Wednesday, May 29, 2013

On Zaqtan's predicament of travel...

May 29, 2013

To the Canadian government,

I recently learned of your denial of visa to the acclaimed poet Ghassan Zaqtan, who was intending to attending the Griffin awards as his book of poems Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me (translated by Fady Joudah) has been shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize.

According to my sources, the reasons for denial are dubious.  Being on a shortlist for this prestigious Canadian prize is most certainly a reason to grant a visa.  The notion that Zaqtan might have uncertainty regarding his desire to return to his place of origin feels a little absurd in the case of Palestinian nationals, many of whom live in exile and long to return to their (and their forbears') places of origin.

Zaqtan's poetry is a meditation on the predicament of exile and disappearance, as his poem, "A Graphic 1995" so aptly demonstrates:

The endings are not ours
not anyone's.

Endings belong to strangers
who weren't born on wagons,
people we find in the dust of corridors
and who happen in speech

people who are born from shadows
and unraveling mats.

And while we were plowing
they were laughing
and filling our pockets with dirt.

I ask the Canadian government to reconsider its decision to reject Zaqtan's application for a visa, and make a different ending to this predicament. 


Philip Metres

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