“I Long For My Mother’s Bread”: Poetry as Integrative, Historical Practice in the Palestinian Context

Aaron Frederick Eldridge


This paper is an adaption of a longer investigation of the relationship between politics and poetry in the Palestinian context, focusing on the work of Mahmoud Darwish. For this selection, I have adapted the sections pertaining to the efficacy of poetry in the context of historical events–specifically the traumatic history of the Palestinians. It is my argument that artistic practices like poetry act primarily as a means of narrative creation that skillfully integrate the experiences of the poet and thus negotiate the experiences of the listeners in order to create new meaning. This dialogue between audience and poet creates a persuasive and novel movement within the conceptual field; thinking about something in terms of something else (metaphor). This has the effect of making the poet an intractable source of historical meaning. The questions of the past, a dizzying array of dissonant occurrences, fractured experiences, and selected memory, find cogency within the poetic form. This artistic formation only gains this cogency through a precise system of cognitive faculties, which are shared by both poet and audience. The poetry of Mahmoud Darwish acts as a means of understanding history in the context of the present; creating an integrated narrative-history, which has important implications on experience, implicating present action through a ‘reading’ of the past.

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