Funeral held for Palestinian poet

President leads mourners for Mahmoud Darwish, who died at age 67 on Saturday.

    Darwish will be remembered by many as one of the Arab world's greatest writers [AFP]

    In depth

    Profile: Mahmoud Darwish

    Palestinians lose 'voice'

    The Mahdi Army

    Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, led mourners at the funeral in the Ramallah.

    Darwish is only the second Palestinian personality to get a state funeral since Yasser Arafat in 2004.

    His grave faces the outskirts of Jerusalem, where the Palestinians hope to create the capital of a future state which Darwish had yearned for in poems imbued with the agony of exile and loss.

    Cultural freedom

    "This poet who inherited nothing but defeat, misery and failure, passed onto us beauty, dreams and love"

    - Abdo Wazen, Lebanese writer

    "Between the luminescence of words and the darkness of times …lived Mahmud Darwish"

    - Adonis, Arab poet

    "Palestine is ... orphaned, just like poetry, after the death of Mahmud Darwish"

    - Al-Mutawakel Taha, Palestinian Poet

    During the three days of national mourning following his death, portraits of Darwish lined the streets of Ramallah, together with his famous mantra: "There is much on this land worth living for".

    Darwish won a number of international prizes and is widely considered one of the Arab world's greatest writers.

    Darwish penned over two dozen books of poetry and prose in a career spanning nearly half-century that captured the Palestinian experience of war, exile, and the unfinished struggle for national self-determination.

    In 2001, he won the Lannan prize for cultural freedom.

    Born in territory that is now in Israel, Darwish made his home in Ramallah.

    He was jailed several times by the Israelis for his political activities.

    Many of his poems have also been put into music - most notably Rita, Birds of Galilee and I Yearn For My Mother's Bread, becoming anthems for at least two generations of Arabs.

    Leaves of Olives was published in 1964 when Darwish was 22-years-old.

    Since then more than 20 volumes of his works of poetry have been published.

    'Beautiful poetry'

    "He felt the pulse of Palestinians in beautiful poetry. He was a mirror of the Palestinian society," Ali Qleibo, a Palestinian anthropologist and lecturer in cultural studies at Al Quds University in Jerusalem, said.

    I Come From There,
    Mahmoud Darwish

    I come from there and I have memories
    Born as mortals are, I have a mother
    And a house with many windows,
    I have brothers, friends,
    And a prison cell with a cold window.
    Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls,
    I have my own view,
    And an extra blade of grass.
    Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,
    And the bounty of birds,
    And the immortal olive tree.
    I walked this land before the swords
    Turned its living body into a laden table.

    I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother,
    When the sky weeps for her mother.
    And I weep to make myself known
    To a returning cloud.
    I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood,
    So that I could break the rule.
    I learnt all the words and broke them up,
    To make a single word: Homeland....
                             

    Last year, Darwish recited a poem damning the deadly infighting between rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah, describing it as "a public attempt at suicide in the streets".

    He was born in the village of Barweh in Galilee, a village that was razed during the establishment of Israel in 1948.

    He joined the Israeli Communist Party after high school and began writing poems for leftist newspapers.

    He was put under house arrest and imprisoned for his political activities, after which he worked as editor of Ittihad newspaper before leaving to study in the USSR in 1971.

    As a journalist, Darwish worked for al-Ahram newspaper in Cairo and later became director of the Palestinian Research Centre.

    In 2000, Yossi Sarid, Israel's education minister, suggested including some of Darwish's poems in the Israeli high school curriculum.

    But Ehud Barak, the Israeli prime minister, overruled him, saying Israel was not ready yet for his ideas in the school system.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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