Friday Finds: Must-watch Special Episode of ‘Maqsouda’ on Palestinian Poetry

Poets Zeina Hashem Beck and Farah Chamma, co-hosts of the podcast Maqsouda, share a one-time video special filmed by Hind Shoufani:

In the introduction to the video special, Farah Chamma explains: “Zeina and I have gathered some poems by Palestinian poets we admire in order to empty our anger, to remember our beauty, and to remember the beauty of literature and resistance that is found in our great country.”

They read a wide range of poems, new and older, from Ghassan Zaqtan, Samar Abdel Jaber, Marwan Makhoul, Ghayath al-Madhoun, Ahlam Bshara, Mahmoud Darwish, Najwan Darwish, Raed Wahesh, Tamim Barghouti, Samer Abu Hawash, Dalia Taha, Mourid Barghouti, Samih Qassim, Asmaa Azaizeh, and more. It is a brilliant introduction to a wide range of Palestinian poets and also a tour de force of subtitled translation, with most translations by Hashem Beck and “A Road for Loss” translated by Fady Joudah.

“It’s good to remember why we write,” Chamma says, during the readings, “why people write.”

After the readings, Hind Shoufani asks — from behind the camera — about why this reading, why these poems.

“It’s the helplessness that kills,” Chamma says. “When you’re sitting in front of a TV, watching explosions and missiles–“

“And from the phone,” Hashem Beck adds.

“When we say we want to find poems by Palestinian poets, and we read them, we realize that these people carry this country inside them, we know this really well,” Chamma says. “And it hurts, because we know.”

“Their work is part of how we, as individuals, deal with this pain.”

“I felt there is this unbearable anger,” Hashem Beck says. “There’s this feeling that we can’t do anything. We’re watching, watching, watching. There is this big love for Palestine, and there’s also this moment, it must be said, that this moment, in the year 2021, I felt this was a turning point, a historical moment in terms of the solidarity around the world for the Palestinian people.”

Hashem Beck said she didn’t want to suggest that a victory could be won through poetry, but yet, “Why are they burning bookstores if they’re not afraid of poetry? If they’re not afraid of writing?” In mentioning the two destroyed bookstores in Gaza, and the fundraisers to rebuild them, Hashem Beck said she’s hoping for “10 bookstores in their place.”

Watch the Maqsouda special: