Silencing the Sea: Secular Rhythms in Palestinian Poetry

Silencing the Sea: Secular Rhythms in Palestinian Poetry

Silencing the Sea: Secular Rhythms in Palestinian Poetry

Silencing the Sea: Secular Rhythms in Palestinian Poetry

Synopsis

Silencing the Sea follows Palestinian poets' debates about their craft as they traverse multiple and competing realities of secularism and religion, expulsion and occupation, art, politics, immortality, death, fame, and obscurity. Khaled Furani takes his reader down ancient roads and across military checkpoints to join the poets' worlds and engage with the rhythms of their lifelong journeys in Islamic and Arabic history, language, and verse. This excursion offers newfound understandings of how today's secular age goes far beyond doctrine, to inhabit our very senses, imbuing all that we see, hear, feel, and say.

Poetry, the traditional repository of Arab history, has become the preeminent medium of Palestinian memory in exile. In probing poets' writings, this work investigates how struggles over poetic form can host larger struggles over authority, knowledge, language, and freedom. It reveals a very intimate and venerated world, entwining art, intellect, and politics, narrating previously untold stories of a highly stereotyped people.

Excerpt

“I GIVE MY STEPS their form and tell the sea to follow me,” wrote the Syrianborn poet known as Adonis. Through these words, he sought four decades ago, as he still does today, to stir the still waters of poetic and political life throughout the Arab world. His words belong to a wave of remarkable endeavors by Arab poets to secure moorings for their tradition in the modern world. In culling the word “sea” (baḥr), Adonis indicates his own powerful location at the crest of that wave, whose tidemarks have reached many shores of Arabic poetry, including Palestinian, the focus of this book. Beyond naming a natural formation, in Arabic “the sea” also refers to poetic meter. Unlike his predecessors who composed Arabic poetry in traditional meters passed down over generations and centuries, Adonis creates his own poetic form and tells meter to follow him.

In the quest to modernize poetic forms, whereby Palestinian poets, and Arab poets generally, have radically transformed the sound structures of their poems, poets have adopted free verse and prose poems, forms in which poets, not “the sea,” stand sovereign over rhythms. This substitution of sovereignties has emerged from a protean process in which modernizing poets have essentially rejected poetic meter and refused to measure sound in their compositions. Over the past seven decades, their rhythms have become ever more irregular and their poems ever more silent, more likely to be read quietly and privately than recited publicly, beckoning the eyes more than the ears. As an ethnography of “literary” transformation, this book investigates forms of . . .

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