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20th Century Arabic Poetry for a Modern Audience

Arabic student
Pascal reciting Mahmoud Darwish's famous Arabic poetry

In the year 2019, it's rare to find a poetry recitation - especially with poetry by 20th century Palestinian poets! But Qalam student Pascal Bernhard, an Intermediate 2 student from Switzerland, took a special interest in Mahmoud Darwish upon arriving Morocco to study the Arabic language, and a month later, presented an excerpt from لاعب النرد ("The Dice Player") to a room full of mesmerized Arabic learners.

Pascal's voice quieted the room during his presentation, in which he had memorized an excerpt of Darwish's famous poem. Darwish's poetry contains touching and political pieces about Darwish and his personal experiences, as well as the overall communal experiences of Palestinians in the 20th century, and Pascal's solemnity reciting the work reflected this emotion.

During Pascal's time studying at Qalam wa Lawh, in addition to his Modern Standard Arabic classes, he worked with the Media Club on a project studying the life and works of Darwish. His interest in the great poet was clear from the start and was able to apply his Arabic language skills to his exciting Arabic language project. Despite the excitement of Morocco during the Summer Study Abroad session, Pascal dedicated many hours to his research on Darwish and spent much of his time learning this challenging and emotional piece of work.

Arabic teachers and student
Pascal working on a presentation with his Arabic teachers

After four weeks of study with Qalam, Pascal recited Darwish's moving piece at the Graduation Ceremony for students finishing their classes at Qalam. Students wore traditional Moroccan outfits while receiving their certificates, participated in multicultural music and dancing, and feasted on Moroccan tea and sweets after getting their henna painted. Pascal's reading was the last event of the celebration and was met with thunderous applause. The Classical Arabic teachers were particularly impressed with his memorization of the great work!

After what we heard from Pascal, all of us at Qalam are certain of one thing - perhaps Arabic poetry readings should make a come back!


Listen to a clip of Pacal's recitation on our YouTube page here:

You can read the entire poem below.

محمود درويش - لاعب النرد

أنا لاعب النرد،

أربح حيناً، وأخسر حيناً

أنا مثلكم

وأقل قليلاً••

ولدت إلى جانب البئر

والشجرات الثلاث الوحيدات كالراهبات

ولدت بلا زفة وبلا قابلة

وسميت باسمي مصادفة

وانتميت إلى عائلة


وورثت ملامحها والصفات


أولاً: خللاً في شرايينها

وضغط دم مرتفع

ثانياً: خجلاً في مخاطبة الأم والأب

والجدة ـ الشجرة

ثالثاً: أملاً في الشفاء من الأنفلونزا

بفنجان بابونج ساخن

رابعاً: كسلاً في الحديث عن الظبي والقبرة

خامساً: مللاً في ليالي الشتاء

سادساً: فشلاً فادحاً في الغناء••

ويختم القصيدة (الوداع) قائلاً:

ومن حسن حظي أني أنام وحيداً

فأصغي إلى جسدي

وأصدق موهبتي في اكتشاف الألم

وأنادي الطبيب، قبيل الوفاة، بعشر دقائق

عشر دقائق تكفي لأحيا مصادفة

وأخيب ظن العدم

من أنا لأخيّب ظن العدم؟

من أنا؟ من أنا؟

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