Today is a Day of Creativity for Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, serving eight years and 800 lashes in Saudi Arabia for the alleged apostasy in his collection Instructions Within:
“I am scared to be forgotten.”
The Guardian translated this message from the Palestinian poet, artist, and curator Ashraf Fayadh, sitting in prison in Abha, Saudi Arabia.
It was a message conceived on one of the cold days in prison. It was relayed to a friend, who relayed it to a journalist. It further went through editors, subeditors. And finally appeared on the page.
“I am fearful of being forgotten.”
I don’t know Ashraf Fayadh. Or I know him, intimately, because I’ve read his poetry, struggled over the some of the lines, grown quiet over others, been outraged and felt my heart torn by still others. I’ve gone back, read the lines aloud to others, puzzled over individual words, asked others what they saw when they heard them.
It’s been almost three years since Ashraf was first detained by police.
At first, when he fell afoul of religious police in August 2013, it was after a disagreement in a café. Maybe it didn’t seem like anything. It would all be worked out. He wasn’t an artist with some international standing; he’d represented Saudi at the Venice Biennale earlier in the year. And the poems in his collection Instructions Within weren’t a criticism of religion. They were about being a stateless refugee who’s surrounded by belonging and yet cut off from it. They’re about corruption, oil, ownership, and poverty.
“I’m afraid I’ll be forgotten.”
It is among the coldest, bitterest fears.
This disappearance inside a prison cell while life goes forward with you. Everything in the world outside is chattering, changing, blossoming and decaying while you are held apart, on a different planet. Your friends find other friends, your family moves on, your enemies find other people to shout at. When you come out, no one can remember lines from your poems, and no one remembers that you’d ever existed.
So we will pinch the insides of our palms. We will say your poetry. We remember.
“I’m frightened. Don’t forget me.”
More poetry will be appearing throughout the day.
Poems by Ashraf Fayadh in English:
Ashraf Fayadh, from Instructions Within: ‘The Last of the Line of Refugee Descendants’, translated by Jonathan Wright
Ashraf Fayadh, from Instructions Within: “A Hoarseness in the River’s Flow,” translated by Mona Kareem. Also a performance of the poem in Arabic by Asmaa Azaizeh and Ala Azzam.
Ashraf Fayadh, from Instructions Within: ‘A Melancholy Made of Dough,’ translated by Tariq Alhaydar
Ashraf Fayadh, from Instructions Within: Four Short Poems, translated by Jonathan Wright
Ashraf Fayadh, from Instructions Within: “A Space in the Void,” translated by Jonathan Wright
Ashraf Fayadh, from Instructions Within: “On the Virtues of Oil over Blood” translated by Mona Zaki
Ashraf Fayadh, from Instructions Within: “The Name of a Masculine Dream” translated by Mona Zaki
Inspired by Ashraf Fayadh
Youssef Rakha, uncollected: ‘Listen Ashraf,’ translated by Robin Moger
Beau Beausoleil: “The Lesson”
Poems by Ashraf Fayadh in French
Ashraf Fayadh, from Instructions de l’intérieur: “Les Moustaches de Frida Kalo’ and Other Poems,” ©Traduction Tahar BEKRI
Poems by Ashraf Fayadh in Spanish
Ashraf Fayadh, from Las instrucciones están adentro, “Los últimos descendientes de los Refugiados,” Del árabe al español: Shadi Rohana y Lawrence Schimel
Poems by Ashraf Fayadh in Finnish
Ašraf Fayyad, from Instructions Within, “Pakolaisten Viimeinen Jälkeläinen,” suomennos: Sampsa Peltonen
Poems by Ashraf Fayadh in Turkish
In Turkish Translation, Eşref Feyyâd’s ‘Hikmet’ and Other Poems
Poems by Ashraf Fayadh in Nepali