Mahmoud Darwish

Mahmoud Darwish is regarded as the national poet of Palestine. Naomi Shihab Nye called him, “the essential breath of the Palestinian people.” He was born in the village of al-Birwa in the Western Galilee. The village was razed and destroyed by the Israeli army to prevent its inhabitants from returning to their homes inside the new Jewish state. In his work, Palestine became a metaphor for the loss of Eden, birth and resurrection, and the anguish of dispossession and exile. Darwish published over thirty volumes of poetry and eight books of prose. He was editor of literary magazines. On May 1, 1965 when he read his poem “Bitaqat huwiyya” [Identity Card] to a crowd in a Nazareth movie house, there was a tumultuous reaction. Within days the poem had spread throughout the country and the Arab world. Published in his second volume Leaves of Olives, the six stanzas of the poem repeat the cry “Write down: I am an Arab.” He passed away in 2008.