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Hong Kong Lights Candles for Darwish
Nadwah - Hong Kong - 28 August 2008
In its monthly literary salon, Arabic Nadwah organized a poetry reading of Mahmoud Darwish's poetry in Arabic, Chinese, and English on 28 August.
The event, which lasted for two hours, started at 8pm with a word by poet Sayed Gouda who spoke of Darwish and his importance not only in the Arabic region but in the world too, and how he devoted his life to poetry, and in return, poetry opened its gates for him. 'Darwish was the only poet in the world now who could cause a traffic jam when he visited a country. Darwish was probably the only poet in the world whose name could fill a stadium if his reading was to be held in a stadium because he had a special charisma not seen in other poets in our time,' added Gouda who also spoke of three specialties that distinguished Darwish's poetry. Firstly, Darwish could satisfy the three types of a reader: the professional critique, the cultured reader, and the simple reader and it is almost impossible to satisfy all of them. Secondly, his humbleness in regarding himself to the extent that he was not considering himself a great poet, nor had he considered himself deserving Nobel prize not only because of some political reasons but also for literary reasons. This affirms how great Darwish was! If not for literature being mingled with politics, by all means Darwish would have won Nobel prize. Thirdly, his prophecy as Darwish was a seer-poet who wrote about his death as though he had seen it approaching him on a certain day at a certain hour when he wrote in his book 'The Butterfly Burden': 'I thought I died on Saturday'. He died on Saturday 9 August! 'Darwish was one of those poets whom the world doesn't have except every few decades,' concluded Gouda.
Before starting the reading the attendants lit up candles for Darwish's soul. The reading started with Gouda reading excerpts of 'The Dice Player' in Arabic followed by translations in English and Chinese. Other poems, namely 'To My Mother', 'Like a Small Coffee Shop is Love', 'I'm Joseph, Father!' were read in the three languages by poets and writers from different nationalities such as Madeleine Marie Slavick (USA), Michael Holland (Australia), Michael Burke (UK), Jamila Ismail (Canada), Judy Keung (HK), Polly Ho (HK), Katherine (HK). Discussions followed the reading of each poem to further deepen the appreciation of Darwish's poetry. The readings were accompanied by music performance by Eugene, an artist from Hong Kong, using dutar and tanbur - two local musical instruments from Uzbekistan. Eugene's music contributed to the spiritual atmosphere enjoyed by all. Photos of the Middle East taken by poet and photographer Madeleine Marie Slavick were displayed to match the theme of the night.
At the end of the event, the attendants gathered to take some group photos with Darwish's photo in the background surrounded by candles that shed their tears for his departure.
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