Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish died on August 9, 2008:
I particularly appreciate this 2002 interview Darwish gave to Raja Shehadeh:
Raja Shehadeh: Do you build on the work of others?
Mahmoud Darwish: Yes. Very much so. I feel that no poem starts from nothing. Humanity has produced such a huge poetic output, much of it of a very high caliber. You are always building on the work of others. There is no blank page from which to start. All you can hope for is to find a small margin on which to write your signature.
RS: What sort of continuity is there in your own poetry?
MD: I have found that I have no poem that does not have its seeds in a poem that preceded it. Several critics have brought this to my attention. There is always a line or a word in an earlier work that I manage to take up and develop. My worry is always what’s next.
RS: Have you been writing prose?
MD: I like prose. I feel that sometimes prose can achieve a poetic state more poignant than poetry. But time is passing and my poetic project is still incomplete. There is competition in my personality between prose and poetry, but my bias is toward poetry.
RS: Which is easier for the poet, to live in a city such as Paris or in a large village like Ramallah?
MD: For gaining in experience and furthering one’s knowledge, the city is the better locale, but for getting on with the writing process the village has fewer distractions. The smaller the place the better for writing. In my house the room I write in is the smallest in the house.
The Institute for Palestine Studies also has a Special Focus Collection on the 5th anniversary of Darwish’s death. It includes:
Remembering Mahmud Darwish (1941-2008) by Rashid Khalidi
A Love Story Between an Arab Poet and His Land: An Interview with Mahmud Darwish
The Cruelest of Months, by Mahmud Darwish
Mahmud Darwish’s A%egorical Critique of Oslo by Sinan Antoon
In Haaretz: “The Return of the Modest Poet”
“Silence for the Sake of Gaza,” from Journal of an Ordinary Grief, trans. Ibrahim Muhawi. You can also download another excerpt from the book from the English publisher, Archipelago.
A River Dies of Thirst: Journals, trans. Catherine Cobham: Download an excerpt from the publisher.
In the Presence of Absence, trans. Sinan Antoon.
Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone? trans. Jeffrey Sacks.