I closed my books. I put my pens away. I placed my writing journals in storage boxes. I even stopped reading. I wandered my apartment looking out the window, occasionally making phone calls to loved ones, and then I sat for hours without sound.
But a friend had a project, an anthology called “Language for a New Century,” which gathered the voices of poets from the Middle East as well as poets in the United States. Editing it took almost 10 years — but it was necessary to get me to believe in words again: their meaning, their significance, and their sheer power. All the struggles between reality and imagination played itself out on the pages as I read poems of outrage, redemption and, yes, love.
I cannot say for certain whether we are stronger or weaker as a people. We live within a shared experience, but I also realize there are losses I cannot comprehend though poetry. Our humanity which, like the word, is as resilient as it ever was.
By Perveen Shakir
(Translated by Baidar Bakht and Leslie Lavigne)
Now, that I have closed the doors
of the city of love
and have thrown the key
of each gate
into the jade-eyed sea of oblivion,
this little timorous feeling
is so consoling.
Beyond the forbidding walls of the prison,
in a small lane
of the old walled city,
there is a little window
still open in my name.
From “Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond.”
Tina Chang is the poet laureate of Brooklyn and author of “Half-Lit Houses” and the forthcoming, “Of Gods & Strangers.”
©2011 COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER GROUP