Eisner, Paris Review 26 March 2018

I couldn’t help but think there is inconsistency in The Atlantic article just posted about power and poetry of Palestinians.

First, we are told poetry is NOT a medium for resolution.

Poetry can communicate confusion and suffering because it isn’t a medium for resolving problems.

Second, we are told it IS for generating real change.

Words have influence, and poetry’s words, dense with meaning and softened by emotion, can generate real change.

Certainly, a shift towards genuine resolution might be a meaningful change. Otherwise, what kind of change is being sought in relation to a path leading away from resolution? That sounds very bad. Or is there a third dimension, a change that doesn’t mean… moving towards or away?

Here’s an example of the analysis that ensues.

Tuffaha’s poem is told from the perspective of a parent preparing to flee her house after receiving a warning call.

A parent gets a warning call.

There seems to be an inherent recognition of value, acknowledgement of agency, in the act of being warned of danger. Who was warned and why? Who wasn’t warned, and why not?

I find an important point about being warned casually glossed over in this essay, even as it says emotive response comes from varied expressions of loss.

Loss is definitely pain. Being warned of loss, when seen through a risk management lens, is a different kind of pain. Loss without warning and decision time doesn’t read like this.

It doesn’t matter
that 58 seconds isn’t long enough
to find your wedding album
or your son’s favorite blanket
or your daughter’s almost completed college application
or your shoes
or to gather everyone in the house.
It doesn’t matter what you had planned.
It doesn’t matter who you are.
Prove you’re human.
Prove you stand on two legs.

The NYT took a different approach from feelings evoked by “doesn’t matter what you had planned” poetry, when they wrote a dry perspective called “What should my ‘go bag’ contain?

Perhaps most telling is the author suggests everyone read Palestinian poetry to relate to their human condition, instead of suggesting we read any poetry that expresses human pain of loss and suffering for us to understand the Palestinian condition.

Everyone Should Be Reading Palestinian Poetry: Poetry at its best can stun readers into silence, but also give the silenced a voice.

I agree we must honor Palestinian words and voices, but the author seems to mean we should do so exclusively. Why not bring in Israeli, Syrian, Sudanese or Ukranian voices, just for some obvious counter examples of what everyone needs to undo a silence?

Sudan has what voice at all, if we look at the coverage and access?

Is the point of claimed change possible from reading Palestinian poetry to see just one inhumanity, a unique spot in a particular place and time, or is it to be able recognize and relate to inhumanity at all and anywhere?

It seems a connection from the former to the latter is very weak if not completely absent from the article and its analysis. I’m left wondering why we are not encouraged more to apply the human voice towards humanity, which perhaps means less explaining and more to offer in terms of lasting change. It could be here less a question of whose voice rises holier in opposition, when instead there would be the wider appeal for us to define and demand kindness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.