Opening Night: Mahmoud Darwish Tribute


The tribute event to Mahmoud Darwish was a highlight for me. I learnt that Darwish had written over thirty volumes of poetry and prose.  The sighs, noises of agreement and the concentration of many in the audience indicated how so many – writers, friends and loved ones, readers, listeners – have taken to his work and taken something from it.

John Berger is a gem. walking Wikipedia comes to mind…. He combines urgency, the value of recounting the story, and the importance of naming. The way he champions writers, activists, and the people who want or need to say marks moments, and people, that might otherwise pass by unrecognised.

His statement that ‘What makes sense of human lives stays the same’ says it all.

I was struck by Rema Hammami’s recounting of translating Darwish’s work, how intricate and messy a process translation can be. How rigour and technical application needs to work alongside an approach that allows the words to find their substance. David Constantine was impassioned about the specialness of poetry which works out of being rooted, of being about particularity, as opposed to global capitalism which has no place, no particular home.  No particular place to go.

In between talking and recital we were able to see clips of Darwish reading his poems, recounting, performing.  The line and phrase that stayed with me were ‘What do they talk over there, vernacular or classical?’ and  ‘life is liquid’.

More nights like these please, vernacular and classical, no fine line, liquid.


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