“100 Thousand Poets for Change”, in HaifaPosted: 2011/09/28
On September 24th, poets in 550 cities in 95 countries gathered to celebrate Poetry for Change.
Yosef Gotlieb attended the event in Haifa. This is from his blog Issues of the Day:
It was my privilege last night to participate in an Israeli commemoration of 100 Thousand Poets for Change, a global happening of seven hundred events in 99 countries comprised of “poets around the USA and across the planet, gathered in a demonstration/celebration of poetry to promote serious social, environmental, and political change.” The Haifa event was convened by Dr. Ada Aharoni, a poet, scholar and peace bridge builder who is the founder and director of the International Forum for the Literature and Culture of Peace (IFLAC).
Gathered in the salon of a private residence on Mount Carmel (“God’s Vineyard” in Hebrew) in Haifa, a city known for coexistence between Arabs, Jews and Druze, many participants in the Israel gathering read poems having to do with issues of identify, inter-ethnic relations, and peace. Others in the room had come to listen to the poetry and to support the initiative.
I read a poem from my novel, Rise, which is presented as the work of Dr. Issam Halaby, a character in the book who is an Arab surgeon from Acre. He, along with his wife Michal, and the book’s central character, Lilah Kedem, are later among the founders of the citizens movement for progressive change in the country.
In the book, Issam reads the poem after a moment of friction develops between Lilah, who has just been through a terror attack launched by Palestinian extremists and is convalescing at the Halaby home, and a member of the poets group, Jews and Arabs, that meet regularly in Issam’s and Michal’s living room.
The poem reads:
Son of man needs to know
what humanity there is
lifting a stone against another
who speaks a different tongue,
and, for that,
must be smitten.
This land is ample, kind enough,
both brothers can
drink from the same fountain,
righteous in the sharing.
Is there no sky mural you might place
Over the Lawgiver’s land
The Prophet’s furthest, but closest to you
that might guide us
the stones are heavy and
an evil wind blows here.
Make us warm.
Issam’s poem, beseeching cover from the ill-winds, remains resonant in these times. My hope that there were at least one hundred thousand points of light last night, beckoning change for a brighter future across the planet.
“Father, son of man needs to know” is taken from Yosef Gotlieb’s Rise, A Novel of Contemporary Israel, 2011. p. 74.