This is the video of a poem I performed last November for Words And Strings event here in Doha, Qatar.
This is the second time I perform at a poetry event. I am overcoming the anxiety of performing in front of audience. I hope next performance will be better.
I am a poetry writer. I find it very difficult to say that I am a poet. After all I’ve never published a collection of poems. My poems haven’t appeared in famous poetry magazines or websites. The word poet for me is like buying your child size 5 while they are still 3. They will grow into it.
I am a poetry writer. I’m currently writing poems for my assignments. But I wrote my first poem in 2003 and since then I have not stopped. I’m not planning on stopping. When the deadlines stop, I hope I will still sit and write, or try to write.
I am a poetry writer. Sometimes I feel like I arrived to the party late. All the guests have left, all the food was served, and all the decorations were removed. They say that poetry is dead art. And sometimes it does feel frustrating that of all writings, I write the least popular, the least prestigious, and the least profitable. I sometimes do wish I wrote computer programs instead. But then I come to read a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye or watch Suheir Hammad performing one of her poems. I feel that something so powerful, poignant, and so moving can’t be dead. It fills me with this urge to write and write more, to think of what magic tricks words could perform, what messages it could deliver. I know that writing poetry probably won’t take me places. It is not the next big thing for me. But I know it’s THE thing for me.
I am a poetry writer. Sometimes I feel that I wasn’t even invited to the party, but I crashed it anyway. English isn’t my first language. My mother tongue is Arabic.
But my poems chose their own, English. I have loved English since I was 10. I learned it through English songs. Maybe that’s why my poems are in English. But this makes me want to place emphasis that my poems are in English, but they aren’t English. They are everything that I am; Muslim, Palestinian woman of color. This may make people take my poetry less seriously. But I have no interest writing poems like Wordsworth or even T.S Eliot. My poems are like my fingerprints. They distinguish me. They define me.
I am a poetry writer.
And I will keep writing poems; Crappy ones, mediocre ones, excellent ones.
I will probably keep writing poems that will be only published on my personal Facebook page.
I will probably keep writing poems that I only read and like.
I will probably keep writing poems that make me feel that I never want to write again.
I will probably keep writing poems just for the sake of it.
Once you have your kid your priorities do change. But your ambitions don’t. Pregnant and mother students at university days were common to see. And to my then-ignorant mind, I would wonder why would she bother to bring her baby to the lecture? Why would she continue her studies if her children take most of her time? Like I said I was VERY ignorant and stupid. Now that I am student and a mother I understand that society tells you that you either have this or that. But with support you do both and you should have the choice to choose one or both.
I thought of writing this post, because many think that women study to fill time till they get married or have children. While I had my child after I finished my bachelor degree, part of me have always wanted to study further. Having a child changed how I could do it, but haven’t prevented me from doing it.
At first, I didn’t know what I wanted to study. But once I figured it out, I started looking for options. Master’s in Creative Writing isn’t available in Qatar, and I couldn’t travel to enroll in universities abroad. Luckily I found university that offered Creative Writing degree via correspondence. And it has been very fulfilling.
If you are a mother and a student, here’s some stuff I learned from my ongoing experience:
1-Your ambition if not fulfilled will affect your happiness and that will make you an unhappy mother: the first year I had my daughter I was very confused where I fit in my life as a mother. I loved the idea that I was a mother, but it was taking all of my time. This made me ask the question: “without motherhood, what am I?” I know some people would say being a mother is enough. And it could be true.
However, this wasn’t the case for me. I have always wanted to study further. And I have always loved writing poems. I am still seeking to define myself outside the motherhood cloak. Studying gives me a deep sense of fulfillment. It makes me feel better about myself and this reflects on my parenting.
2-Brace yourself, it’s challenging: parenting on it’s own is very challenging and sometimes very stressful.
When I started my degree, my daughter was less than two years old. That meant that during the day I couldn’t get any reading or writing done. My options were few: waking up early, staying up late or just waiting till the weekend to go to the library.
Being a student and a mother make you look for ways to find time to do your work. Sometimes you fail miserably. Sometime you feel too tired to be up at night or too sleepy to wake up early. I only started having more time when my daughter started going to the nursery when she became 2 and half. But I can guarantee you that the time you spend studying could be like going to spa. The pressure to get things done doesn’t make you procrastinate or slack. There’s more discipline and more seriousness in your pursuit.
3-You do it for yourself and for your family: apart from continuing your studies because you want to (which is great), you do it for your family.
The work market is a fierce and merciless place. If you aren’t well equipped, it will be difficult to find a job. Unfortunately, as a stay-home mom, when they look at your CV; they will see all the years you haven’t been working. They won’t see that you were nourishing and taking care of another human life.
So in that time that you don’t participate in the work-market, you are building your CV and achieving a dream. One can never predict the future; investing in one’s future and education is good planning.
4-You choose: bachelor degree is often considered the thing we do after school. But MA is the thing you do, because you want to. It’s important to remember that it doesn’t matter when you choose to go back to studying. Whether one year into motherhood or after all of your kids moved on with their lives, what really matters is that you choose to do it when you feel you are ready.
5-Don’t listen to the naysayers: you will hear people undermining your effort by saying, “what’s the point?” or worse “it’s a waste of money”.
It’s sad that to some, education is just a pastime. You should rather surround yourself with people who will give you their support and encouragement. One of the best moments I shared with my husband is the moment I knew I was accepted in the program.
If you are already a mother and student, good luck and keep your chin up.
If you are thinking about it, go for it sis!
If you have already done it, congrats, you inspire us! (and send me some advice).
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
For Samir Issawi and all the Palestinian prisoners…
Skin striping the bones
to cover your nakedness
Water runs through throat
to save your hidden face, your shamelessness
Rub salt on this wound
to clean the stitches of weakness
Tailored dignity made from this
tattered brown clad
Iron chains only pin these hands
show the metal of this man
Rid yourselves from these flimsy rods
redeem the anguish of a mother sobs
reclaim the freedom of a land robbed
rewrite your history
on the prison walls,
Defeat your enemy
Edward Said (November 1, 1935 Jerusalem September 25, 2003) is a Palestinian American intellectual, writer, and my inspiration. I came across this interview conducted in 2000 in which he talks about many important issues including Palestine, Israel, and the conflict. I was thinking of writing about the interview highlights, but all of the video is worth to watch and reflect on.
What I really admire about Edward Said is that he kept writing till his last breath. The interview doesn’t just tackle Palestine, but also some personal insights on his sickness and how he coped with it. The reason I keep delving into Edward Said’s writings and interviews is that I always find inspiration and motivation in them.
If you want to learn more about Palestine and its history then it’s one right source!
The emerald-colored ocean, the wind orchestrated waves, the greened mountains touching the zenith and beyond made South Africa’s Cape Town one of the dearest places to my heart. (I didn’t visit many).
Lying at the bottom of the continent, hearted between the Atlantic and the Indian oceans, this African pearl is one destination that definitely worth visiting and coming back to.Post apartheid Cape Town is a celebration of freedom and peace. I maybe having some euphoric feeling towards the city, but I did really love everything about it.
However, all this charm couldn’t stop my heart from thinking that I am seeing Africa’s beauty, what about the beauty of Palestine? The caramel sunset upon the Atlantic was breathtaking; it looked very much like Gaza’s. And every time the beauty of Cape Town took me, I couldn’t help but to think that if Gaza wasn’t besieged by Israel, it would look the same.
Gaza, a real tourist attraction
Gaza Strip, believe it or not, naturally, is a very beautiful city treasuring some real touristic attractions. The yellowish sands, the warm Mediterranean, and the hospitality of Palestinians make it a nice place for a vacation. There are some historical sites from different eras. The sea cruises feel so freshly cool, and I am sure there are many more hidden potentials. But Israel’s siege destroys any chance for this sector to thrive. Israel’s control over crossings kills the domestic tourism, the least. (Hardly any Palestinian from the West Bank can visit Gaza and vise versa). Let alone keeping the Strip a war zone doesn’t encourage people to visit. Though Cape Town and Gaza are distinctively different geographically, I keep thinking that if Gaza was free, It’d look like Cape Town.
I want to visit Palestine,
Apartheid Israel prevents Palestinians from visiting Palestine. I heard thousands of times stories about how beautiful the city of Acre is. However, I never saw any of its beauty. At school, we studied the different names of cities and what they were famous for. I learned that Jericho is the best in winter, as it is warm. Ramallah and Jerusalem were the best in summer, as they are mountainous cities. But, what we studied remained pictures in textbooks. In a free Palestine, we’d go there for school trips.
Stunning South Africa makes me yearn to see the beauty of my own country that’s deliberately is kept away from us, so we our sense of belonging is killed. I wish I were able to tour Palestine from the very north to the very south. Palestine is not so big like South Africa, so a road trip would be enough to go everywhere in there. That trip would include the scenery of the green hills, the sea, and the mountains. It’s a trip where I can stop to pray in Al-Aqsa mosque and spend as much time as I wish. A trip where there would be no checkpoints, no walls, no Israeli apartheid.
But for now the reality is different, going to South Africa is more possible than going Jerusalem. I remember there was one sign at Cape Point that shows the distances from that point to various cities around the world. Jerusalem was one of them. 7468km is the distance from Cape point to Jerusalem; I thought if I were a South African, I’d take a plane and end up in Palestine. 78km is the distance between Gaza and Jerusalem, but being a Palestinian makes Cape Point a more possible place to travel than Jerusalem.
South Africa is very dear to my heart. This Cape of Good Hope sign as much sorrow it draws, it’s also brings hope. As South Africa freed itself from apartheid, so will be Jerusalem, so will be Palestine.And then we, all, will enjoy the beauty of Palestine.