Mahmoud Darwish: Analyzing The Poem “Forgotten As If You Never Were”

A walk through the poem “Forgotten as if you never were” by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.

Mahmoud Darwish, Credit: Leonardo CendamoI


March 13, 2021, marks the 80th anniversary of the birth of the poet Mahmoud Darwish, the most famous poet of the Palestinian cause, and thus it is an opportunity to talk about the poem “You are Forgotten as if you never were ”, and the problem of creativity and the dilemma of the creators.

The truth is that Darwish is not only famous for the children of his generation or those interested in the Palestinian cause, but even now excerpts of his poems are spread among young people on social media sites so that it is possible that they themselves do not know the source of the words, but they are certainly famous among them. This is due, first, to Darwish’s use of a simple and easy language in its vocabulary compared to the rest of the peer group, and secondly, the interest in meaning at the expense of the classical laws of poetry.

The problems of creativity and psychological alienation

Psychological alienation is defined as: “a group of symptoms or ideas with which the patient appears to be in a strange relationship with the society in which they lives, as the gap between the individual and their environment and society increases.”

Many schools of psychology have tried to explain the factors that lead to the individual feeling of alienation, especially the modern age, and among those schools the interpretation of the humanitarian school appears convincing and logical.

The summary of their opinion is that the image of the individual about themselves is the product of combining the self-image and their societal image. Consequently, feelings and beliefs are regulated based on that image, which in turn answers questions such as: (Who am I? What do I want from life? And how should I behave?).

We can lay out three stages of the psychological alienation process that an individual goes through as follows:

The journey of preparing for alienation: You will be forgotten as your predecessors were forgotten

A poem forgotten as if you were not is a part of the poem “Do not apologize for what you did” issued in 2003, and it is considered one of Darwish’s most famous poems even among the youth of the current generation, especially the beginning of the poem, which is so far circulated on social networking sites.

Forgotten, as if you never were.
Like a bird’s violent death
like an abandoned church you’ll be forgotten,
like a passing love
and a rose in the night . . . forgotten

The poem begins with the first verses through which Mahmoud Darwish expresses the severity of the difficulty of the idea of death, to portray that you will be forgotten as many things that happened and happen every day without much attention to them, so your death and your end will be like the death of a bird or a remote deserted church that no one will pay attention to.

As for the second passage, in which he says:

I am for the road . . . There are those whose footsteps preceded mine
those whose vision dictated mine. There are those
who scattered speech on their accord to enter the story
or to illuminate to others who will follow them
a lyrical trace . . . and a speculation

The poet Mahmoud Darwish (March 13, 1941 — August 9, 2008) began to describe and explain the suffering of creators. It is known that Darwish’s poetry went through three stages, namely: (the local stage — the Arab stage — the global stage) In the first stage, his subjects appeared influenced by the calamity of the Israeli occupation of the land of Palestine, and his most famous poems during this stage are “Record, I am an Arab.”

As for the Arab phase, he showed his interest in Arab problems after he moved to live in Lebanon, and the poem “Forgetten, As If You Never Were ” belongs to the third stage, which is the global stage in which he was interested in topics that occupy the whole world, not just the Arab citizen, such as the problem of creativity.

Returning to the poem “forgetten, as if you never were,” we find that he describes the artistic creative process as a path that someone walked by before him and others will follow him as well, or as a paper that has already been written on and there is nothing new to present.

It is a problem that the creators suffer from, which is the constant feeling that it is repeated. All the words have been written and already said, all the scenes have been drawn.

Forgotten, as if you never were
a person, or a text . . . forgotten

The poet Mahmoud Darwish ends the first stage by confirming for the second time the forgetfulness. This repetition suggests the flow and abundance of negative emotions associated with the idea of forgetting.

The first and foremost purpose of any human being on earth is to leave a more permanent mark that perpetuates his memory after his departure.

When a person encounters a shocking idea whose summary is: that he will forget whether on the personal level a “person” or the literary level “a text”, here shock and maladjustment occur. Even now, the poem appears to have failed to find meaning, self-objectification, as well as a general feeling of hopelessness and helplessness.

The stage of rejection and aversion, and Mahmoud Darwish hung on any hope

I walk guided by insight, I might
give the story a biographical narrative. Vocabulary
governs me and I govern it. I am its shape
and it is the free transfiguration

Mahmoud Darwish begins in the third section of a poem describing his poetic words and poems, and how it enabled him to express and talk about him, himself and his biography, and as if his words were a form and a picture of him.

It is the most free form through which one can express himself. He does not find painting, music, or even speech as a storyteller to tell through stories and novels, only poetry is his way of appearing.

But what I’d say has already been said.
A passing tomorrow precedes me. I am the king of echo.
My only throne is the margin. And the road
is the way. Perhaps the forefathers forgot to describe
something, I might nudge in it a memory and a sense

Mahmoud Darwish, after a state of love and flow with poetry, descends again to the bitter truth, as he is: the king of echo and emptiness, and the throne of that kingdom from the sub-margins of his poetry.

Once again he stresses the impossibility of finding new subjects. All that can be said has been said, all the roads have already been walked, and all that can be introduced new is the way in which you say it.

So that the last hope for you as a creator is that there is a flaw that the ancients did not deal with, so that you will bear the soul with it, which is the impossible matter, surely all the virtues and vices have been addressed before.

The stage of actually feeling alienated, Darwish is free when he is forgotten

I am for the road . . . There are those whose footsteps
walk upon mine, those who will follow me to my vision.
Those who will recite eulogies to the gardens of exile,
in front of the house, free of worshipping yesterday,
free of my metonymy and my language, and only then
will I testify that I’m alive
and free
when I’m forgotten!

Darwish breaks all the horizon of expectation for the recipient, after he is sad, desperate and cynical about the creative process and forgetfulness in general, he explains that he is nevertheless the way and there will be someone who follows footsteps and he will be the teacher.

Then he speaks in the language of future creators who will be able to break their bondage to laws that preceded creativity, and this break is represented in the praise of the gardens of exile, for example, which is known about exile away from the homeland in poetry as a sad subject of which no part can be praised.

MSc in Data Science, I love to extract the hell out of any raw data, sexy plots and figures are my coffee

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