To many the poem marked the beginning of a shift in Egypt’s political climate: it reflected much of what Al-Barghouti calls “the collective consciousness” of a new and unusually politically engaged generation. Ironically, on his deportation, the poem sealed his claim to fame.
Excerpt from an interview with poet, Tamim Al-Barghouti.
I have loved the writing of Mourid Barghouti since I first discovered his book, I Saw Ramallah.
He is a Palestinian, a man who spent 30 years in exile, locked out of Palestine after the 1967 Six Day war ... he was studying in Egypt at the time.
He married and had a child but was, once again, thrown into exile via deportation. That happened the year his only son was born and so it was that for 15 years the small family could only meet on holidays. I knew Mourid had recently published a second book, I knew it was about a return to Palestine with the son who had to grow up largely without him… today it occured to me to search for his son.
Mourid’s son has become a poet of reknown. I found an interview with the rather stunningly talented Tamim Al-Barghouti in Ahram Weekly back in May 2005. You might enjoy it ...
Extracted from the interview: When he wrote They asked me do you love Egypt, he explains, the poet was “in a state of terror, anger and sadness—all at the same time”. All through his life he had taken his life in Egypt “for granted”. It was “my country and I’m staying here. It is the safe place. Part of what I feel towards Palestine is identical to the way I feel about Egypt—this very romantic sentiment. But Palestine was always far, I never seen it before 1998. Palestine is the home I struggle to have, but Egypt was the home I did have. So when I was deported, I felt my relationship with Egypt was jeopardized, threatened. My presence was threatened. It was no longer the safe place, no longer a home I had.
“And I tried to capture an image of that, like taking a photo of someone you love before parting. I was taking a photo of Egypt before leaving, not knowing whether or not I would ever return. My father couldn’t return for 17 years.” A replay of that nightmare haunted him as he wrote, which also tells the love story of his West Bank-born father and Cairo-born mother. The more popular part of the poem was written during his first week “in exile”. He continued writing, he says, until the length had almost tripled, and only stopped on 9 April 2003, the day of the fall of Baghdad....