Cherries, Lemons, and the Surge in Creative Writing Opportunities in Lebanon

Mishka Mojabbar Mourani was recently at a “Karaz w Laimoon” literary gathering in Beirut, and remarked on both the flowering of literary events in Beirut and the fluid movement between languages: Arabic, French, and English:

Mourani reading. Photo credit: Akram Najjar.
Mourani reading. Photo credit: Akram Najjar.

Mourani said that, in the last few years, more and more writing workshops have become available: “I am a member of a writers’ asssociation entitled Kitabat , which organizes writing workshops in schools — such as International College — universities, and public libraries. The AUB and St Joseph’s universities also have their own adult learning creative writing programs. Kitabat has also organized writing workshops for children at the Francophone book fair.”

She believes, in part, that the Lebanese are beginning to find their voices post-war: “It took a very long time to emerge from the Lebanese war years and the focus was on rebuilding.”

By Mishka Mojabber Mourani

Karaz W Laimoon, a cultural gathering hosted at the Moawad Museum, which is nestled discreetly in the heart of Beirut, recently witnessed a reading of original works by writers in a variety of genres: memoir, poetry, philosophical musings, short stories. It was an evening of fellowship and variety. The international gathering of writers — from Lebanon, Canada, and Syria — read, and in one instance sang, out their work in three languages. Antony Di Nardo, Ali Jazo, Claude Kattan, Fr. Elias Kesrouani, Shireen Maalouf, Hala Makarem and myself drew enthusiastic responses from a very supportive audience, culminating in a recording of the poet Dylan Thomas, reading some of his work, courtesy of organizer Akram Najjar and the Karaz W Laimoon team.

Such was the camaraderie, that Antony Di Nardo was inspired to write an impromptu poem that he shared with the audience about the writers who had preceded him! Di Nardo is a Canadian poet who has published two collections, Alien Correspondent and Soul on Standby, and is working on his third entitled Roaming Charges due to be published next spring.

Antony di Nardo and Bruce Bartlett. Photo credit: Akram Najjar.
Antony di Nardo and Bruce Bartlett. Photo credit: Akram Najjar.

Cherries and Lemons: A Found Poem

Black pyramids, blazing flames,
she said,
all the trees consumed by the glance of a wolf,
the woodcutter’s world that doesn’t burn,
only the wooded world
that’s an emblem of another
where we dream like children.

There are two animals in this room, he said.
Me and your computer.

Stone walls do not a memory make.
When we return,
there are no walls, no ceilings—we are minimized
by our spaces—
floors go missing,she said,
and no one’s left to say we’ve been.

Just a flowerpot flaunting a jade green plant.

As for Fatma’s fate, despite the war
in which life must go on,
those are the cards that she is dealt.

No true story comes with a conclusion.

I am a painter, she said—I paint poetry
with the jazz and symphony of the Arabic
that escapes me. Not the poetry I hear,
but its pastiche, soundscapes
in a calligraphy of voices.

Not a story, but a prose,
a prelude to a conversation and a gesture—
the same world re-enacted at the centre,
embedded in an ink that finds itself in our stories.

The rainbow pen, she said.

I am the idea that just came to me—
that just came to you.

Ali came from Syria eight months ago and asks
is what we say
and what we see
at the junction of language and lies?

Or is it the work of the witness?

Let me be a witness, Ali, and praise the cap
that rests upon your head.
There is no such thing
as innocent bystanding.

Also by Mojabbar:

In Beirut: Stone Walls Do Not a Writers’ House Make

Lebanese Novelist Nazik Yared on Starting Late and Writing with Honesty

Memoir: Teta, Did You Know Aleppo?

Alone Together: The Global Story Behind a Bilingual Book of Poems Edit

mishkaMishka Mojabber Mourani’s (@MishkaMM1) most recent book is ALONE TOGETHER, co-authored with Aida Yacoub Haddad. It is published by Kutub – Beirut, 2012. ISBN: 9789953554167; you can read more about the bilingual project here. Mourani is also the author of the memoir BALCONIES, which is distributed by Lebanon’s Dar an-Nahar.