Poetry Is Still Alive

Marzuq Halabi

Poetry Is Still Alive

If the texts included in the volume “Sea Feathers” were to have come into my hands without the author’s name, I could have identified the author immediately. Only Salman Masalha can bring such formulations, ideas, images and these texts.

It seems to me that he writes poetry the same way he speaks, with sarcasm, anger and contrasts, and it is amazing how all these are based on an idea that is well-constructed like a scaffolding on which the other motifs climb. The texts in this volume are varied with respect to subject matter and form – and in all of them all of this variety, which includes colors and ornamentation that are located in spaces that he creates, which envelop the reader.
The most notable thing that arises from the texts is the reflection of the poet’s complex identity – Palestinian, Arab and universal. Under the first rubric, he fulfills the role of the narrator who sets forth the pain, the agony and the life-story of the victim. Under the second, he is full of anger at his people and their collective heritage, as well as the rules of the language and its grammar. Under the third rubric, he appears in the character of a close friend who brings up world-embracing questions and thoughts.

From all these rubrics, he looks out at us will a great deal of feeling, gathering all the implication, seeing what is hidden and understanding what is hidden and making all this into images and indirect references as well as into direct and explicit statements.

It should be noted that he question of the essence of poetry occupies the poet, and this is evident in the texts. He talks about poetry, with all its echoes in the space of the world. Poetry, then, is not sentimental emotional state that occurs or doe not occur in the world, as we believed, but is rather a permanent state of mind, a way of life that the poet has chosen for himself. Language, which is the poet’s trade, is particularly present in this volume and it appears that there is a close relationship between the poet and his language, a relationship of love that allows him to use it in unfamiliar ways and he moves freely between the present of the language and its distant past, between the new and the old. The poet here is proof that that the relationship of love between a poet and his language is a necessary condition for the engendering of poetry. The poet as reflected in his texts lives many transformations that indicate cultural richness, as this is the space that allows for the journey and the poetic situation. There is no poetry outside the cultural space and education is a condition for the existence of this space.

Salman Maslaha’s “Sea Feathers” is proof that poetry is still alive in our country, despite all those who have pretensions of belonging to this world of poetry.

Published in: Fasl al-Maqal, Nazareth, July 16, 1999

The Power to Free Birds

Ronny Someck

The Power to Free Birds

On: "In Place", Am Oved, 2004.

"In Place," Salman Masalha's book of poems, is written at the juncture where my Arabic language kisses my Hebrew language. "I am an Arab poet," and the next poem in the collection begins "I write in the Hebrew language, / Which is not my mother tongue …"

In any case, Salman Masalha's language of poetry is very precise in its ability to lay the paving stones on which he will dance his tango. "An Arab," he writes in one of the poems, "walks beside the wall. He carries / cans of preserves on his back / through Jerusalem's streets. // A Jew / walks past, /grips, in both hands, a Siamese cat / and wails." The distance between "cans of preserves" and "Siamese cat" shrinks considerably in Salman Masalha's poems. He succeeds in leaving in all the question marks and adding the colors that are in the twilight zone between black and white. Sometimes the statement is direct and sometimes it paves a very private path for itself, as for example in the poem "Cage:"

"On the palm of her hand the others drew / the lines of a cage, where they imprisoned / her life story. / And, son of Arabia that I am, / I hate an imprisoned bird. / Each time she / gave me her hand, I erased a line. // And released birds." In this wonderful poem, the esprit de corps (And, son of Arabia that I am") works overtime. It can also be read as an ars poetica poem and learn from the imprisoned birds about the imprisoned words the moment before they are released to become a poem. But above all this is a love poem. Usually love is perceived as a mutual agreement to enter a metaphorical cage together (see, for example, "Georges Moustaki's "Ma liberté"). In "Cage" the love is strengthened by the man erasing the remnants of the previous cages in which the "biography" of the beloved have been imprisoned.

Another wind that blows between the lines is the wind of humor. In "The Poem About Maya," he describes "the line that stretched through air / between her lips and my ear." This is the line between the enchanting naïveté of the young girl "who asked me to write a poem / about her" and the seriousness of the poet who has allowed the sorrow of the world to rest on his shoulder. Further on, once he is persuaded, he will say "That's the position / when a poet gets caught / with paper / in times of transition."

"Times of transition," which tickles the funny bone in "The Poem About Maya" is, in my opinion, in a different context the black box of the poems in this book. Masalha does not cease his examination of the transitions between village and city and between language and language. "On what will love spin in the lazy summer haze?" he asks in his poem "Dream," and answers: "On a poem and a flame and holes inside the shade.' This sharp transition between "flame" and "the shade" is the poetic muscle of his poetry. The ability to stand at the border station and paint with great power with the same pen. And what about the color of the ink? He has called one of his poems "Black, But Green."

Published in: Itton 77, No. 291, June 2004

On the Wings of Freedom

Sabah Zwein

On the Wings of Freedom

On "Khana Farigha" (Blank Space)

Salman Masalha’s language is characterized by the pushing of the self far from the banal. The language presents itself to the reader, sure of itself, quiet and different. The difference is in the constant orientation that the poet adopts in the work of constructing the poetic expression, which seems ostensibly familiar but in truth is truly striking.

In Masalha’s poetry we feel as though it were a storm wind that is blowing without taking into account what it will leave behind. Salman Masalha’s language is a fortress that he places in face of the tribulations raging all around. He does not describe, but rather states the details of life from within a profound perception in which there are intense emotions mixed with the idea of death, the hidden and the unknown. He does not address the everyday, even if in a quick reading we might think that he adopts this sort of discourse. He goes forth from within a personal and surprising articulation and takes off in order to glide alone in the skies of poetry, equipped with the wings of freedom. He does not belong to any flock and he sounds only his own song. He seeks truth and pursues new fields and when he returns to the forest he finds only an old nest, and even the tree in the forest no longer recognizes him. The love of the journey to the unknown causes death to grow in his wings, cause the search for a woman.

The poet mourns the loss of place and the loss of meaning. When he notices the “dry branch,” he seems to come to the realization of the difficult and bitter reality, as it has not remained the same land and the same place, with the precious memories. This is the reality of death in the homeland, or life in the unknown homeland.

Nostalgia leads the poet to distant realms, to realms that belong to the distant past, to distant memories and a distant heritage. The waves bear him and throw him onto shores of primal sands, and at the same time place him in the erupting nature that never rests for a moment nor reveals his identity to him. “Hidden, like Bedouin love, the winds of madness blew over me, letting me lean on the trunks of palm trees, eternally tied, I would return to the empty desert like one whose entire search is in vain, apart from the faded splendor.”

If the writing of poetry cannot be devoid of nostalgia, and every poet expresses this in his own way, then Masalha serves it up with a light hand. He writes his nostalgia in a realistic way by means of presenting the idea in clear words and sentences and with great economy. He does not go on at length, and he keeps away from whining. He relies on his roots, dreams about them and it appears that he is burning with longing for those roots.

At the same time, Maslha lives the present. Ostensibly, he seems not to care. Is this really the case? Even though it appears that he is free of this flood, often stream of feeling flow from him that suffice to set the landscapes around him on fire. At the same time, he takes care to control his language so that it will not deviate from the fortress he has built for himself, so that the language will continue to reside within the wall of beauty that is carved in a sensitive way. “As I lie on my back with nothing beneath me to protect me from my sorrow, I cannot see above me anything but the night I have brought down, shards of ancient countries at my feet. If I come to build the house of our love in you, keep the house and be.”

Published in: An-Nahar, Beirut,June 26, 2002

تحليق بجناحي الحزن

صباح زوين ||

تحليق بجناحي الحزن

لغة سلمان مصالحة اقصاء للذات عن الذات وعن المتداول. تقدم نفسها إلى القارئ واثقة، هادئة، مختلفة وأعني بالاختلاف الاتجاه الثابت الذي يتبناه الشاعر في بناء تعبيره الذي يبدو أليفًا للوهلة الأولى، لكنه في الواقع صدامي وقاس. يشعرنا بقوة لغوية، كأنها ريح تهبّ عنيفة، غير مكترثة بالأثر الذي تخلّفه وراءها.

لغة سلمان مصالحة حصن يرفعه الشاعر في وجه ما يصدمه. لا يصف بل يقول أشياء الحياة من خلال نظرة عميقة تخالجها أحاسيس مكثفة ممزوجة بفكرة الموت والمجهول. لا يلجأ إلى الكلام على اليومي، وإن بدا في قراءة سريعة أنّه يتبنّى هذا النوع. ينطلق من صيغة فردية وفجائية، طائرًا منفردًا يحلّق في سماء القصيدة بجناحين طليقين. لا ينتمي الى سرب ولا يغرّد الا بصوته. يبحث قلقًا عن الحق "(...)بحثًا عن حقول اكتساح جديدة، عاد الى الغابة الوارفة، فلم يجد على الفرع اليابس عشًّا قديمًا، ولم تعرفه الشجرة (...) عشق السفر الى المجهول، أنبتَ الريش في جناحيه، الموت، والبحث عن صديقة".

يتألم الشاعر من غياب المكان والمعاني. كأنه يتنبه من خلال "الفرع اليابس" الى الواقع ومرارته، حيث لم تبق الأرض الأولى ثمينة الذكريات. إنّه "الموت في الوطن"، بل العيش في وطن المجهول، في أرض الغياب. الحنين يقتاد الشاعر أبعد من جغرافيته المادية، نحو مدارات تنتمي الى ماضٍ وإرث وذكريات. يرميه موج الزمن على شاطئ يعيده الى رمل البداية والبداوة، ويضعه في الوقت عينه في أحضان طبيعة لا تستقر في ذاته اذ لا تفصح له عن هويتها ولا عن حقيقة مداها: "خلسة، وكما عشق البداوة، كانت تهبّ عليّ رياح الجنون، تهبني من لدنها فرصة الاتّكاء على أصول النخل. وبخفّي حنين المطوّق طوق الحمام، كنت أعود الى رُبعي الخالي، إلاّ من الأمجاد البوالي".

إذا كانت الكتابة الشعرية لا تخلو من الحنين، فكل شاعر يعبّر عنه بلغته الخاصة، ويأتيه مصالحة متخففًا من أثقال الجوف وكثافته المضنية. يقول حنينه في "واقعية" ركيزتها نثر الفكرة في كلام واضح ومقتضب. لا يسترسل وينأى عن الحزن والكآبة. يتكئ على جذوره، يحلم بها، ولعلّه يحترق بشوق رؤيتها.

لكنّ مصالحة يرى نفسه كذلك ابن زمنه ومشاعر عصره فيبدو على غير اكتراث هل هو حقاً غير مكترث؟ إن بدا احيانًا متحرّرًا من الفيض الداخلي، فإنه يتدفق أحيانًا أخرى بشلال من الانفعالات الكافية لإشعال الصور. ورغم ذلك، لا يغفل عن مراقبة لغته كي لا تتعدّى الحصن المكين الذي بناه، وكي تبقى اللغة ضمن السور الجمالي المصقول صقلاً رهيفاً: "حين أستلقي على الظهر بلا قاعٍ يَقيني من شجوني، لا أرى فوقي سوى الليل الّذي أسدلته وشظايا من بلاد البدء دوني. إنْ أنا جئت لأبني فيك بيتًا من هوانا، فاحفظي البيت وكوني".

(*) "خانة فارغة" لسلمان مصالحة ، صدر في منشورات "زمان"، القدس، .2002

نشرت: "النهار" أدب فكر وفن / الاربعاء 26 حزيران 2002