On Poetry and Social Media

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I don’t claim to be an experienced poet or an expert on poetry. These are observations that I’ve come to realize since I am excited about poetry and I do use social media to promote my poems.

1-Poetry always finds a way: let’s talk about poetry journals, magazines and books. They are those far and formidable fortresses that reject most of commoners, unseasoned poets. Rejection letter after another, poets start searching for an alternative to share their work. And social media, particularly Instagram, has offered this outlet. And it’s not only accessible, it’s also popular and innovative. So poets using social media hardly come as surprise.

2-Social media is changing the form of poetry and its length. And it’s not a bad thing. William Wordsworth would be delighted that in the age of social media his daffodils are on Youtube. Fast pace life requires fast pace poems. Shorter and more poignant poems. And in the age of 140 digits, 1080px photo as a poet you have to accommodate your poems. #Instapoem, #poetrygram are a real thing now. And it’s proven that it has an audience.

3- Poetry is a craft. And that’s what poets on Instagram often forget. While it’s true that social media is game changer for poetry and poets, it’s crucial to remember that poetry is something you learn. It’s a science. You learn its different terminology, its theories, and its craft. Poets are born, but you still need to learn its ins and outs to write better. And believe me, it’s not an easy thing.

4-Don’t mistake diaries for poems. While dairies can be poems in the making, they aren’t poems. And motivational, emotional, and inner thoughts that operate within abstractions fall short to be full-fledged poems. An advice to fellow poets read Ezra Pounds essay on poetry. And start from there.

5-Find a middle ground: people shy away from poetry thinking it has to be perplexing labyrinth of language and thought only understood by the elites . And some people, thanks to some very simplistic shallow poems found on Instagram, think that social media has ruined poetry. It doesn’t have to be this way though. One has to study poetry ,no doubt. Social media isn’t an excuse for mediocre poems. But also one shouldn’t give up writing poetry , because poetry journals are some exclusive clubs.

If you are a poet and write good poetry and read good poetry, you shouldn’t hold it back. But don’t compromise quality because you want to be a popular Instagram poet. And don’t despair because poetry journals are rejecting your poems. Write for yourself first and foremost. And have lots of coffee and self-doubt.

And by the way I have started my own Instagram account where I share my poems Poeticalaspirations

While Reading This Poem

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I’ve never intended to let my voice
crackle with sultry tears
while reading this poem
but a mother kissing
the forehead of her dead child
took over my chimes

I’ve never intended to sound
like laboring lava
while reading this poem
but a soldier’s strip-search and spits

a cop’s stop and frisk
made me erupt

I’ve never intended to close
my eyes and lose breath
while reading this poem

but my boat is sinking
washing me ashore, face down in sand

I’ve never intended to write this poem

My Words and Strings poem

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Words and Strings aim to create an open space for artists (spoken word artists, poets and musicians) and art lovers to come together and comfortably share their talents on the only consistent, platform for spoken word art in Qatar.

In May, I heard about the opportunity that Words and Strings offer to poets and musicians here in Qatar. But only in August I decided that I want to read one of my poems there. Till very recently, I thought that performing poems was something of the school days.
But during Summer School at Lancaster University, we were asked to read some poems we wrote. And there it goes, I was reading one of my poems out and loud in front of writers (fellow poets and novelists).

In the Words and Strings event I was more stressed, because it was my first time to perform in front of larger audience in a Spoken Word/Poetry event. It went fairly ok.
I’m sharing the video of the poem, because the poem is close to my heart. And I’m sure many Muslim women of color share the sentiment behind it. It’s called “A Revelation”

So you say
that I can’t write poetry in English
that poetry is English.

My poetry is my pottery
It’s brown like my skin
I mold it with hands
inscribed with henna
I scope with the piercing vision
of an Arabian falcon
It has the depth
of the wide black eyes of Gazelles

My poetry has my accent
and to some, it’s thick
My Ps sound like Bs
Bees make their honey from nectar
and my honey is the nectar
of my mother’s tongue

It’s very revealing
While I am all covered

Follow @wordsandstrings for more exciting news and performances.

For the women

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For the women who think
I’m too dark,
My hair is too curled up
I’m too tall, too short
Too round, too flat
I forgive you

For the women who pity me
because I’m alive
but my womb is always vacant
because I’m a mother
but all my children are females
I forgive you

For the women who shame me
because I’m putting a ring on it
I’m not putting a ring on it
I took off the ring
I don’t want to put a ring on it
I forgive you


For the women who mock me
because I wear my face
without hiding my acne, birthmarks, and burns
because I wear what I want
without being ashamed, weak, or sorry
I forgive you

For the women who condemn me
because I slap back,
talk back, fight back,
clean, cook, drive
ride, fly, read
write, design, protest
travel, study, love
think, argue, decide
I forgive you


I forgive you
because no one told you
It was ok
to be yourself

I am all things deciduous

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I am all things deciduous
a pearl earring
that’s never found again

I am all things deciduous
eye lashes, strands of hair, dead skin
disappearing everywhere

I am all things deciduous
yellow leaves, cactus spines, red velvet petals
there for sometime, there every time

I am all things deciduous
falling
not be to caught

Locked out

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This article was originally published as part of “Life in Occupied Palestine” a special issue of Biography: A Interdisciplinary Quarterly.
I often wrote about how politics and personal life always collide . It’s been four years since I left Gaza and I’ve not been able to visit it. There’s no doubt that the suffering of those who live in Gaza is much worse than Palestinians who live outside of it. But in the article, I wrote about how it affects me and my family since it’s been almost impossible to see family anywhere (not in Gaza or Qatar).

A very long, a very hot summer is approaching Qatar, where I currently live. Some forced hibernation is awaiting me, since the heat is unforgiving. Yet summer is the time people look forward to the most, because, unlike me, they are going home to be with their families and friends.

When my friends ask me “Why are you staying behind? Why don’t you go home?,” my mind starts whirling, for how am I going to explain how I am being stripped of the very basic, the very ordinary, the very human right to be reunited with my family in Gaza-Palestine.

I could start by explaining that Gaza has two passages assigned for travelling. One is controlled by Israel and the other is controlled by Egypt. Jawed between the occupying power, Israel, which has been laying a very strict siege upon Gaza for more than seven years, and the unstable Egypt, which has been isolating Gaza ever since it reverted to military rule, Gaza is locked.

Israel lets very few people out of Gaza, and even fewer people in. The Rafah crossing, which is controlled by Egypt, has always been Gaza’s only outlet to the world. The crossing had its good days, when Egypt was under Morsi’s rule. But since the Egyptian military took over and started cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood at home, they have viewed Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas, as an extension of the banned group. As a result, the military government headed by General Sisi is suffocating Gaza by destroying the tunnels, and by constantly closing the Rafah crossing, Gaza’s only passage to the world. And when Egypt does open the crossing, it’s for a few hours, for two or three days. The trip is mired with humiliation, danger, and uncertainty.

So how can one, with a child, go home, when all these thrones are engulfing it?

I’ve been locked out for two years now. Ever since I left Gaza in 2011 with my husband to come to live in Qatar, I have not had the chance to pay home a single visit. [End Page 474]

There’s nothing worse than the feeling of bitterness that results from such forced exile. It’s the bitterness of being a daughter, a sister, and a friend on Skype and Facebook. It’s the bitterness of missing good moments with family. It’s the bitterness of not being there when needed. It’s the bitterness of not being there when you want to. It’s the bitterness of sorely missing your loved ones so dear that you look for all sorts of options just to meet for even a week. Worst of all, it’s the bitterness that all this is happening just because I am a Palestinian from Gaza.

When I was pregnant, I fancied giving birth in Gaza. But that wasn’t possible. After I gave birth, I fancied throwing my daughter’s first birthday party in Gaza. That wasn’t possible either. I fancied taking her to the sea, to play in the sand with her grandparents.

For five years, Gaza was subjected to brutal Israeli attacks that left more than two thousand Palestinians killed. The most recent attack was operation “Protective Edge.” This war left enormous physical, psychological, and economic damage. Though it ended with the signing of a ceasefire agreement, after fifty-one deadly days, the situation of the Gaza siege remains intact. There was hope among Palestinians in Gaza that their sacrifices would eventually mean that the siege would be ended once and for all. But yet again Israel, colluding with Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, refuse to give Palestinians in Gaza their freedom to move in and out of Gaza.

Gaza now isn’t only a scene of apocalyptic destruction, it’s also a scene of a human tragedy, as survivors have to deal with thousands of wounded, displaced, and traumatized, with no way in or out of the Strip.

My family, fortunately, survived. During this war, I had serious fears that after I hung up, that would have been the last call with them or the last time I see them on Skype.

With this cycle of wars on Gaza, followed by inaction to end the siege, I wonder when I am going to see my family again. I wonder where I am going to see them. Visiting Gaza with a toddler is a risky mission, and my family visiting me would involve a long journey of waiting for crossings to open and visas to be issued.

I am locked out, and the people of Gaza are locked in. And we are both waiting, desperately waiting, for the day where we can just be together at home. Till then, one only has the secret whispers of prayers that this all ends. There’s nothing worse than the bitterness of being considered a lesser human. That’s what occupation does. It’s what Israel does, and what we have endured, whether we’re in Palestine or in exile. [End Page 475]

Read more stories and narratives published in this series here.

 

Laila

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After all this time,
I still remember her
The most
Laila,
my doll, my first doll
Made by my grandma
As a gift for Eid

Laila,
Black woolen hair
Sack of rice body
Filled with cotton
Pink dress with a small white apron
“She feels what you feel,
that’s why her face is blank”
grandma said

Laila was my friend,
my only friend
we hopped scotched together
Read stories, swung on trees
Laila and me didn’t understand
The big world
we just knew that we were here
For each other

Laila fought my fears
“it’s just thunder!”
“men in ugly green uniform will go away soon”
“daddy will come back soon”
“Mommy is crying because of the onions”

I gave her safety
“if we have to run,
I will take you”
“I will never let anyone take you away from me”
“You are my best friend!
“I love you,”

But bad things happen
I was woken up
And taken from my bed
We ran to the sea
“But Laila!”
“We will come back for her”
mama said

That night Laila slept alone
In their bed
Laila was waiting her friend
From that night
Laila had a different name
There was no thunder anymore,
Laila remained blank