. . . You experiment with the world through your poems.
. . . I've written lots of poems looking to understand myself. . . .
~ Hala Mohammad, Syrian Poet
She lives now in Paris, France, but the window through which she looks daily, says Syrian poet Hala Mohammad, who left her country to obtain treatment for breast cancer, is, as she wrote in her poem "This Fear", a window that "opens to alienation", fear, and the loneliness experienced because of exile.
In the video below, "Hala Mohammad: Waiting for Spring", part of "Artscape: The Poets of Protest" series from Al Jazeera, Mohammad, who has published more than a half-dozen collections of poetry, talks about her life in Paris, her family, the ongoing political crisis in Syria, her artistic struggles, and why she believes poetry holds an answer to loss, despair, and, inevitably, change. Poetry, she explains, "really does leave an impression. . . A poem of love can have an effect, can help you feel beauty. . . Until now weapons are stronger than us. Maybe they are faster. . . But I think poetry will endure."
As you depart our spring
In the wood burner's exhaust pipe
as the firewood came inside,
you forgot your echo.
With the feather in the
the martyr's picture
and death flew out of the picture.
Slow down, Swallow.
The nest belongs
to whoever builds it.
An interview with Hala Mohammad about her documentary Journey Into Memory (2006) can be found at a blog of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies.
Intimate, with often moving recitations of poetry, the "Poets of Protest" series includes profiles of five other poets from the Middle East: Ahmed Fouad Negm of Egypt ("Ahmed Fouad Negm: Writing a Revolution"), Yehia Jaber of Lebanon ("Yehia Jaber: Laughter is My Exit"), Manal Al-Sheikh of Iraq ("Manal Al Sheikh: Fire Won't Eat Me Up"), Mazen Maarouf, a Palestinian ("Mazen Maarouf: Hand Made"), and Al Khadra, who lives in the Algerian desert ("Al Khadra: Poet of the Desert").