While Poet in the City is enjoying great success with the Spoken Word All Stars tour, most recently in Nottingham and next in Bradford on 11th Feb, as well as looking forward eagerly to the celebration of Love Poetry on 14th Feb and of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene on 3rd March, recent events in North Africa and the Gulf have kept our recent Faiz Ahmed Faiz event firmly in mind as well. Soonu, one of the organisers of the Faiz event, returns to the blog today with these thoughts:
“How do you write politically committed poetry that is not mere propaganda or excessive moralising?” mused Javed Majeed at Poet in the City’s celebration of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s birth centenary. Faiz, he said, “does not simplify political commitment; instead he shows how complex it is. He expresses the difficulties of making such commitment, the range of emotions it involves, and the inner struggles of the individual who is politically committed.”
The beauty and depth of Faiz’s poetry reflects his intense involvement with the historical movements of his time and with the day-to-day struggles of ordinary people, whether in his homeland of Pakistan or in the camps of Palestinian refugees.
In these past two weeks, when millions of people in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Yemen have risen up against their oppressors, I have wondered what Faiz would have been moved to write. And I can only imagine how this boundless outpouring of people’s hopes and desires is finding expression in the hearts of their poets – what a flowering of poetry there must be in every Tahrir Square!
Political uprisings need poetry. We know that the youth of Egypt, who rushed to their unplanned revolution, cobbled together a clumsy but rhythmic slogan, “ash-sha’ab / yureed / isqaat an-nizam”, or “the people / want / the fall of the regime.” And they also borrowed two beautiful lines of Tunisian poetry, written by Abul-Qasim Al-Shabi in the 1940s’ struggles against colonialism:
When the people decide to live, destiny will obey
Darkness will disappear and chains will be broken.
“When the people decide to live…….” This powerful couplet is now on the lips of countless millions in Arab lands and will no doubt inspire countless millions elsewhere. That it was written 70 years ago should remind us that there is always a long, if hidden, history of people’s resistance to tyranny. It is left to the Palestinian poet, Mourid Barghouti, to put it like this:
Nothing goes off suddenly; even the earthquakes
set in motion from the depth of the earth
to the rooftops of villages.
How about you? Does poetry move in your heart when revolution is in the air? Let us know in comments below this post. And feel free to share snippets of or links to other poems against oppression, including your own. Note: be kind to other readers—no interminable diatribes or everlasting epics, please, and if the poem you link to is not in English, please provide an English translation or summary in your comment.