To Love a Palestinian Woman: Poems by Ehab LotayefTo Love a Palestinian Woman: Poems by Ehab Lotayef

To Love a Palestinian Woman: Poems

byEhab Lotayef

Paperback | April 1, 2010

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Inspired by the rich poetic tradition of the author's native Arab culture,To Love a Palestinian Womanincludes works written over eight years. Richly evocative and often passionate, these poems can be described as personal and romantic, as well as public and political. While the condition in Palestine is a dominant theme, so is love. Conciliatory in tone, or passionately confrontational, these poems stem from a deep humanity and cannot fail to engage the reader.

"His poetry reflects a genuine universal concern for the human condition: a welcome combination of a poetic talent with a strong commitment to justice." - Yakov Rabkin, University of Montreal

"Listening to Ehab Lotayef read his poems ... I begin to believe again that poetry matters. I am reminded of Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Allen Ginsberg and other poets ... who challenged the beliefs of their times, who were not afraid to enter the political fray and who went on to become the conscience of a generation." - Angela Leuck, author ofFlower Heart

Ehab Lotayefwas born in Cairo and lived in Iraq and the UK before moving to Montreal in 1989. He writes in English, classical Arabic and colloquial Egyptian Arabic. His work has appeared in various publications and he has participated in many poetry readings and events. He is also a photographer, songwriter, playwright and social activ...
Title:To Love a Palestinian Woman: PoemsFormat:PaperbackDimensions:80 pages, 8.8 × 5.76 × 0.28 inPublished:April 1, 2010Publisher:Mawenzi House Publishers Ltd.Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1894770552

ISBN - 13:9781894770552

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Table of Contents

Introduction Poems in English Contradiction Exodus Trapped Red Alone in My Tower Strangers Today I Shall Write The Journey Brand New World Stolen Childhood Nocturnal Pursuit Damnation Song The Abyss To Love a Palestinian Woman Rachel Kill the Suicide Bomber Streets The Easterner's Song The Wall Fathers Death of a Delivery Boy Dialogue Amerika Love Shaheedim Basra Ocean of Wisdom The Island The Trap Uranium Push Hard The Headscarfed-Witch Hunt Travel Plans vii 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16 19 20 23 24 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 35 36 37 38 40 41 42 43 PalestinianWoman5:Poetry.qxd 3/25/2010 11:20 AM Page v

Editorial Reviews

Ehab's poems despite their rich influence of Arab poetic culture are not restricted by geo-cultural boundaries - they transcend across cultures and geo-political divide. His poems full of hope and humanity explain the contentious truth of life with sensitivity and finesse. Rahul Varma, Playwright and Artistic Director of Teesri Dunyia Theatre Company His poetry reflects a genuine universal concern for the human condition: a welcome combination of a poetic talent with a strong commitment to justice. Yakov Rabkin, Ph.D. Professor of History, University of Montreal Simplicity of language. Dialogue for peace. Ehab Lotayef's poems speak in a unique voice. I am moved by their humanity. Powerful, stark and compassionate. Ilona Martonfi Producer, Yellow Door poetry and prose readings Lotayef's poetry is like Nietzsche's hammer: smashing. Denis Kosseim Professor of philosophy, Collège André-Laurendeau, Montreal Ehab's poetry voices an appeal to reason and humanity in terms that are impossible to ignore once you've read him. Few dare as he does, to write as unrelentingly about the issues which face us as Canadians, as citizens of the troubled world. Sandra Stephenson Administrator: poetsagainstwar.ca. Editor: "Poots Tawking" (Laurel Reed Books, 2007) I have first heard Lotayef's work at a Noches de poesia event for the first time and I consider him to be one the most wonderful discoveries I have made in the world of local poetry. There's an element of compassion, hope and openness to others in his writing that we need more of in the world we live in. Marie France Bancel Poet Listening to Ehab Lotayef read his poems about the situation in the Middle East or what is happening on an Indian Reserve in Canada, I begin to believe again that poetry matters. I am reminded of Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Allen Ginsberg and other poets throughout history who challenged the beliefs of their times, who were not afraid to enter the political fray and who went on to become the conscience of a generation. More than any poet I know, Ehab Lotayef has the sheer talent and courage to walk in their footsteps. Angela Leuck Author of "Flower Heart" To Love a Palestinian Woman - ReviewsThe Canadian Charger - August 25 2010What would it mean to love any Palestinian - man, woman, or child - within a context where the dominant discourse, and the whole current of state action, seem hostile to the notion of recognizing Palestinians' possession of even the most basic human rights? The politicians of Canada's ruling parties may express a pious commitment to international human rights law, but their actions show how feebly selective, in fact, this commitment is.? In 1987, Canada was the only country at the Québec Francophonie Summit to oppose a resolution calling for Palestinian self-determination. ? In 1997, Canada signed a free trade agreement with Israel that accepts Israel's economic boundaries as incorporating the illegally occupied Palestinian territories, thereby giving preferential treatment to goods not just from Israel, but also from Israel's expanding network of illegal settlements. ? In 2006, Canada was the first country to join Israel's illegal blockade of the Palestinians of Gaza - in punishment for having chosen, in a democratic election, a government of whom Israel and the West disapprove. ? In January 2008, by which time the blockade's devastating impact on public health in Gaza was evident, Canada was the only member of the UN Human Rights Committee to oppose a resolution calling for immediate action to end the blockade. ? A year later, during Israel's military assault on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009, which involved large-scale war crimes and crimes against humanity, Canada was the only member of the UN Human Rights Committee that voted in support of Israel's actions. ? In 2010, the Canadian government refused to condemn Israel's murderous attack, in international waters, on the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish flagship of a flotilla that was seeking to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza. As the philosopher Giorgio Agamben reminds us, the ancient Romans had a term, homo sacer, to describe a person who is deliberately excluded from all of the protections of the law and can therefore be harmed with impunity.Canada's unprincipled support of Israeli and American policies has contributed to making the Palestinians, as a nation, homines sacri: people to whom the system of international law that we pretend to uphold as universal in its reach does not even begin to apply. The principles of justice and collective security enshrined in international law ought to protect the people of the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967 from ongoing theft of their land and ongoing military aggressions, from routine violations of their civil rights, and from collective punishments - including intentional deprivation of adequate food, clean water, housing, medical supplies, and waste disposal facilities, and a systematic denial of economic and educational opportunities. But these principles of justice seem to be in abeyance in Canada's relations to the Palestinians. Our leaders' message to them is that of Franz Kafka's jurists in his novel The Trial: "There is justice, plenty of justice - only not for you." * * *What could it mean, in this context, to love a Palestinian? Ehab Lotayef's poems may help us to understand. Lotayef writes across languages (the last half-dozen poems in this collection are in Arabic, with facing-page English translations), across cultural and literary traditions, and across the agonies that divide them. His Arabic poems are written in two distinct registers: in some of them a colloquial voice sings from the page, while others, written in a more formal register, attach themselves to a classical tradition that goes back more than a millennium. The English poems likewise range from song lyrics that invite musical accompaniment to solemn, often mordant, free-verse meditations. Some of these poems explicitly respond to deep voices of the present and the recent past - the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, the Arabic and Hebrew poets Nizar Quabbani and Aharon Shabatai, as well as Arik Asherman of Rabbis for Human Rights and the murdered peace activist Rachel Corrie. Elsewhere the reader may hear echoes of other poets whose work is at once lyrical and public: Harold Pinter, Bertolt Brecht, and perhaps also the antiwar poet Denise Levertov. As these names together might suggest, Lotayef is refreshingly serious about the ethical, social and civic responsibilities of poetry. In an introductory note he alludes to the passage in Sura 26 of the Qur'an which speaks of poets "who say what they do not do." His own practice, as poet and activist, has been "to be present in the streets, the slums, the danger zones" where the pain and suffering on which his poetry reflects is inflicted, endured, and resisted. This presence in the midst of suffering is evident in the compassion and the measured ironies of Lotayef's lyric voice. Commenting on the fall of Kabul in November 2001, he offered congratulations... on swapping Abdul for AbdilOpium will be flowing stilland all the amputees,survivors of a war that can never be wonwill continue to live in hell [...]. In response to the terror bombings in London in July 2005, he drew what should have been (but never was in the mainstream media) the obvious comparison: No conference postponedNo podiumNo camerasNo one says "barbarians" when it happens in BasraOn a hot summer dayin the middle of winteron pleasant spring eveningsor windy fall nightseach day of the year it happens in BasraDowntown, in the suburbsin classrooms, in homesin slums and in villason factory floorsNo one ever counted the bodies in Basra. (The comparison becomes harsher still if one remembers that shortly after this poem was written, British SAS soldiers in civilian disguise were caught by Iraqi police in the act of preparing a bombing attack near a marketplace in Basra.)[1]Another poem addresses the Dalai Lama, who was in Israel in 2006 to celebrate the centenary of Ben Gurion's immigration to Palestine:Beloved of Hollywood, Ocean of Wisdom:can a liberated celebritybring freedom to a people?[....]They'll hide the sun under your crimson robedrown the truth in your words of hopeLeave my aching land aloneto LhasaI support your right of return.Lotayef demands that the truth be spoken. In a poem commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the Nakba, or Catastrophe - the ethnic cleansing of 700,000 to 900,000 Palestinians from their homeland in 1948 - he writes, "They stole your Qur'an and your Bible / Burned your orange groves and olive trees" (a reminder, if one be needed, that many Palestinians are not Muslims but Christians). Yet while he spurs us to remember, Lotayef writes with equal insistence (as in the title poem of this collection) on the need for a love that is conjoined with solidarity, and with pity:When you love a Palestinian womanyour heart is tunedto the beat of a heartthat won't forgetYou travel far;you walk the narrow streets of Jerusalem,in the footsteps of Jesus,carrying his cross, cleaning his wounds, wiping his tears [...]. And in the poem "Abyss," written on the first anniversary of 9/11, he denounces hatred as being not liberating, but a deeper form of entrapment: Gates that can't be openeda wall within a wallhostages of hatredhave no hope at all [...].One of the ways in which Lotayef configures hope in this book is through the ten fine photographs, which he took for the most part in Gaza, the West Bank, Baghdad, and Cairo, and with which his poems are recurrently in dialogue. These include sensitive portraits: two haunting images of women with their young children in Gaza and in Baghdad, an elderly man in Dehaisha refugee camp in the West Bank holding out the keys to his lost home in Israel, and a more formal portrait of Adil Charkaoui, imprisoned for years, without public charges or a trial, on a Canadian "security certificate."[2]Other photographs are of landscapes, for the most part damaged or desolate: a street in Hebron, an avenue of tents on barren land in Gaza. But one of these turns out to be a powerful image of hope. What at first glance appear to be two leaning tombstones photographed in Gaza, near the Egyptian border, with only the sky behind them, resolve themselves on closer inspection into crazily tilted concrete segments of the Israeli apartheid wall - which was for a short time breached, one remembers, near Rafah.But hope alone is not enough, as Lotayef reminds Barack Obama in a poem addressed in mid-November 2008 to the President-Elect: The train on platform three is quarantinedPassengers are dyingin their seatsThe station master forgot the codes and lost the keys[....]Night is falling, fastChildrenwith sad eyes are waiting for their dads to take them homeMaybe you canBut wewe can't survive for longon hope alone. Obama has been consistently deaf to messages such as this. But perhaps Canadian readers of this memorable book will be more willing to open their hearts - and to help sustain Palestinians' hope through political action, based on compassionate solidarity, and aimed at returning this nation to an awareness of our responsibilities under international law. Canadian Literature - January 18 2012In an effort to achieve a measure of testimonial truth and political urgency, Montreal-based Egyptian poet Ehab Lotayef decides not only to complement his bilingual collection (English and Egyptian Arabic) with his own photography, but also to preface it with a caveat to the reader to the effect that politics is above all the impetus that drives his creative endeavor. In Brand New World, for instance, a poem written in November 2001, shortly after the US invasion of Afghanistan, Lotayef commemorates the fall of Kabul and laments the onset of a dystopian political order where heroes become villains / And villains become heroes. In the brand new world that the poem proleptically describes, the White House man (George Bush) is hailed as the harbinger of a ravenous economic system erected on the altar of amputated civilian bodies and sustained by opium money. It is, however, in the collection's titular piece, To Love a Palestinian Woman, that Lotayef's poetry unveils most movingly its ever-anguished political preoccupations. In fact, it is here that Lotayef's politics seem to run in the same groove as that of a host of other revolutionary Arab poets, namely, Mahmoud Darwish, Nizar Qabbani, and Abd Al-Wahhab Al-Bayyati. (The influence of these poets, and especially that of the Egyptian vernacular poet Ahmed Fouad Negm, is particularly apparent in the Arabic section of the collection.) Drawing on the Arabic literary tradition of ghazal with structural and thematic variations à la Qabbani, Lotayef makes his Palestinian woman less an object of hyperbolized desire than an archetypal figure of loss and resistance, a figure whose spirit of persistence holds the promise of redemptive return for the hitherto stateless people of Palestine. Reading this poem and others in Lotayef's collection, one cannot but sense the tremulous longing of the exile, the sobering eloquence of the visionary, and the reverent sincerity of the poète engagé.