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I Must Listen to the Birds


26 April 2024 at 6:30pm

The James Joyce Centre is delighted to host the award-winning Palestinian poet Marwan Makhoul on Friday, April 26th at 6.30pm. The reception is presented in association with Poetry Ireland and supported by Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann. The intimate evening with Makhoul and his translator Raphael Cohen (who is travelling from Cairo) will feature poetry readings in both Arabic and Irish and performances of traditional Irish music by Mairead O’Donnell.

“I’m a voice that tells people about our identity, and how we have worked to preserve it as Palestinian, Arab, and in connection with our people,” says Makhoul of his work. Born to a Palestinian father and Lebanese mother, Makhoul grew up in Beqeia surrounded by a mountainous landscape that is omnipresent in his poetry. A Palestinian living within the state of Israel, his poetry deals with the marginalization of its Arab citizens, and with questions of personal and national identity.

He believes there are “no strict forms of prose and poetry anymore,” and his work draws on both esoteric forms and colloquial Arabic. His readings are dynamic and incantatory, and he often delivers his poems with accompaniment from singers and musicians. Makhoul’s poetry collections include Land of the Sad PassifloraWhere Is My Mom, and A Letter from the Last Man.

During the 2023 Gaza war, lines from one of his poems were adopted as a slogan by tens of millions of protestors and written on the walls of cities around the world: “in order for me to write poetry that isn’t / political, I must listen to the birds / and in order to hear the birds / the warplanes must be silent.”

Makhoul and his translator are being hosted in Ireland by Donegal poet and editor Annemarie Ní Churreáin. Of the visit, Ni Churreáin says, “I’m delighted that Marwan Makhoul’s work is being translated into the Irish language for the first time. In addition to celebrating Marwan’s poetry, a key focus of this trip is the celebration of poetry across borders and cultures, and the act of bearing witness in poetry to social injustice. Tá mé fíorbhuíoch le gach duine atá páirteach sa chlár seo. Tá muid níos láidre le chéile!”

The event is free but booking is essential. For tickets, click this link.

The James Joyce Centre is supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

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