SPL’s Comms Manager, Kevin Williamson, turns the spotlight on Palestinian poet, Dareen Tatour.
Dareen lives in the West Bank where she works as a photographer and writer; recording and chronicling her own experiences and those of the Palestinian people.
Dareen came to international prominence in 2015 when she was arrested in her home by Israeli security forces and accused of inciting terrorism. She was jailed despite an international furore and her work banned from publication. Her alleged crime was to write a poem called ‘Resist, my people, resist them’ and publish it on the internet.
Dareen said she endured a Kafkaesque trial which was followed by the inevitable imprisonment. She was convicted in May 2018 and sentenced to five months in jail. An international campaign to have her freed – supported by a letter from nine Pulitzer prize winners – was eventually successful and she was released in November 2018.
The brutality of her prison experiences was recorded in a memoir: ‘My Threatening Poem – The Memoir of a Poet in Occupation Prisons’. The book is a harrowing account of her treatment at the hands of the Israeli penal system. An English language edition was published by Drunk Muse Press in 2021 who describe it as “an important book internationally in the cause of free speech, justice and humanity.”
This was followed by a new bilingual collection of her poems: ‘I Sing From The Window of Exile’. Written in Sweden, where Dareen reflects on the trauma of her violent experiences, she draws strength from the humanity and courage of fellow Palestinian women prisoners. The poems speak of the pain of exile while alive with the spirit of resistance. The independent researcher, book blogger, and journalist, Ramona Wadi, commented:
‘Tatour’s poetry is an invitation towards observation and understanding, not only about what the violence is, but also what it means and how it scars. Conversely, the reader is also drawn into the Palestinian space where resistance thrives, alongside a dream of liberation and return. In Tatour’s poetry, the dream is not elusive but has a presence of its own that transcends realms. The pain of exile, of holding land in one’s heart while it is ravaged by Zionist colonisation, makes for excruciating reading. One can only imagine the actual experience. And yet, Tatour’s words reel the reader in to imagine and feel.’
‘I Sing From The Window of Exile’ (also published by Drunk Muse Press in 2022) was shortlisted for the Palestine Book Awards. The ceremony was postponed while the 2023 bombardment and occupation of Gaza intensified.
Dareen Tatour returned to the West Bank from her Swedish exile where she lives with her family and continues to write, photograph and record. Her memoir ‘My Threatening Poem – The Memoir of a Poet in Occupation Prisons’ is about to be republished by Drunk Muse Press and will be available in January 2024.
DON’T STAY SILENT
When Dareen featured on Hugh McMillan’s Plague o Poems blog in 2020 he wrote: “I am delighted to say that Dareen has recorded a poem for Plague o Poems. She is a strong woman determined still to use poetry as a weapon against discrimination and injustice, no matter the consequences. When I asked her about the role of poetry in today’s world, she answered:
“ Through poetry we can break all boundaries and exchange cultures and feelings.
I feel that the world without poetry and poets is a dry world that contains nothing. Poetry, particularly political poetry that comes through the poets, is a basis for change, and the way to say no to all aspects of dictatorship.”
Here Dareen reads ‘Don’t Stay Silent’:
A translation of Don’t Stay Silent can be found at Poetry as the Struggle for Truth on Plague o Poets blog.
Special thanks to Neil Young, Hugh McMillan and Julie McNeill of Drunk Muse Press for additional information.