Mahmoud Darwish

Mahmoud Darwish Biography

Mahmoud Darwish (Arabic: محمود درويش‎) (13 March 1941 – 9 August 2008) was a Palestinian poet and author who won numerous awards for his literary output and was regarded as the Palestinian national poet. In his work, Palestine became a metaphor for the loss of Eden, birth and resurrection, and the anguish of dispossession and exile. He has been described as incarnating and reflecting "the tradition of the political poet in Islam, the man of action whose action is poetry".

Mahmoud Darwish was born in the village of al-Birwa in the Western Galilee. He was the second child of Salim and Houreyyah Darwish. His family were landowners. His mother was illiterate, but his grandfather taught him to read. After Israeli forces assaulted his village of al-Birwa in June 1948 the family fled to Lebanon, first to Jezzin and then Damour. The village was then razed and destroyed by the Israeli army to prevent its inhabitants from returning to their homes inside the new Jewish state. A year later, Darwish's family returned to the Acre area, which was now part of Israel, and settled in Deir al-Asad. Darwish attended high school in Kafr Yasif, two kilometers north of Jadeidi. He eventually moved to Haifa.

He published his first book of poetry, Asafir bila ajniha or Wingless Birds, at the age of nineteen. He initially published his poems in Al Jadid, the literary periodical of the Israeli Communist Party, eventually becoming its editor. Later, he was Assistant Editor of Al Fajr, a literary periodical published by the Israeli Workers Party (Mapam). Darwish was impressed by the Arab poets Abed al-Wahab al Bayati and Bader Shaker al-Sayab.
Darwish left Israel in 1970 to study in the USSR. He attended the University of Moscow for one year, before moving to Egypt and Lebanon. When he joined the PLO in 1973, he was banned from reentering Israel. In 1995, he returned to attend the funeral of his colleague, Emile Habibi and received a permit to remain in Haifa for four days. Darwish was allowed to settle in Ramallah in 1995, although he said he felt he was living in exile there, and did not consider the West Bank his "private homeland."

Darwish was twice married and divorced. His first wife was the writer Rana Kabbani. In the mid-1980s, he married an Egyptian translator, Hayat Heeni. He had no children. Darwish had a history of heart disease, suffering a heart attack in 1984, followed by two heart operations, in 1984 and 1998.

His final visit to Israel was on 15 July 2007, to attend a poetry recital at Mt. Carmel Auditorium in Haifa, in which he criticized the factional violence between Fatah and Hamas as a "suicide attempt in the streets".
Darwish published over thirty volumes of poetry and eight books of prose. He was editor of Al-Jadid, Al-Fajr, Shu'un Filistiniyya and Al-Karmel (1981). On 1 May 1965 when the young Darwish read his poem “Bitaqat huwiyya” to a crowd in a Nazareth movie house, there was a tumultuous reaction. Within days the poem had spread throughout the country and the Arab world. Published in his second volume "Leaves of Olives" (Haifa 1964), the six stanzas of the poem repeat the cry “Write down: I am an Arab.”
In the 1970s, “Darwish, as a Palestinian poet of the Resistance committed himself to the . . . objective of nurturing the vision of defeat and disaster (after the June War of 1967), so much so that it would ‘gnaw at the hearts’ of the forthcoming generations.”

Palestinian poetry often addresses the Nakba and the resultant tragedies. The mid 1980s saw the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and preceded the outbreak of the first Intifada (uprising) on the West Bank and Gaza Strip in December 1987. Mahmoud Darwish addressed these and other issues in Ward aqall [Fewer Roses] (1986), and more specifically in one poem, “Sa-ya’ti barabira akharun” [Other Barbarians Will Come”].

Darwish's work won numerous awards, and has been published in 20 languages. A central theme in Darwish's poetry is the concept of watan or homeland. The poet Naomi Shihab Nye wrote that Darwish "is the essential breath of the Palestinian people, the eloquent witness of exile and belonging...."

The Best Poem Of Mahmoud Darwish

I Come From There

I come from there and I have memories
Born as mortals are, I have a mother
And a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends,
And a prison cell with a cold window.
Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls,
I have my own view,
And an extra blade of grass.
Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,
And the bounty of birds,
And the immortal olive tree.
I walked this land before the swords
Turned its living body into a laden table.
I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother
When the sky weeps for her mother.
And I weep to make myself known
To a returning cloud.
I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood
So that I could break the rule.
I learnt all the words and broke them up
To make a single word: Homeland.....

Mahmoud Darwish Comments

Jennifer Chalk 20 March 2012

Inspirational poetry, fabulous. Can you please publish Bitaqat Huwiyya here. I only have access to the second stanza online: Write down I am an Arab And I work with comrades in a stone quarry And my children are eight in number. For them I hack out a loaf of bread clothing a school exercise-book from the rocks rather than begging for alms at your door rather than making myself small at your doorsteps. Does this bother you? Thanks!

69 11 Reply
Halcyon Poemcrafter 13 December 2013

My favourite poet writing in Arabic. So sad he left quite early but as they say poets live on forever. You won't be forgotten Mahmoud Darwish contrary to what you're saying in this incredibly beautiful poem: Forgotten As If You Never Were Forgotten, as if you never were. Like a bird’s violent death like an abandoned church you’ll be forgotten, like a passing love and a rose in the night... forgotten I am for the road... There are those whose footsteps preceded mine those whose vision dictated mine. There are those who scattered speech on their accord to enter the story or to illuminate to others who will follow them a lyrical trace... and a speculation Forgotten, as if you never were a person, or a text... forgotten I walk guided by insight, I might give the story a biographical narrative. Vocabulary governs me and I govern it. I am its shape and it is the free transfiguration. But what I’d say has already been said. A passing tomorrow precedes me. I am the king of echo. My only throne is the margin. And the road is the way. Perhaps the forefathers forgot to describe something, I might nudge in it a memory and a sense Forgotten, as if you never were news, or a trace... forgotten I am for the road... There are those whose footsteps walk upon mine, those who will follow me to my vision. Those who will recite eulogies to the gardens of exile, in front of the house, free of worshipping yesterday, free of my metonymy and my language, and only then will I testify that I’m alive and free when I’m forgotten!

44 7 Reply
Mohammed Nofal 26 September 2006

i wuld like to be with yuo in this plac, plz suport me and i will suport yuo

29 16 Reply
yacta yacta 01 July 2017

A part of me is with me, A part of me is with you, Each part is missing the other, So, would you come? -Mahmoud Darwish, I've choosen for you

13 2 Reply
Handsum L 20 February 2015

We have on this earth what makes life worth living: April's hesitation, the aroma of bread at dawn, a woman's point of view about men, the works of Aeschylus, the beginning of love, grass on a stone, mothers living on a flute's sigh and the invaders' fears of memories. We have on this earth what makes life worth living: the final days of September, a woman keeping her apricots ripe after forty, the hour of sunlight in prison, a cloud reflecting a swarm of creatures, the peoples' applause for those who face death with a smile, a tyrant's fear of songs. We have on this earth what makes life worth living: on this earth, the Lady of Earth, mother of all beginnings and ends. She was called Palestine. Her name later became Palestine. My Lady, because you are my Lady, I deserve life. ??? ??? ????? ???? ?????? ??????? ??? ??????????? ????????: ????????? ??????, ????????? ???????? ??? ???????? ????? ???????? ??? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????????? ?????? ???????? ???? ????? ????? ????????? ???????? ????? ?????? ????, ????? ????????? ???? ????????????. ????? ?????? ?????? ?? ??????????? ?????????: ????????? ????????? ????????? ?????? ????????????? ????????? ??????????, ?????? ????????? ??? ?????????? ?????? ????????? ??????? ???? ????????????? ?????????? ?????? ?????? ??????????? ??? ?????????? ?????????, ???????? ?????????? ???? ?????????????. ????? ?????? ??????? ??? ??????????? ?????????: ????? ?????? ?????? ????????? ????????? ????? ???????????? ????? ?????????????. ??????? ???????? ??????????. ??????? ???????? ????????. ?????????: ?????????? ??????? ?????????? ??????????? ?????????.

39 6 Reply
Gurpreet Kaur 23 March 2014

I find Darwish's poetry the most compelling.His poems bespeak immeasurable longing for home and peace.I wonder how moving it would be to read him in original hebrew and how moving it would be for an Arab like him.

37 27 Reply
Gurpreet Kaur 05 February 2022

Darwish did not write in Hebrew! ! !

0 0 Reply
David H. Partington 19 March 2014

I am delighted, and deeply moved, by the inclusion of Mahmud Darwish's poem. His is an outstanding example of the work of contemporary Arabs, and it is unfortunate that we in the US have so little contact with that rich outpouring of emotion. What a tragedy he and his people face and do endure! I hope that subsequent Arab poets will have happier themes for their lyrical outpourings.

48 3 Reply
Rich Persoff 19 March 2014

A very sad person who bleeds with his poetry.

28 16 Reply

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