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Middle East
Palestinian poet Darwish dies
Poet known as the voice of the Palestinians dies following open heart surgery.
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2008 00:34 GMT
Darwish's poetry has been translated into more than 20 languages [GALLO/GETTY]

Mahmoud Darwish, the renowned Palestinian poet,  has died after open heart surgery at the Memorial Hermann medical centre in Texas.

Ann Brimberry, Memorial Hermann's spokeswoman, confirmed to Al Jazeera that Darwish died at 1.35pm (18:35 GMT).

Siham Daoud, a fellow poet and friend of the 67-year-old, had asked not to be resuscitated if the surgery did not succeed.

She said Darwish departed for the US ten days ago for the surgery, and he had undergone two operations for heart problems before Saturday's surgery.

Best known for his work describing the Palestinian struggle for independence, the experience of exile and factional infighting, Darwish was a vocal critic of Israeli policy and the occupation of Palestinian lands.

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.

"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.

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".

Early life

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....

mahmouddarwish.com

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.

Originally a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Darwish resigned in 1993 in protest over the interim peace accords that Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, signed with Israel.

As a journalist, he 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.

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

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.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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