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Hong Kong Remembers Darwish Unprecedentedly!

The Chinese Audience Crowds the Place in the Absence of the Arabs!


Nadwah - Hong Kong - 5 October 2008

by Sayed Gouda - Hong Kong



It was not an ordinary poetry reading the one organized by the renowned Chinese poet Beidao who met Darwish several times the last of which was in Berlin three years ago. It was an event fit for the name of Darwish, the greatest Arab poet, and fit for the name of Beidao, the greatest Chinese poet in our time. Though I live in HK for sixteen years, I don't recall a poetry reading in HK where every sitting and standing place was full!

The reading started at four o'clock in the afternoon with a speech by Beidao about Darwish. 'Octoerb 5th. 2008 is not an ordinary day,' said Beidao. 'There are more than a hundred cities around the world commemorating Darwish by reading his poetry in different languages. It might be the first time in history for such a thing to happen.' said Baidao who read a poem he wrote in 2002 after his visit to Ramallah and his meeting with Darwish. Beidao also talked about an article he wrote at that time which the then-Israeli government opposed.

    'I belong there' and parts of 'The dice players' were read by Madeleine Marie Slavick for the English translation, Zheng Danyi for the Chinese translation, and Sayed Gouda for the orignial Arabic. In his answer to how could he recite by heart all these lines of Darwish's poetry, Gouda replied, 'I could have read from a paper, but I wanted to show the audience that Darwish's words are in our hearts and we'll go on reading them even after his departure!




Readings followed by Chinese poets based in Hong Kong and by others who came from Maccau and the mainland China specially to attend the event. The English poet Martin Alexander also joined by reading the English translation 'To my mother'. A booklet of 35 pages of medium cut, was printed containing 22 of Darwish's poems translated into Chinese and 4 pomes translated into English.

    Wong Yankwaii played the guitar to the singing and reading of Priscilla Leung to elevate the audience by their performance. Chui Yung, the HK journalist, talked about her visit to Palestine in 2002, her meeting with Darwish several times, her memories and impression of Darwish. 'One day he asked me how to say "I love you" in Chinese,' said Chui Yung, 'When I asked him why he wanted to know. He seriously replied me: Because we lost love among us. It seems that love has no place in our language any longer. It's good to hear it in different languages maybe it can inspire us the love we miss in ou life.'



A professor at the Hong Kong Baptist University mentioned that the University has invited Darwish to visit HK two years ago but he couldn't accept the invitation for two reasons: Firstly, he didn't want to fly all this flight. Secondly, he thought that nobody knew him in HK. 'Today we see that Darwish was wrong and if he had visited HK he would have realized how much we knew and loved him,' said the Chinese professor.

    After the event while Gouda was talking to Chiu Yung and addressed her with her English name 'Susana', she asked him to use her Chinese name saying that Darwish expressed his surprise about her having a western name. After explaining to Darwish that HK as a British colony usually used western names together with the Chinese names. 'A person's name is his identity,' replied Darwish. You should not use a western name because it doesn't represent you. Use a Chinese name because it carries your identity!'

    Editors of Chinese literary magazines in China, Maccau, and Hong Kong expressed their admirations of Darwish's poetry and their interest in cooperate with Gouda to have some special edition about Darwish within November and December this year.

    The only shameful thing was the absence of the Arabs of HK. Not a single one attended! Never mind, Darwish! If they have attended, the honour would have been theirs not yours! Even if they have attended they would have no place for them as the Chinese audience occupied all the seats. Their absence was good for them and your presence was enough for us! Thanks to the Chinese audience who crowded the place. Thanks to the journalists who covered the event. Thanks to the TV people who recorded the event to be a documentary witnessing how the Chinese people loved Darwish. Thanks to the renowned poet Beidao and all the poets who participated and organized that unprecedented event for an unprecedented poet!





A translation of Beidao's speech

Translated from the Chinese by Sayed Gouda


Commemorating Darwish

by Beidao


Today, 5 October 2008, is not an ordinary day. More than a hundred cities in five continents around the world host poetry readings in different languages commemorating a poet who has left us. It is probably the first time in human history.  Therefore, Hong Kong and Taipei have joined this universal poetry reading to represent the Chinese people.

    The sad thing is that we live in a world ruled by authority and money. Those who have no money or authority have to be either this world's slave or its enemy. We commemorate Darwish, commemorate a poet who does not have only authority or power, but also does not have a country. Yet, that poet could say 'NO' to that world!

    We never stop asking: Why poetry? Today, at this moment when all the poets of the world remember Darwish in different languages, we may renew our understanding of the poetry's glory and sorrow. Poetry is the authority of those who have no authority, the wealth of those who have no property, the home of those who have no home!

    It is poetry that gathers all of us here, going beyond race, nationality, conscious, and culture. Maybe it is as Darwish said in his poetry, 'I belong there'. This 'there' is a common place of which humanity dreams, it represents intuitive knowledge, courage, and the power of creation. It is because of this 'there', there is this moment, this identity, and the possibility of transcending our realistic existence.


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