I believe poetry is the voice of the soul, transcending racial, religious and political differences and bringing many together in harmony.
So with many Syrians who are experiencing Syria’s very troubled times and who are coming to live in our peaceful, multicultural Australia – let’s welcome them all to our harmonious country which I am sure they will enrich in so many ways including with their poetry, as our soul mates here Down Under.
I have been studying Syrian poetry for years and included many poems by Syrian poets in my anthology of Arabic poetry ‘Feathers and the Horizon’, Published by The Leros Press in 1989.
Professor A D Hope AO, OBE, wrote in his Foreword to this Anthology: ‘This anthology will help break down those barriers which so sadly divide us today’.
Today there is poetry coming out of Syria that we could have never even dreamed of just a few years ago. Rather than relying on metaphors and allegorical images, these new poems rely on literal, visceral descriptions, with a newfound emphasis on a united Syrian identity instead of religious symbols.
For instance, a poem by Najat Abdul Samad, titled “When I Overcome My Weakness”:
I bandage my heart with the determination of that boy they hit with an electric stick on his only kidney until he urinated blood.
Yet he returned and walked in the next demonstration…I bandage it with the outcry: ‘Death and not humiliation.
Another poem by Youssef Bou Yihea titled “I am a Syrian” declares:
“My sect is the scent of my homeland, the soil after the rain, and my Syria is my only religion.”
“A lot of poetry and beautiful lyrics are rising up from the ashes in present day Syria,” says expatriate Syrian writer Ghias al-Jundi, who is responsible for PEN International’s research on attacks against free expression in the Middle East writes:
“There is a cultural side to the revolution, and it’s brilliant,” he wrote.
It’s not just the content that is new. Syrian poetry is also being spread through different channels. Instead of being introduced at formal gatherings or readings, Syrian poets often debut their work at public demonstrations, or on social networking sites.
Ottoman Syria was turned into the short-lived Arab Kingdom of Syria in 1920, which was however soon committed under French Mandate. From 1938 known as a Republic, Syria gained independence in 1946, entering the Arab-Israeli War in 1948, and remaining in a state of political instability during the 1950s and 1960s.
In a coup of 1970, Hafez al-Assad and his Ba’ath Party took power. Syria was ruled autocratically by Assad during 1970–2000, and after Hafez al-Assad’s death in 2000, he was succeeded by his son Bashar al-Assad
In the context of the Arab Spring of 2011, Bashar al-Assad’s government faces the ongoing Syrian civil war which hopefully will end with the new agreement just made between Syria and Russia and the USA.