Book Discussion Event

Last night, January 16th, 2017 was a beautiful night, at least in my journey. I was invited for a book discussion with a wonderful group, ‘Book Therapy Kuwait.’ They also invited two other groups/associations, ‘The Divan’ and ‘Kuwait Poets Society.’ I am still speechless and unable to find the words to describe the vibrant energy and creativity that exploded yesterday! I will simply post the videos to speak for themselves. After the book discussion, Kuwait Poets Society had three of their brilliant members perform/read their poetry in response to my book Forget the Words. I was left awe-struck and my jaw dropped at the way they were able to react to the work, the way they reshaped it, re-envisioned it, and produced their own poetic contributions. The three women poets each responded in a different way, each her own twist, and yet, they all chose words/lines from my work that resonated with them. It was mind-blowing, to say the least.

Nada Faris is a published writer and for copyright issues I won’t be posting her rendition of the work, but her work is accessible on http://www.nadafaris.com. Nada is a performance poet and an avid writer. She had the entire audience awe-struck once she finished reading her poem. I was not surprised with Nada’s creativity and ease with words! I have followed her work closely throughout the years and respect her professionalism and loyalty to poetry and its various outputs.

Farah Al-Wugayan, “xxmantras” on social media, is also in the process of publishing her own book. Farah wrote and shared two poems. She responded to “Presence” and “Belong.”  Farah was brilliant in her ability to feel EXACTLY what I was struggling to express, this idea of belonging/not belonging. I sat there, completely mesmerized. As always, her work is magical and heartfelt, pouring poetic jouissance into her audience.

Rawa Majdi, the founder of Kuwait Poets Society, one of the most productive and supportive women I met, also was on stage. She wrote a heartbreaking poem, a response to “A Room Without Light.” I will post both of her readings, of my work, and then her own depiction of the text. Rawa was able to have us all transfixed on her interpretation of the words. As she spoke, I felt pieces of my heart break, and I was moved by her choice of words, her ability to allude to the “madness” in love.

 

All in all, there was so much soul, poetry, and magic that night. That is the beauty of words, of language, of connection. Yesterday we were all brought together because of the love for writing, the love for words, and the endless support we have for each other. Strangers, friends, colleagues, students of mine, poets, readers – everyone was radiating. Blessed. Here’s to a wonderful start to 2017!

Below: Farah ​​

​​
​​

​​

​​

​​below: Nada Faris 

​​

Last two videos: Rawa ​​

Finally a quick glimpse from the discussion

On this “Self” 

In a society that continues to dictate to us how to live our lives, what to wear, how to be a “good” wife/mother/daughter, how to be an ideal woman, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain a sense of identity, without being swayed and confused by excessive demands. I grew up in an environment that attempted to control, regulate, and tell me how to be “me.”  It was difficult in a mixed American school, where kids tried to blend, mixing a Kuwaiti culture with American ideals and identities. To be considered “cool” was not easy, and to be branded “cool” did not mean that you were to stay “cool” forever, you had to please the majority, follow a certain code of conduct (or misconduct), and of course, the social class you were born in set the stage for all the rest of the demands. 

Even today, it remains difficult to remain true to who you really are. I know so many people who have lost themselves, and to try and recover yourself is the hardest thing you have to do. You may end up in a relationship where you cannot remember who you were before that person, you may end up working at a job where you change your work ethics, or you may end up trying to please the Beast. The Beast comes in all forms: parent, partner, boss, colleague, an illness, age, anything at all that threatens your sense of well-being, your inner peace. To maintain this “self” is important but we also need to know what exactly is this “self” in question. 

At times, I get overwhelmed with it all. I get comments that confuse me sometimes, for example,  I am told that I have perpetually sleepy/tired eyes. Sometimes it gives off a lazy impression, when it is simply a neurological imbalance. It can be frustrating to say the least. I said this a few days ago to my mother, a woman who has taught me to accept the physical body as lacking, to accept society as constantly critical, and to accept myself as an evolving being, but mainly, she taught me that there are no losses in life that should kill me- except, the loss of self. And the biggest struggle, the struggle of fighting to maintain that self, that is the cause. That is the cause- if we talk about feminism, if we talk about disability rights, identity studies, healthy relationships and boundaries, all of it- it’s the same cause. To remain you, at the end of the day. 

This is a random conversation this morning, her reminding me of what it means to embrace myself, even at the age of thirty, one can never do without Mom’s unconditional love and wisdom.   

  
Now, naturally, the curls are just a metaphor in this post, but as a child it was a pressing issue! 

And that’s all for now. 

Abdulrahman Mohammed sings mostly old Arabic poetry. This one has subtitles in English, too.

Not everyone can appreciate his work. You have to be familiar with the old Arabic poetry, read the poetry itself, compare it to his adaptation, and then enjoy his stunning voice. This is my favorite part, and perhaps it comes as no surprise:

البدر يكمل كل شهرة مرة
وهلال وجهك كل يوم كامل
أنا أرضى فيغضب قاتلي
فتعجبوا يرضى القتيل
وليس يرضى القاتل

Roughly translated: “The full moon appears once every month, but your face, beautiful as the crescent mood, appears every day. People wonder, how can the murdered be pleased, while the murderer isn’t?” (In this case, the speaker is the murdered)..

Experiment

The past few days have been unusually difficult. Getting out of bed, making it through another day has been sort of a hassle. I don’t mean to dwell on this. But, the point of the post, I was asked to speak about what it feels to love, and to be in love, and to be confined at the same time. To be stuck. To be stuck in a body. To be stuck in space. To be disconnected. This was a very experimental type of performance, no real style, and the audience was very open and receptive. I worked with a wonderful Yoga instructor and dancer, and she felt that the words resonated within her. I did it for fun, mostly. And I chose the words that were mainly about you.

Sometimes, I think the words bring us closer. Sometimes, I think the words can reach you. Do you still believe? I want to know.

   

 
 

Questions

I always ask way too many questions. Funny, I hardly ever receive answers. Or, in other words, I don’t get satisfying answers. My request is always for more clarification. Perhaps it’s the professor in me. Clarify, elaborate, explain. I don’t want to make assumptions, and I am afraid that my assumptions are mostly inaccurate. I have learned that bravery is to ask for clarification. I draw in my breath, draw my sword, and ask you for more.

To want more is to be greedy, in a sense. It is hard to satisfy my hunger for you. I have survived on crumbs for too long. If I can preserve you, freeze you, keep you safe away from the inevitable pains of life, would that make me possessive? Obsessive, irrational? It is one thing for me to be in pain, but to watch you hurting is a horrible place to be. I stand helpless, watching you, unable to change events, to change the outcome, and to shelter you from the storm. I still think I have access to the skies, and that all it takes is a fight. I still have a fight in me. To fight for a better world for us, a safer life for you, one that doesn’t continue to separate us. Have I finally gone mad? I was a thief, your thief,  you said. To steal your heart, to steal a part of your soul, that makes me a soul thief. I doubt that you know how many times you have asked me, silently, to steal your entire soul.

Choice

There are two moons surrounding me, one on each side. Right and left. One of them tells me I should be grateful, be blessed, that I am still one of the stars in the sky. The other moon tells me that I should want more, that I shouldn’t settle for being one star in the sky. I want to be your sky, nothing less will do, nothing less will suffice. Caught between two roads, two paths, fearing losing you, and yet, also, the fear of never knowing, of not trying. This is my tenth attempt.

You have a dizzying effect, and a scent that is a mixture of Oud and French scents. There is a danger in that I cannot hold you, cannot stock up on you, cannot carry you in my pocket, spray you liberally whenever I need to. What is the danger? Am I exaggerating? The danger is of loss, of losing the possibility of you. Can you tell the two moons I would rather you choose the road for me? I have failed to light up your path or mine. I shrug my shoulders, in defeat.

But then you say Hello and I get a glimpse of what could be, of what was lost, and how there are things that are better left unsaid, unexplained, and that I cannot write. I cannot write you. I give up.

Music and Soul

I was invited to Abdulrahman Mohammed’s concert, and as I have always been a fan, I was very excited to see him live. He was spectacular. I am reminded by everything that his music takes me back to. I remember how his words used to make us cry. I remember how the poetics of it all barely captured the intensity of reality. He draws his inspiration and his lyrics from Old Arabic poetry, and he has included Qais’s (the poet) love for Laila. Qais, otherwise known as “Majnoon Laila.” In love, will anything other than madness suffice? I doubt it 🙂 Abdulrahman, like Qais, pours his soul into art. He left all of us completely awe-struck that night, and we left the stage reminiscing and wrapped in a blanket of passion, pain, and possibility. Some of his amazing words: 

قُولواْ لهّا أنني … لا زِلتُ أهواهّا

مَهمّا يطولَ النوىّ … لا أنسىّ ذِكراهَا

هيّ الَتي عَلمَتني … كيفَ اعشَقُها

هيّ الَتي سَقاتني … شَهدَ ريّاها

روحٌ مِن الله … سَوىّ لنا بَشراً

كَسىّ حُسناً … وّجمَلهّا وّحلاّهَا