a not-so-funny thing happened on the way home from suheir hammad’s poetry reading… (UPDATED)

the extraordinary poet suheir hammad reading in ramallah
the extraordinary poet suheir hammad reading in ramallah

today the palestine festival of literature split up into two groups during the day, one going to the arab american university of jenin and the freedom theatre in jenin refugee camp and the other group to birzeit university. the organizers have been tweeting about their activities and posted photos today of the checkpoints where they were held up on their way to jenin here and here. the conference organizers blogged about their afternoon on their website. i had wanted them to come to an najah university to do a workshop, but our semester was out of sync with their program as we are finished with classes now and the rest of the universities are still in finals so it is easier for them to organize such workshops or readings on campus. still, it is frustrating because so little comes into the nablus prison whereas birzeit always has access to such cultural events and activities. the conference organizers promised that next year an najah would be included.

but the public event this evening was what i had been waiting for: suheir hammad. she started with “what i will” and then read a new poem for mahmoud darwish, “daddy” and “this is to certify,” followed by her series of poems about the recent savagery in gaza. i had forgotten that i had a tape recorder with me so it was during this second set on gaza that i began recording. below are the mp3 files for people who want to hear her read. i can’t believe i’m saying this, but this is the first time that i’ve had the opportunity to see her read her work live. it amazes me because i’m so in love with her words–if i had to choose food or air or her poetry, i would choose her poetry. hands down. and i often carry her book breaking poems in my purse because she fills my soul with inspiration and gives me the strength to continue with my work. i was so jealous when tam tam got to see her read in washington dc a couple of months ago, but i realize now how amazing it was to see her read here in palestine, on her soil, in her land. she was absolutely brilliant. extraordinary. powerful. and, of course, the audience was mesmerized by her. in the third mp3 file below you can listen to her read poems from her latest book, breaking poems. she asked me for a copy of her book yesterday and i warned her that it was filled with writing and notes everywhere, but she wanted to see it. i gave her the copy and she read from it tonight; you can hear her talking about my red pen at the beginning of the audio file. i could go on forever about how moving she was tonight (indeed the chapter for my new book on hammad’s poetry is about 80 pages)–particularly when she read the poems about gaza. she was so stirred and emotive and i so wished that she could perform this work in gaza for the people of gaza, too. if only al jazeera had filmed tonight.

here is a video from the festival organizers of hammad’s poem “this is to certify”:

here are the audio files i recorded:

listen to suheir hammad’s gaza poems

listen to suheir hammad’s “break is this”

listen to suheir hammad’s breaking poems

listen to suheir hammad’s “ma ba3rif aktob bil arabi”

khalil sakakini center in ramallah
khalil sakakini center in ramallah

for those who would like to hear and read hammad’s poetry in arabic, the final file above is a poem she read in arabic tonight. the festival organizers also gave out copies of a book to everyone that translates a piece of work by all the writers who are here into arabic. here is hammad’s poem about gaza that was translated for the volume; i typed it up for readers who want to read her work in translation.

سهير حماد


ترجمة محمد خليل

معجزة عظيمة حدثت هنا
عيد الأضواء
رصاص ينهمر على الأطفال
جيش يولم على رؤيا
لا أعرف شيئآ تحت الشمس فوق الجدران لا أحد يذكر شيئآ
على البعض أن يموتوا ملتحفين بئغطية منقوشة بزهور البترول
لا تغطية

جئت إلى هرمجدون يومية
سلم ترك دون اعتناء
ست شمعات تحرق بيتا
حصان مقيد إلى الدخان
على البعض أن يموتوا ليرسلوا إشارة
صرخة على مجرى نهر ذكرى أطول من فترات العمر
الأحياء يريدون أن يمونوا في بلادهم

لا أبواد مفتوحة لابحار مفتوحة لا
أيدي مفتوحة أيدي مليئة بالقلوب خمس بنات في لفافات بيضاء

كل يوم جهاد
كل يوم الإيمان يغلب الخوف
كل يوم مرآة من نار
الأ حياء يريدون أن يموتوا مع أسرهم

الفتاة تفقد ذراعيها وأخوها يجمع السلاح
على البعض أن يموتوا لأنهم لم يموتوا

أطفال على أرض مستشفى أم بجانب
هم الأب مذهولا هذه أسرتي
خذلتهم هذه هي أسرتي لم
أرفع رؤوسهم دفنتهم
أسرتي ماذا أفعل الأن أسرتي خبر
سمك شعب واحد قطّع إربا

هنا ظمئ يسرق الحياة
هنا جوع شتاء داخل شتاء

على الدعض أن يمرترا ليئتوا دالخلاص
جئت لنهاية زمن دائما موجود

المرأة فقدت أدويها أطفالها وتصرخ
أختي فقدن أختي أريد أن أموت
عينا أختي كانت عسلا صوتها
لا أستطيع أن أواجه هذا فقط ربي فقت ربي أختي

قتلوا الأطباء ضربوا المدارس قصفوا القوافل
الجرحي يموتون الموتي يدفنون في ثلاث
ساعات الناس يصلون معا و يلعنون الناس
يحزنون عاليا و في هدوء دائما عاليا ليس بما يكفي

على البعض أن يموتوا لأنهم كاموا قريبين من هنا
على البعض أن يموتوا لأنه مكتوب

لا الجيش لا يعتذر أبدا لم
يعتذر السلطة تطارد جمعية من ورق
الاحتلال يستقر يزداد عمقا

معجزة عظيمة هنا
الأحياء يموتون والمونى يحيون

عيد الأضواء
شريط أرض تشتعل به الحرائق
البحر مرآة النار

رصاص يسقط فوق الأطفال
رؤوسهم تتدحرج من فوق أكنافهم وتتساقط على الطريق
نحلاتهم تدور في أيدي

جيش يولم على رؤيا
يدفع بالمستقبل نحو التاريخ
يحمل المشاعل إلى جوف النساء

after hammad’s reading the musical group sama’ from the edward said national conservatory of music played for us. they were really amazing to listen to. it was a lovely evening of performances all around, though i do wish hammad had gone on for hours and hours.

sama' music group from the edward said national conservatory of music
sama’ music group from the edward said national conservatory of music

after the event my friends and i had to head down to beit lahem. there were no more services as the last one left at 8:30 and it was around 10 at this point. we found a taxi who agreed to drive us home. we got all the way to the container checkpoint without a problem. there were already two taxis pulled over for who knows how long when we arrived. private cars were going through without even being stopped. but we were pulled over. all of us had to give the israeli terrorist colonist soldier, who does not even appear to be old enough to grow peach fuzz on his face, our id cards. he came back and wanted to question me about where exactly i’m from. i refused to answer. i got bitchy. and when he said something about being here–can’t recall the exact phrasing–i said, “well, you don’t belong here. this is not your land” or something to that effect. this led to almost 1.5 hours of harassment. not from this boy, however. no. he called over the israeli terrorist colonist commander of the checkpoint who is, apparently, a 26 year old man named doodoo (i don’t know if this is his real name or not, but i wonder if he knows this is the english word american children use for s*&^). when one of my friends saw who he was she got nervous as she had seen this same israeli terrorist colonist soldier “doodoo” beat up an old woman before. we all agreed that we’d keep quiet, but it was clear that he wanted to start something. so he asked us if we had something to say to him. we just all said we wanted to go home. he kept egging me on until it was clear that he wanted me to repeat what i had said to the other guy. so i did. he became enraged. he started yelling and said that the driver had to go back to ramallah and that we could not go home. he started to separate us and pull us away from the car to talk to each of us privately. i kept saying that i was the one he had a problem with and that he should let them continue on and make me stay. why should they be punished for my words?

container checkpoint, abu dis palestine 11 pm
container checkpoint, abu dis palestine 11 pm

after about an hour they all got their huwiyyas back, but he kept my passport. unfortunately, my friends refused to leave without me. for me i could have gone to a friend’s house in abu dis or i could have gone to al quds–i had options. they did not. there is one way home to beit lahem and it is this road. the argument continued to get heated–he kept getting more angry, though none of us ever raised our voices at any point. we just said things he didn’t like. it was clear that he is a loose cannon. at one point he started screaming about how he lost someone who is like a brother and that the israeli terrorist colonists lose their fellow terrorist colonists all the time and we (he meant palestinians) don’t know what that feels like and that we never lose anyone–not nearly in the numbers he seems to think. i said something, can’t recall what (my friend recorded a lot of this conversation so i will post it tomorrow) and it led him to deciding that i was going to have to go to shin bet. i’m not sure what my friend said when she got pulled aside with this raging lunatic, but whatever it was he decided that i could have my passport back and we could leave. 1.5 hours later.

for the record i normally don’t get bitchy with soldiers when i have palestinian friends in the car. and this is precisely why: because they should not be made to be punished for my actions, which they inevitably will be. at the same time i just find it so impossible to deal with these israeli terrorist colonists and just jump when they say jump–or even worse respond by asking how high? i cannot treat these altercations as normal as part of life even though they are just that. palestinians are the most patient people i’ve ever met in my life and i cannot for a minute fathom having to grow up and live with this as somehow “normal.”

today was liberation day in lebanon when hezbollah liberated most of the south from israeli terrorist occupying forces (see matthew’s awesome photographs from today’s rally–i’m so jealous!). (syrian news published the transcript of sayyed hassan nasrallah’s speech tonight and also his analysis of it.) one of the many reasons i love hezbollah. but i cannot help but think when will we see the same liberation here and in syria and in the remaining villages in lebanon? we need hezbollah to stop this madness. there is literally no other resistance in existence that has the capability, the steadfastness, the cohesion.

our taxi driver and the israeli terrorist commander of container checkpoint
our taxi driver and the israeli terrorist commander of container checkpoint

One thought on “a not-so-funny thing happened on the way home from suheir hammad’s poetry reading… (UPDATED)

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