Gaza: Resistance through Poetry
“(At dawn) … I will resist … (Since) upon the wall there is still a white sheet … And my fingers are yet to (completely) dissolve.”
This is a translated verse from Mu’in Bseiso’s “Three Walls of the Torture Chamber.” He was — and remains — one of Gaza’s most influential intellectuals and renowned poets.
After Israel occupied the Gaza Strip in 1967, he lived in exile for the rest of his life, hopping from one country to another. Many of Gaza’s great intellectuals were exiled as well; others languished in jail or were assassinated.
Bseiso died in some London hotel in 1984. One of his older plays carrying this verse envisaging his death.
“And my tongue was a sword … But I am now dying … And my (only) witnesses are these four muted walls.”
Every phase of Bseiso’s literary work carried clues to the struggle faced by Palestinians throughout their modern history, which he echoed in his poems until his passing. His words spoke of resistance, love, torture chambers and naked walls, children coloring on a beach, exile … oh, the endless exile.
But Resistance featured prominently in almost everything he wrote.
“If I fall, comrade, in the struggle, take my place,
And gaze at my lips as they halt the madness of the wind.
I have not died … I am still calling you from beyond my wounds.
Sound your drums, so that the whole people may heed your call and fight …” (The Battle)
The spirit of Gaza is the spirit of Mu’in Bseiso: beautiful, poetic, tortured, strong, undying, and loving and although confined by ever-shrinking spaces, always resisting.
Rams Baroud, writes: I am writing this, not only as a nod of gratitude to Gaza’s great poet for the way he influenced me and several generations of Palestinian and Arab intellectuals in Gaza and elsewhere, but to denote a fact that seems to escape many of us: Gaza is also an abode of poetry.
Alas, how many of us can name a single Palestinian poet from Gaza? Likely, very few. It is because we are accustomed to affiliating Gaza with death, not life. Poetry is the greatest intellectual affirmation of life because great poets never die. Their verses linger like the roots of an ancient Palestinian olive tree.
Gaza has not inspired the world because of its high death toll as a result of Israeli wars, because of its polluted water or because it is becoming growingly ‘uninhabitable’ — as a United Nations report recently indicated.
Gaza is inspiring because it is still standing, despite everything.
Not just standing, but living and — dare I say — thriving, too. Reporting from Gaza last week, Yousef Aljamal wrote of a crowd that flocked the Science and Cultural Center in al-Nuseirat refugee camp. The reason they gathered was to celebrate the life and works of William Shakespeare.