In the Presence of Darwish

Sinan Antoon in The Nation:

1219776622largeMahmoud Darwish once said that he considered himself to be a Trojan poet recollecting and reconstructing the voices of the defeated: “The Trojans would have expressed a different narrative than that of Homer, but their voices are forever lost. I am in search of those voices.” Darwish conducted his search as he roamed over a “map of absence,” as he called his homeland of Palestine. On August 9 his odyssey ended when he died after complications from open heart surgery in Houston. Four days later, thousands of Palestinians flocked to Ramallah to bid him farewell at a state funeral, and countless others across the Arab world and elsewhere mourned his passing.

For nearly half a century, Darwish’s heart, and the heart of his poetry, had been public spaces. In the Arab world, it was not uncommon for Darwish readings to draw thousands of people; many thousands more bought his books and listened to his poems as they were set to music. But Darwish was more than a “Trojan poet”: his poetic odyssey included explorations of physical frailty, spiritual bewilderment, erotic love and metaphysical hunger. Darwish may very well have been one of the last great world poets.

More here.