Samīħ al-Qāsim in Madrid
סמיח אל קאסם
|Born||May 11, 1939|
Zarqa, Emirate of Transjordan (now Jordan)
|Died||August 19, 2014 (aged 75)|
|Occupation||Poet and writer|
Samīħ al-Qāsim al Kaissy(Arabic: سميح القاسم; Hebrew: סמיח אל קאסם; 1939 – August 19, 2014) was a Palestinian Arabic-language poet whose work is well known throughout the Arab world. Son of a Palestinian Druze family, he was born in Transjordan and lived in Israel throughout his childhood and adult life. His poetry is influenced by two primary periods of his life: before and after the Six-Day War - until 1967 he was mainly influenced by Arab nationalism; in 1967 he joined the Israeli Communist political party, Rakah, and later activated in the closely related Front for Democracy and Equality "Hadash".
Al-Qasim has published several volumes and collections of poetry.
Al-Qasim was born in 1939 in the Emirate of Transjordan (now Jordan), in the northern city of Zarqa, while his father served in the Arab Legion of King Abdullah. He came from a Druze family from the town of Rameh in the Upper Galilee. Al-Qasim attended primary school there and then later graduated from secondary school in Nazareth. His family did not flee Rameh during the Palestinian exodus of 1948 (Nakba). In his book About Principles and Art, he explains:
While I was still at primary school the Palestinian tragedy occurred. I regard that date as the date of my birth, because the first images I can remember are of the 1948 events. My thoughts and images spring from the number 48.
Life as a poet and journalist
As of 1984, al-Qasim had written twenty-four volumes of nationalist poetry and published six collections of poems. His poems in general are relatively short, some being no more than just two verses. Some of his famous poems include:
- Slit Lips
- Sons of War
- Confession at Midday
- Travel Tickets
- The Story of a City
- Conversation between Ear of Corn and Jerusalem Rose Thorn
- How I became an Article
- Story of the Unknown Man
- End of a Discussion with a Jailer
- The Will of a Man Dying in Exile
- The Boring Orbit
- The Clock on the Wall
Al-Qasim has contributed to the journals of Al-Ittihad, Al-Jadid, Index and others. He claims that the pan-Arab ideology of Nasserism impressed him during the nationalist post-1948 era. Most of his poetry relates to the change of life before and after the Nakba, the Palestinian and broader Arab struggle to free their lands from foreign influence, Arab nationalism, and various Arab tragedies. In 1968, he published his first collection of poetry, Waiting for the Thunderbird. Al-Qasim wrote about these subjects while they were at the climax of their popularity among the Arab population in the later half of the 20th century. When asked by his Iraqi friend, poet Buland al-Haidari if he had visited Baghdad, he replied by saying he did not have to, since he views any Arab city as equal to his own Arab residence.
Al-Qasim claims that the pan-Arab ideology of Nasserism impressed him during the nationalist post-1948 era. He has been jailed several times for his political activities that have involved advocacy for Palestinian rights and dissent against government policies, starting in 1960 for refusal to enlist in the Israeli army which is required of Israeli Druze. He has also been under house arrest. He joined the Israeli Communist party Hadash in 1967 and was detained along with other members of the party at the outbreak of the Six-Day War. He was sent to al-Damoun prison (official name: Damon Prison) in Haifa. During this time, he virtually lost his nationalistic emotions upon hearing Israeli radio announcing its territorial gains after their victory.
Life in Israel
Al-Qasim worked as a journalist in Haifa where he ran the Arabesque Press and the Folk Arts Centre and was the editor-of-chief of the Israeli Arab newspaper Kul al-Arab. He would recite many of his poems to large audiences at monthly gatherings in the Arab towns and cities of the Galilee. Al-Qasim refused to leave his homeland; in an interview with Index he is quoted as saying "I have chosen to remain in my own country not because I love myself less, but because I love my country more".
Al-Qasim visited Syria in 1997 and in 2000. He was prevented by Israeli authorities from leaving to Lebanon for a poetry event in 2001.
Al-Qasim died on August 19, 2014, after a long battle with cancer. His funeral was held on, August 21, 2014, in Rameh.
- Interview with Mira Awad, Maariv, 22 May 2009
- Alternatively spelt סמיח אל-קאסם by some media
- Samīħ al-Qāsim reads one of his poem at the Sha'ar International Poetry Festival 2009
- A Bilingual Anthology of Arabic Poetry - Victims of A Map by Samih al-Qasim, Adonis, and Mahmoud Darwish. Al-Saqi Books 26 Westbourne Grove, London W2 1984
- Palestinian Writers in Israel Hardy, Rogers. December 1982, Boston Review
- The Druzes in the Jewish State: A Brief History 171.
- Lines of Resistance Palattaella, John. The Nation
- Poet Profile: Samih al-Qasim PBS Online
- Encyclopedia of the Palestinians by Philip Mattar. Facts on File 2005
- Sadder Than Water: New & Selected Poems by Samih al-Qasim, translated by Nazih Kassis, introduced by Adina Hoffman. 2006.
- Samih al-Qasim Biography
- English translation of Samih al-Qasim's Travel Tickets
- Samih al-Qasim: Equal Parts Poetry and Resistance, by Shawqi Kassis, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 44, No. 2 (Winter 2015), pp. 43–51