notes_29 MRD مريد (‘Return, repeat. Return.’)


Note the roundedness
the purse of birthing lips
warmth, assurance, sanctuary
-including the maternal-
the promise of a kiss

And the radical softness of
what follows, condensing a
common english error, but
there is no murgh. Just the
controlled bite of ‘read’

becoming a fixed grin; a cele-
bration of ‘going back’ and
‘repetition’. Finally, a softly
doubled ‘dead’; punctuated by
tongue. Return, repeat. Return

It’s in your familiar voice
definitively, an outlawed vessel
of soft depth, resounding truths
and human warmth in all the
details; pre-zeiss you said

Song-sung voice of the earth
winded palms embracing rain
the worn rumbling of witness
ignored, over-flown, bombed
with dumb assertions of self

Soil remains as subliminal under-
tow, the non-marching of time
Somehow life is conducted and
embodied; too little, too much
Words of pumping incredulity


note_28 MRD 1944-2021

Mourid Barghouti (مريد البرغوثي) died in Amman on Sunday 14th February, and is survived by his and Radwa Ashour’s son Tamim, to whom I offer my love and heartfelt condolences.

Mourid made this series of humble recordings between June and September 2020, reading a range of his poems in their own language. I was struck by each of them as they appeared, appreciating them for what they are, recognising many but more than that recognising the remarkable man, poet and memoirist in the voice and many gestures that were so very Mourid.

I am not offering any analysis! I am as numb in the wake of this as a dumb black heart emoji. But these are comforting me, and they may comfort you too. It did occur to me that making these gifts in this way might express or signal a consciousness of mortality. Perhaps COVID (in general) was* enough for such an appreciation to develop, as I concluded. In any case, Mourid’s ‘gifts’; the calm, generous, dignity that was so characteristic of someone who became a dear friend and elder over the last fifteen or sixteen years, ‘fooled’ me (somewhere between waving and drowning myself in those months). They came to an end just before he received a terminal diagnosis of lung cancer in November 2020.

Revisit and appreciate that dignity, the precision and warmth of these indelible words and images in the inimitable voice of their maker. Enjoy their ongoingness…

For now.

I am sorry that I don’t know how to extract or export these to make for a more friendly encounter, but then again they are not mine!

mourid barghouti, i was born there, i was born here

ولدت هناك، ولدت هنا   مريد البرغوثي

This is the front cover of my very own copy of Mourid Barghouti’s latest book I was Born There, I was Born Here, published by Riad El-Rayyes Books in May 2009. In Nablus you can pick up a cheaper pirate copy, but this one is the original with an embossed cover from Dar al Shourouk in Ramallah again.

I excuse my own excitement because I remember when Mourid first mentioned that he was writing this and have been waiting impatiently for its account of the period post 1996 when he was first able to return home -as recounted in the classic I Saw Ramallah- all the way up to and beyond the 2006 elections.

At this stage my Arabic makes reading this very slow work indeed, so I’m glad that Humphrey Davies has been appointed translator of the book and that the American University of Cairo Press [AUC] are scheduling the English translation for November 2011. I know that Bloomsbury were anticipating publishing the book in the UK and will update on both fronts when I receive confirmations. [Yes! Fall 2011 is the scheduled publication date for both.]

Meanwhile, there’s an intriguing 2000-word blog on the book, a first English language review including quite extensive translated passages, here, which I recommend to you.

Finally, given the familial dimension of this book -Mourid visits the alleys and suqs of al Qds/Jerusalem as well as the village of his young life Deir Ghassanah with son and poet Tamim- I can’t resist sharing my pleasure at seeing that novelist, academic, wife and mother Radwa Ashour has a newly translated novel, Spectres [Atyaf], forthcoming from Arabia Books [UK], who have a page here. I hope this will mark the beginning of good translations of all her works into English. In any case the arrival of this one is a major event.

Riad El-Rayyes Books [Arabic] website is here.

AUC Press is here.

Arabia Books here.

Nur Elmessiri article on Radwa’s Atyaf/Spectres in Al Ahram [1999] here.

My earlier post on Mourid’s Midnight and Other Poems, which Radwa translated -and for which I wrote the Introduction– is here.

‘Mourid and Tamim Barghouti with Ahdaf Soueif’ event at the Southbank Centre London, Saturday November 6th is here.