Review by Theresa Wolfwood. Director of the Barnard-Boecker Center Foundation, Victoria, BC, Canada.
“We have to be precise. Creative writing is a critical process”
Except for his memoir, most of this poet´s works are not published in English. This is a first – a gift to English–only readers – a major collection of Barghouti´s poetry (it also prints the Arabic original on the opposite pages.)
Midnight, 142 pages long, is a story in a poem of a prisoner, the story of loss, displacement and loneliness. The poem of one who seems to have only poetry left. What makes it poetry is the leanness of language, the precision that rejects generality, the clarity of a single image or thought that defies vagueness and sentimentality.
His life is one of waiting – what else can a prisoner do, as he remembers a time of family and freedom, as images race through his mind: goats, gazelles and Geraniums shamelessly parade their wantonness/on balconies.
Even the memory of a single button creates dozens of images of where a button may have been – on bride´s nightgown, a blue quilt or lost when a boy climbs a fig tree. One can see much in a dark cell – even his grandfather´s cloaked hooked on a home destroying bulldozer.
He speaks to those who have no ears to hear – the victor who cannot dance for joy and he asks: what´s the point of the flag you have dreamt of raising/if it fails to raise you?
There is always hope when all else is lost for the prisoner: I will try to discover life here/on this earth
At midnight the year ends and the poem ends with a directive: On the same nail,/from the same wall,/hang the new calendar;/ that´s all you can do.
Can we do less?
I hold this book in my hand, my bookmark of Za´atar herb, a scented memory of fields in Palestine, opens to In The Neighbouring Room, a reminder of the fragility of Palestinian & of all life: next to/the great room we call our country/death/ stays up, active/ for our sake.
So many achingly beautifully poems, lines words writ with skill and devotion of a creative master.
He ends the book with Silence; razor – like, painful precision in five lines:Silence said:/truth needs no eloquence./After the death of the horseman,/ the homeward-bound horse/says everything/ without saying anything.