Interviews on “poetry & refugees” – 5 – Ghayath Almadhoun
Ghayath Almadhoun was born in Syria in 1979 and is a resident of Sweden today.
Lyrikline Blog (LB): Where do you come from and why did you leave your country of origin?
Ghayath Almadhoun (GA): I came from Damascus, Syria, I was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, my family was expelled from Ashkelon to Gaza by the Israeli army in 1948, and again expelled from Gaza in 1967. In 2008 I was invited to read my poetry in Stockholm, and I sought asylum. Why? Look what is happening in Syria and you will know what kind of dictatorships I fled from.
LB: In your view, is it the task of a poet also to be a chronicler or witness of his/her time?
GA: I do not think we should overload poetry , at the same time poetry should not be isolated from the poet.
LB: What impact on society or politics can a poem have? Do oppressive regimes have to fear poetry?
GA: Poetry will not change politics and society, poetry can change people, who are in turn changing politics and Society.
LB: In your view, is there a relation between the power of the words of a poet and that of a dictator, since they both work language?
GA: Language is a means used by everyone, Hitler spoke German, should Germans quit writing
poetry in their own language?
LB: Is it possible to find or create a new kind of home or shelter in texts or in a new language?
GA: Writing poetry is like sitting inside a cocoon, we disappear under its cover for a period, and then it shifts us to be different persons, each text we write changes us and makes us something different. I do not know if we could liken writing with home, but I am confident that we can liken it with shelter. For the other part of the question, the new language is something else, it’s a new eye, a new angle to see life.
LB: Do you feel a part of the literary scene of your new country? How’s your relation the writers of your „guest country“?
GA: Exile puts the creator in a parallel world, you are part of the new place and at the same time you’re not. When you return to your country you will find that everything has changed, and you have become a stranger. in Sweden I’m the Palestinian who came from Syria, in Palestine I’m the Syrian who lives in Sweden, in Syria I’m the Palestinian Swedish poet, anyway, fuck borders, the exile is one of the best experiences a poet can have.
About my relation with writers in my new country “Sweden”, I think they are so interesting and intellectual, and some of them are great friends. I’m so happy to share Sweden with them.
LB: Next to writing poetry you work with the genre of poetry video. Is this hybrid form specially suitable for dealing with the topic of refugees & flight in an artistic way?
GA: The hybrid between poetry and photo in the poetry films that I make with the Swedish poet Marie Silkeberg, is opening my mind to how much poetry is open, complex and free from rules, and that you can go with poetry to the edge. As I always say, I’m a poet, so poetry film is related to poetry more than it is related to films in my view, it’s one of many ways to deal with poetry.
LB: What’s your view on the poetic tradition of your country of origin?
GA: Arabic poetry is wonderful, there’s a huge amount of poets, some very old, it extends beyond the stage of 1500 years. I wish all people would know Arabic to enjoy it.
LB: What would you wish for future generations (of poets) in your country of origin?
LB: Do you hope for or wish to go back to your country of origin one day?
GA: Yes, sure, but without leaving Sweden.
Read and listen to Ghayath Almadhoun’s poetry on lyrikline.