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Dear Darwish by Morani Kornberg-Weiss reviewed in The Electronic Intifada

  

Collaborating with Mahmoud Darwish without his consent

23 May 2014

Interactions between Israelis and Palestinians are inherently power-laden in nature. Whatever else takes place in such contacts, the inescapable fact is that encounters are between occupier and occupied, between people backed by the force of the Israeli state and those oppressed by it.

When such interactions are also combined with questions of aesthetics, poetics and authorial voice, the situation becomes perhaps yet more complicated. Does art have the potential to challenge power relations and create spaces in which inequality can be confronted and redressed?

Can poetry create a space where constructive encounters might take place, ones which shift the power balance? And what does it mean for such an encounter if one of the parties is dead, unable to negotiate their role for themselves?

These are questions raised by Morani Kornberg-Weiss’ debut collection of poetry, Dear Darwish (BlazeVox Books).

Kornberg-Weiss is an Israeli poet living in the United States. Like most Israelis, she served in the Israeli army. Unlike most Israelis, however, she has also spoken out against the country’s human rights abuses, and has stated publicly that she supports aone-state solution — although she questions its feasibility given the right-wing tendencies in current Israeli politics.

Dear Darwish takes the form of a series of poems addressed to the late, great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. They are intended to be, as Kornberg-Weiss says in one poem:

without mediation.
A movement towards.
A form of contact.

Some are confessional, some pleading, some contemplative or they explore issues such as Israeli military brutality or the destruction of Palestinian history. A sequence entitled “Nakba Museum” tackles the global recognition of the Jewish Holocaust — “I would have to plan a trip around the world in order to visit every Holocaust Museum, education center and memorial” — and criticizes the fact that the Nakba — the expulsion of more than 750,000 Palestinians and the destruction of hundreds of villages in the lead-up to Israel’s establishment — remains marginal in most countries’ cultural mainstreams.

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