Poetry for Palestine: ‘Writing Peace’

Poetry for Palestine: Writing Peace

A few weeks ago, I saw a Facebook post by Donal O’Kelly, one of Ireland’s most talented writers and actors, about a festival commemorating the destruction of Gaza last July.

I went along to the first PalFest Ireland committee meeting: actors, singers, dancers, photographers, visual artists, film makers, writers, and even techies like Andy Cummins (who came up with the idea for the festival).

I offered to set up a reading, Poetry for Palestine. Photographer Fatin Al Tamimi offered to read a Palestinian poem on the day, and to enlist three other readers. Abraham Phelan, the Palestinian chef at Silk Road Café in Dublin Castle, had offered the café as a venue for some event, so I went to see him. He was so enthusiastic and promised to supply coffee, tea and falafel on the agreed day: Friday July 10th at 3pm.

Silk Road cafe

So now for Irish poets. I knew Seamus Cashman, and admired his poetry about visits to Palestine. I also knew Pat Boran, publisher at Dedalus Press, a widely-read poet who was bound to know much Palestinian work. Two other poets came to mind, although I didn’t know them personally. I’d heard John F. Deane read about Palestine and felt he would be a fine addition. Finally, I decided to chance my arm and ask one of my favourite poets, Rita Ann Higgins from Galway.

I found email addresses for John and Rita Ann, got the others from my contacts list, and sent off my first four emails. I hoped that at least one of the four would be available, and that after I got the ‘nos’, I would send out my next batch. But all four of them said ‘yes’. Over a few days, they made careful choices of Palestinian poems to read along with their own.

It’s a unique event, and I’m privileged to take part. I’ll read ‘Six Scenes With Olives’, my poem that features a Palestinian chef, and ‘Hope’, about the small signs of love even after the worst destruction. I’ll also read ‘Pencil’, by Ibtisam Barakat, which imagines a mosque as a pencil that can erase war and write peace. So come along and hear us write and read peace at Silk Road Café Friday July 10th 3pm!

Catherine Ann Cullen