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