31 March 2009 0 Comments

My favorite Palestinian poet gets a biography

Anyone who has heard Taha Muhammad Ali read his poetry will know he’s the greatest of Palestinian writers. There are others who’ve been better known — Mahmoud Darwish, for example, who died last year and was generally called the Palestinian national poet. But Taha, who sat quietly in his tourist shop in Nazareth until his first publication at the age of 50, is a truly original voice, escaping the politics and nostalgia that mars some of his colleagues’ work. Now in his 80s, Taha is still a delightful and deceptively bumbling presence on stage, when he reads. Translated by Peter Cole, he’s also marvellous. Now there’s a biography of Taha, written by Cole’s wife, the Jerusalem writer Adina Hoffman and published April 2, it’s entitled “My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century.” It’s a line from one of his best poems. In a region that’s often full of hate directed at other people, here are some lines from one of Taha’s poems which encapsulate why I think he’s so great:
“I hate departure,
and I love the spring,
and the path to the spring,
and I worship the middle
hours of morning.”
And you wept,
and flowers bowed their heads,
and doves in the silk of their sorrow stumbled.

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