Al-Massri: The Genesis of a Poem
The Genesis of a Poem
(The foreword to Barefoot Souls, Tr. Theo Dorgan, Arc Publications, 2015)
It is always difficult to recognize the moment that gives birth to a poem, and even more difficult to grasp all the circumstances that surround and accompany the moment. Even if one knows the date of its first draft, a poem is always a long story that comes finally to inscribe itself on a white page. A poem one may read in a few seconds or in a few minutes is the result of a process that may have unfolded over many years. When I received my first blow, a blow that would be followed, alas, by many others, physical and moral, as is the case with numerous women on whom is practised always this or that form of corporal or mental cruelty… what did I do? I wept bitterly in my powerlessness, and still, today, when I feel anger at having to undergo what is imposed on me, I can do nothing but suffer and endure it. This has allowed me to have a more acute understanding of the human condition and to communicate more closely with all those, men and women, who suffer violence. It is not only women who are victims of violence but entire peoples, children, old people, the dominated, the humiliated of every kind, in every country. The day I felt a hot liquid flow between my thighs, felt the fear of a young girl, I decided that nobody in this world would have the right to threaten me, not even with their voice. From that humiliation, from that suffering which I endured for so long, a suffering to which I add the raising of my first child, from all of this was born the woman I have become. A woman who will not strike a blow, but who understands that there is a way out, a sublimation of all this suffered misery.
This overcoming, this overmastering of the human condition by crossing through the feminine condition… this is poetry. From this intuition was born in me the feeling that I can participate in the life of all, that I can share in the joys and sorrows of all. It was an extraordinary revelation, that beauty does not exclude what is ugly but subsumes and overcomes it.
I was astonished when the poem ‘Women like me’ was chosen in Palestine, in Ramallah, for inclusion in an educational programme for 12-18 year olds, astonished, too, when that poem was chosen in France for secondary school classes where a student could speak of having been raped. I understood then that poetry can be a mirror to all, a mirror for all, that in poetry we may find healing.
Tr. Theo Dorgan