Editor’s note: Amidst all the mischief, merriment and mirth, at Tweetspeak Poetry we’re in the business of becoming, and of helping people become who they really are. We pay attention, and sometimes we pick up on cues that tell us where a person might be dreaming to go. And sometimes when that happens, we issue a Poetry Dare. Recently, we challenged Sandra Heska King to a Follow Your Dream Dare. We’ll let Sandra tell you about it.
This dare’s a doozy in two parts: in addition to reading at least one poem a day from this collection, there’s an add-on challenge of actually writing one to three dream poems a week plus four traditional form poems—a sestina, a villanelle, a pantoum, and a rondeau. There’s not a sonnet in the crew, but I wonder if there’s extra credit for tackling one, like maybe a pot of jasmine perfume or a packet of pomegranate tea.
While I wait for my copy of The Butterfly’s Burden to arrive, I spend some time trying to learn a little about the poet.
Darwish was born in Galilee in 1942. When Israeli forces assaulted his village in 1948, he his family fled to Lebanon. They returned as “present-absentees, ” and lived more or less as second-class citizens. He ultimately spent much of his life in exile and died in Texas in 2008, after heart surgery.
He was only a year older than I am now.
Without the dare, I don’t think I would have pursued this poet from a far country and a different culture, someone who once aligned himself with the Israeli Communist Party and the PLO. I would be all the poorer.
In an interview, Darwish said he fell in love with poetry when he was a child. He didn’t understand it, but the sounds alone gave him a love for language. Because he was physically weak, he began to dream of becoming a poet and later realized the power of poetry. He was imprisoned for his words the first time when he was only 16.
Poet Naomi Shihab Nye called him “the Essential Breath of the Palestinian people, the eloquent witness of exile and belonging, exquisitely tuned singer of images that invoke, link and shine a brilliant light into the world’s whole heart . . . ”
I think I could fall in love.
When the book arrives, I page through the table of contents. The first section, “The Stranger’s Bed, ” is a book of love poetry and includes a poem titled “A Lesson from Kama Sutra.” I will myself not to blush and continue to thumb through the pages. The physical shape of the English translation of each poem matches the shape of the Arabic original, and this fascinates me. I notice repeated phrases like “Let’s go as we are” and “let’s be kind.” Several stanzas end with ellipses as if they don’t really have an ending, and some stanzas end without any punctuation at all.
Who will say to me now: Let go of yesterday and dream with all
of your subconscious?
My freedom sits beside me, with me, and on
my knees like a house cat. It stares at me and at
what you might have left of yesterday for me: your lilac
shawl, videotapes of dancing among wolves, and a jasmine
necklace around the algae of your heart …
—from “A Cloud from Sodom”
I have no idea what any of that means—yet. But I’m thinking of what I need to let go of in order to dream with all my subconscious.
Often I’m unsure if Darwish is writing about a person or a place, a man or a woman, himself or someone else, poetry or prose, or the longing for his homeland. His words seem layered and lush like a coconut dream cake.
Both of your silks are hot. But the flute should be patient
And polish a sonnet, when you two descend on me as a lovely mystery,
Like a meaning on the verge of nakedness, incapable of arrival
And of long waiting in front of speech, it chooses me as a threshold.
Of poetry, I love the spontaneity of prose and the hidden image
Without a moon for rhetoric: when you walk barefoot rhyme abandons
Copulating speech, and meter breaks in the climax of experience
A bit of night near you is enough for me to get out of my Babylon
And into my essence—my other. No garden for me within me
And all of you is you. And what overflows from you is “I” the free and kind.
—from “Sonnet III”
“’The Stranger’s Bed’, ” writes the translator in the preface, “is a journey of and through voice . . . There is dialogue between masculine and feminine, prose and poetry, self and its other . . . and the sonnets . . . develop the spine that gives the book its sway as man and woman, poetry and prose, commune with each other.” She goes on to say, “Darwish does not disengage the act of writing from its subject matter. Instead, he performs a twinning. The beloved is not exclusively a woman or a land, self or other, but also poem and prose.”
Don’t skip the translator’s preface to this collection because it’s beautiful in its own right and insightful, even luminous, as Glynn Young would not say.
This one sounds like a dream:
A pine tree in your right hand. A willow in your left. This
is summer: one of your hundred gazelles has surrendered to the dew
and slept on my shoulder, near one of your regions, and what
if the wolf notices, and a forest burns in the distance
—from Sonnet VI
I’ve pulled out Tania Runyan’s How to Read a Poem again. She reminds me I don’t have to analyze a poem but that I can experience it with all my senses. I can simply enter it and live with it and make it part of me. I think I’ll go with that.
And look behind you
to find the dream, go
to any east or west that exiles you more,
and keeps me one step farther from my bed
and from one of my sad skies. The end
is beginning’s sister, go and you’ll find what you left
here, waiting for you.
—from “I Waited for No One”
True to the call of this dare, I try my hand at poems, like this dream poem tinted in purple:
Or is it Chanel #5?
—Sandra Heska King
As the flute should be patient and polish a sonnet, I’ll be patient and polish this dare. But please, don’t make me dream alone. Join me in this challenge. Let’s go together, and let’s be kind.
Browse other Poetry Dare adventures
Read a Poem a Day
Could you use a little dreamy inspiration? Join Sandra in this Poetry Dare. Read a little Darwish each day and share your own dream poems in the comments.
Get your copy of The Butterfly’s Burden