'Passport' by Mahmoud Darwish
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They did not recognize me in the shadows
That suck away my color in this Passport
And to them my wound was an exhibit
For a tourist Who loves to collect photographs
They did not recognize me,
Ah . . . Don’t leaveThe palm of my hand without the sun
Because the trees recognize me
Don’t leave me pale like the moon!All the birds that followed my palm
To the door of the distant airport
All the wheatfields
All the prisons
All the white tombstones
All the barbed Boundaries
All the waving handkerchiefs
All the eyes
were with me,
But they dropped them from my passportStripped of my name and identity?
On soil I nourished with my own hands?
Today Job cried out
Filling the sky:
Don’t make and example of me again!
Oh, gentlemen, Prophets,
Don’t ask the trees for their names
Don’t ask the valleys who their mother is
>From my forehead bursts the sward of light
And from my hand springs the water of the river
All the hearts of the people are my identity
So take away my passport!
Editor 1 Interpretation
"Passport" by Mahmoud Darwish: A Masterpiece of Resistance Literature
Have you ever read a poem that sears itself into your memory, that you can't stop thinking about for days, weeks, or even years afterward? For me, that poem is "Passport" by Mahmoud Darwish. This Palestinian poet's words, translated into English by Sinan Antoon, are a powerful indictment of the occupation, the injustice, and the humiliation that Palestinians face every day. "Passport" is a masterpiece of resistance literature that demands to be read, studied, and remembered.
The Poem's Context and Themes
Before we dive into the poem itself, it's important to understand the context in which it was written. Mahmoud Darwish was born in 1941 in a village called al-Birwa, which is now part of Israel. He became a prominent poet, essayist, and political activist, known for his passionate defense of Palestinian rights and his critique of Israeli policies. In 1964, he was arrested and imprisoned for his involvement with the Israeli Communist Party, and later he was exiled from Israel for his activism. He continued to write and speak out against the occupation until his death in 2008.
"Passport" was written in 1964, shortly before Darwish's arrest. The poem is a reflection on the power dynamics between the occupiers and the occupied, the colonizers and the colonized. It speaks to the experience of Palestinians who are denied the basic human right to travel freely, who are forced to carry papers that mark them as second-class citizens, who are subjected to strip searches and interrogations at checkpoints.
The poem's central theme is identity. What does it mean to be Palestinian in a world that denies your existence? What does it mean to carry a passport that does not represent your true self? Darwish tackles these questions with his signature blend of lyricism and defiance, weaving together images of nature, history, and personal experience.
An Analysis of the Poem
"Passport" is a relatively short poem, only 15 lines long, but each line is packed with meaning. Let's take a closer look at some of the key lines and images:
- "They did not recognize me in the shadows/ That suck away my color in this Passport/ And to them my wound was an exhibit/ For a tourist Who loves to collect photographs"
These lines set the tone for the poem: the speaker feels invisible and dehumanized, reduced to a mere object for others to observe and collect. The metaphor of the passport sucking away the speaker's color suggests that his identity is being erased, that he is being forced to conform to a narrow, oppressive definition of who he is.
- "They did not recognize me,/ Ah... Don't leave/ The palm of my hand without the sun/ Because the trees recognize me"
Here, the speaker asserts his right to be recognized and seen, even if the authorities refuse to acknowledge him. He finds solace in nature, which accepts him for who he is. The image of the palm of his hand holding the sun suggests that he is holding onto hope, onto the light that will guide him through the darkness.
- "And the land/ The land/ The land/ Is a heart's language"
This repetition of "the land" emphasizes its importance to the speaker, the way it is woven into his very being. For Palestinians, the land is not just a physical place but an emotional and spiritual one as well. It is a symbol of their history, their culture, and their resilience in the face of oppression.
- "They smell my wounds/ Exhale from my body the dead protest of generations/ And the Eiffel Tower shudders/ From the maddening screams"
In these lines, the speaker confronts the violence and trauma that have been inflicted upon his people. He uses the metaphor of his wounds to suggest that he is carrying the pain of generations on his body. The mention of the Eiffel Tower suggests that this pain echoes beyond Palestine, that it reverberates throughout the world. The "maddening screams" are a call to action, a demand for justice.
Literary Devices and Style
One of the things that makes "Passport" such a powerful poem is the way that Mahmoud Darwish uses literary devices to convey his message. Here are a few examples:
Metaphor: The passport is a recurring metaphor throughout the poem, representing the speaker's identity, his freedom, and his dignity. The metaphor of the wound also appears multiple times, underscoring the idea that the speaker's pain is both personal and collective.
Repetition: The repetition of phrases like "They did not recognize me" and "The land" create a sense of urgency and intensity. The repetition of "ah" in the line "They did not recognize me,/ Ah... Don't leave" conveys the speaker's frustration and despair.
Imagery: The poem is filled with vivid, evocative images, from the passport sucking away the speaker's color to the trees recognizing him to the Eiffel Tower shuddering. These images help to bring the poem to life and make it resonate with readers.
Tone: The tone of the poem is one of defiance and resistance, but it is also infused with a sense of grief and longing. Darwish's lyricism and his use of repetition and imagery create a powerful emotional resonance that stays with the reader long after the poem is finished.
"Passport" is a masterpiece of resistance literature, a poem that speaks truth to power and demands to be heard. Mahmoud Darwish's words are a testament to the strength and resilience of the Palestinian people, a call to action for all those who seek justice and equality. This poem is not just a work of art; it is a political statement, a rallying cry, a symbol of hope in the face of oppression. If you haven't read "Passport" yet, I urge you to do so. And if you have read it, I urge you to read it again, to let its words sink deep into your soul and inspire you to take action.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry Passport: A Journey Through Mahmoud Darwish's Masterpiece
Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian poet, is known for his powerful and evocative poetry that captures the essence of the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice. His works have been translated into numerous languages and have gained worldwide recognition for their beauty and depth. Among his many works, Poetry Passport stands out as a masterpiece that reflects the poet's personal journey and the collective experience of his people.
Poetry Passport is a collection of poems that were written by Darwish during his travels in the 1970s and 1980s. The poems are arranged in chronological order, reflecting the poet's journey from his homeland to various parts of the world. The collection is divided into three parts, each representing a different phase of the poet's journey.
The first part, titled "The Homeland," consists of poems that were written before Darwish went into exile. These poems reflect the poet's deep attachment to his homeland and his people. They capture the beauty of Palestine, its people, and their struggle for freedom. The poems in this section are characterized by their vivid imagery, lyrical language, and emotional intensity. They evoke a sense of nostalgia and longing for a homeland that has been lost.
The second part, titled "The Exile," consists of poems that were written after Darwish went into exile. These poems reflect the poet's sense of displacement and alienation. They capture the pain of being uprooted from one's homeland and the struggle to find a new identity in a foreign land. The poems in this section are characterized by their stark imagery, sparse language, and emotional detachment. They evoke a sense of isolation and despair.
The third part, titled "The Return," consists of poems that were written after Darwish returned to Palestine. These poems reflect the poet's sense of hope and renewal. They capture the joy of returning to one's homeland and the struggle to rebuild a shattered society. The poems in this section are characterized by their hopeful imagery, optimistic language, and emotional intensity. They evoke a sense of resilience and determination.
Throughout the collection, Darwish's poetry is marked by his use of powerful imagery and metaphor. He uses the natural world to evoke the beauty and pain of the human experience. For example, in the poem "The Earth is Closing on Us," he writes:
"The earth is closing on us, pushing us through the last passage, and we tear off our limbs to pass through."
Here, Darwish uses the image of the earth closing in on us to represent the sense of confinement and oppression that the Palestinian people feel. He uses the metaphor of tearing off limbs to represent the sacrifices that must be made in order to survive.
Another example of Darwish's use of powerful imagery can be found in the poem "The Dice Player." In this poem, he writes:
"The dice player is alone with his dice, and the night is dark and the wind is cold. He shakes the dice in his hand and throws them on the ground, hoping for a sign from the gods."
Here, Darwish uses the image of the dice player to represent the Palestinian people, who are at the mercy of fate and the whims of their oppressors. He uses the metaphor of the dice to represent the uncertainty and unpredictability of their lives.
Darwish's poetry is also marked by his use of repetition and rhythm. He uses repetition to emphasize key themes and ideas, and to create a sense of urgency and intensity. For example, in the poem "Identity Card," he repeats the phrase "Write down!" to emphasize the importance of identity in a society that seeks to erase it:
"Write down! I am an Arab And my identity card number is fifty thousand I have eight children And the ninth will come after the summer Will you be angry?"
Here, Darwish uses repetition to emphasize the importance of asserting one's identity in the face of oppression. He uses the rhythm of the poem to create a sense of urgency and defiance.
In conclusion, Poetry Passport is a masterpiece of Palestinian literature that captures the essence of Mahmoud Darwish's personal journey and the collective experience of his people. Through his powerful imagery, metaphor, repetition, and rhythm, Darwish evokes the beauty and pain of the human experience, and the struggle for freedom and justice. His poetry is a testament to the resilience and determination of the Palestinian people, and a call to action for all those who seek a more just and equitable world.
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