Saturday, July 7, 2007

Sinan Antoon, Iraqi Poet, on "Democracy Now"

One of the stunning aspects of this latest Iraq War is how Iraqis themselves have participated in the counternarrative, even as the war is still grinding on. Bloggers such as Salam Pax, Riverbend, and many writers and journalists, not to mention the countless anonymous stringers for such reporters as Anne Garrells, have made the representation of this war utterly different from the first Persian Gulf War. There are some parallels to the ways in which the North Vietnamese made publicity part of their insurgency strategy. Yet, these voices are not representing the insurgency but attempting to speak on behalf of the Iraqi people, in the scattered networks of new decentered empire. Listen/read transcript of Amy Goodman's conversation with Iraqi poet, Sinan Antoon, whose recent book, The Baghdad Blues, came out earlier this year.

Here is one of his poems, "A Prism: Wet with Wars," which vaguely recalls another great Iraqi poet, Fadhil al-Azzawi's "A Toast,":

this is the chapter of
this is our oasis
an angle where wars intersect
tyrants accumulate around our eyes
in the shackle's verandah
there is enough space for applause
let us applaud

another evening climbs
the city's candles
technological hoofs crush the night
a people is being slaughtered across short waves
but the radio vomits raw statements
and urges us to

with a skeleton of a burning umbrella
we receive this rain
a god sleeps on our flag
but the horizon is prophetless
maybe they will come if we
let us applaud

we will baptize our infants with smoke
plough their tongues
with flagrant war songs
or UN resolutions
teach them the bray of slogans
and leave them beside burning nipples
in an imminent wreckage
and applaud

before we weave an autumn for tyrants
we must cross this galaxy of barbed wires
and keep on repeating

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