Doctor and writer from Libya living in London
طبيب وكاتب من ليبيا ولدت يوماً ما في القرن العشرين لا أؤمن بالخطوط الحمراء لكني لن اسمح بحرق كتبي واقلامي
Mary Jane Marcus
Dec 24, 2011 @ 15:14
I was just reviewing an old email and found this piece I wrote in August inspired by your blog, so I thought I would share it with you. Warm regards, Mary Jane in SF
ps – website is still in draft form.
8/22/11 Libyan Poetry on the Day of Liberation
When I heard Libya had finally fallen last night, my first impulse was to rush to Al Jazeera and catch the 24 hour news cycle. As a global affairs and freedom lover, this would have been satisfying on some level. But I know my own tendency to get ensconced in news, and how that desire feeds a disquieting energy for more – more emails, more stories, more ‘something.’ In celebration of peace I end up feeling amped up and agitated.
So I decided to celebrate peace in Libya by returning to where my Libyan journey began – with poetry. In February 2011, when the Libyan uprisings started, I wanted to participate in some way — connecting Americans with what was happening in Libya, so I left excerpts of Libyan poetry on BART in San Francisco and in other public places. It was a contrast from the stories we heard on the news that made Libya seem so far from us. Here is an excerpt of a poem by Giuma Bukleb translated on the fantastic Imtidad blog by a Libyan ‘straddling four cultures.’
So that the warmth of the morning sun can wander
In our fig and olive trees and in this country that
Knew peace before you occupied it
To savor, without fear, the taste of bread and oil
And restore, with hope, what you crushed of our dreams
So that our fear can rest for a moment
And our grass sleeps, for one night, without nightmares
And our palm trees extend its fronds’ shade without dread
And our skies breathe peacefully
And our sea wakes up from its nap to watch us standing, without you,
On the threshold of the morning
Waiting for it
I hope Libyan’s fear is ‘can rest for a moment’ as the poet writes above. Poetry, especially oral poetry (spoken word in today’s terms) has been an integral way Libyans expressed their suffering, and it exploded in liberated areas after the uprisings started. What are poets and spoken word artists saying now?
It is too early to find Libyan post-Gaddafhi poetry in English at least, but I did find this account by a Libyan author Hisham Matar that connected me with their experience:
We got rid of Muammar Gaddafi. I never thought I would be able to write these words. I thought it might have to be something like: “Gaddafi has died of old age”; a terrible sentence, not only because of what it means but also the sort of bleak and passive future it promises. Now rebel forces have reached Tripoli, we can say we have snatched freedom with our own hands, paid for it with blood. No one now will be more eager to guard it than us. (Excerpt from the Guardian UK)
Can you imagine if Obama (and Bush) was not re-elected after four years, but President for life? The end of tyranny is what Libya is celebrating today, and I am grateful their authors and poets share their heartfelt words so we can go beyond the news headlines to connect with their hearts and the experience of freedom from fear.
By Mary Jane Marcus, San Francisco ally of peace around the planet