Monday, October 21, 2013

A Date with a Literary Scholar (Refaat Alareer)

 "You have to love poetry to write poetry" (Refaat Alareer, 2013)

With Mr Refaat Alareer (Guy in plain blue shirts) Photo by: Amy Amilia (Thanks!)

Today (21st October 2013) me and my classmates were fortunate enough to meet a Literary Scholar from Gaza, Palestine - Refaat Alreer. He produced some terrific poems mostly revolved on war that is happening in his hometown. Apart from being a poet (although he insisted that he is not much of a poet), he is also a lecturer in a university in Palestine. What can be concluded in his works are, he regularly used metaphors and simile in his works. His works are easy enough to understand and yet gives a huge impact to the audience.

"The are 5 universities in Palestine but usually we [the Palestinians] go to Egypt to further our studies" said Mr. Refaat. 

He started the meeting by introducing himself and gave a brief history about his hometown and the occupancy that is currently happening there. He mentioned that the occupation started roughly 100 years ago where before the then, Palestine consist of the Arabs and Jews. It all started when England wanted to give the Jews a piece of land and unfortunate enough, it is Palestine. In 1946 Israel occupied Palestine. Day by day, the land that was known as Palestine is occupied by the Israeli. As a result, the Palestinians are having difficulties traveling from one place to another in Palestine. They have to go through numerous checkpoints which took a long time where in Mr. Refaat experience, he waited for a month to go through from one checkpoint to another just to get to his destination. Below is a homemade video/documentary entitled "5 Broken Cameras" by Emad,  recommended by Mr. Refaat about the occupancy in Palestine.

Surely enough, the Palestinians had enough and started to fight back. Some with guns, some with rocks and of course with words or to be precised poetry and articles. Mr. Refaat is no exception. He was also drawn to write poetry in response to the occupancy. Mr Refaat mentioned that there are not much of male poets in Palestine. It seems like this matter has caught him in a way. He also ask himself and the class:- 

"Why women write more than men in Palestine?"

He also stated that most poets in Gaza were inspired by a young poet named Tamim Bargouti. Mr. Refaat was kind enough to recommend us (the students) with some of the best poets and their works. Below are some of them.

 Famous Poet (Arabic language)
- Mahmoud Darwish
- Tamim Bargouti 

Famous Poet (English language)
- Rafeef Ziadah (We Teach Life, Sir)
- Susan Abulhawa (Wala!*)
- Remi Kanazi

Mr. Refaat has encouraged us to write an online journal/blog and feel free to write anything that we feel into it. Listen to tracks and poetry recitals from any source including Youtube. Pay attention to our surroundings. Even the smallest thing could turn into a brilliant idea. Some people carry a small notebook everywhere there go just in case they 'stumble' upon an idea but of course, this is a 21st century time, using your smartphones is just as good. Although he is a lecturer, he also learned from his students. From what he had told us, I could see that he has a wonderful relationship with his students.

Mr. Refaat in 'action' :)

One of my favorite poems by Mr. Refaat Alareer is entitled "And We Live On.." . Apparently, it is also one of Mr. Refaat's favorites. Seeing that I love war poetry, I could see how I could relate to him considering all the war he has written and experinced. He mentioned that the reason he like this poem is because there are a lot of metaphors and similes in it.  Below is the poem:-

And We Live On.. (by Refaat Alareer)

And another day in Gaza

Another day in Palestine

A day in prison

And we live on

Despite Israel’s very much identified flying objects

That we see more than our family and friends

And despite Israel’s death sentences

Like lead

Cast upon the head

As we sleep

Like acid rain

Gnawing at our life

Clinging to it like a flea to a kitten

And stuffed in our throats

The moment we say ‘Amen’

To the prayers of old women and men

Despite Israel’s birds of death

Hovering only two meters from our breath

From our dreams and prayers

Blocking their ways to God.

Despite that.

We dream and pray,

Clinging to life even harder

Every time a dear one’s life

Is forcibly rooted up.

We live.

We live.

We do.


I must say, listening to the poem being recite by the very man who wrote it before my eyes gave me the goosebumps. Listening to his voice I could feel the 'power' of the poem considering it is written based on a true story not to mention the poet own experience. As said by Mr. Refaat, Palestinians are always haunted by the thought of death and this statement adds the imagery in my mind and it helped me see what he wanted me to see through his experience. Just like most of his poems, Mr. Refaat usually includes three elements in his poetry. They are:-

- Dialogue
- Performance/Drama
- Palestine (Of course) 

Other poems that you might be interested in written by Refaat Alreer are:-

- If I must die
- Over the Wall
- I am You
- Freshly Baked Souls

 Do visit Refaat Alreer's blog at:  

*a degrading word/expression used to address a boy

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