Mahmoud Darwish, 1941-2008

Gg In Ha’aretz:

Mahmoud Darwish, the world’s most recognized Palestinian poet, whose prose gave voice to the Palestinian experience of exile, occupation and infighting, died on Saturday in Houston, Texas. He was 67.

The predominant Palestinian poet, whose work has been translated into more than 20 languages and won numerous international awards, died following open heart surgery at a Houston hospital, said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Born to a large Muslim family in historical Palestine – now modern-day Israel – he emerged as a Palestinian cultural icon who eloquently described his people’s struggle for independence, and as a vocal critic of both Israel and the Palestinians. He gave voice to the Palestinian dreams of statehood, crafted their declaration of independence and helped forge a Palestinian national identity. He felt the pulse of Palestinians in beautiful poetry. He was a mirror of the Palestinian society, said Ali Qleibo, a Palestinian anthropologist and lecturer in cultural studies at Al Quds University in Jerusalem.

Darwish first gained prominence in the 1960s with the publication of his first poetry collection, Bird without Wings. It included a poem (“Identity Card) that defiantly spoke in the first person of an Arab man giving his identity number – a common practice among Palestinians when dealing with Israeli authorities and Arab governments – and vowing to return to his land.