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"A Poet Whose Political Incorrectness Is a Crime"

by seanfarragher 

Posted: 14 May 2006
Word Count: 408
Summary: -- Ahmed Fouad Negm, Egyptian Poet 5/13/06

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"A Poet Whose Political Incorrectness Is a Crime"

"Egypt is a candle submerged by the river," Ahmed Fouad Negm said,
when asked if Egypt still holds its role as the center of Arab thought
and culture, and if not, why. "When the earth is dark, Egypt comes
out of the river and lights the world." -- Ahmed Fouad Negm
Egyptian Poet, New York Times, Saturday 5/13/06

"Glory for the crazy people/In this stupid world." The words were
carefully painted in yellow on the wall, right beside the tortoise.
They were his words, the words of a poet, a harsh critic of power,
who spent 18 of his 76 years in prison largely because Egypt's
leaders tended to despise his words. --- MICHAEL SLACKMAN, New York Times

Poet to Poet:

The Nile calls itself tortoise. I am not buried
in the sand. I kiss the head of the dead tortoise
and carry it through my lands. The river lived beyond
us where many secrets were masked by Aswan Dam.

Hypocrisy had no answer.
Do not talk on the telephone.
You might be "picked up" for loitering.
Do not curse cartoon balloon.
It may save your ass.


Everyone knows where I live. They show you
Mokkatam with the wave of an arm or the shift of eye.
"Were you once blind," they ask? "Did shadows
catch the steps of your lost feet? You must know
the way." Do not hide Negm's counsel. "Life was a merry
prison with five by five walls and no pen to write."


My time had its own arrival and end. I piss
on palm fronds that never believed honor had
no thieves, but they stole my words, so I said hush,
sweet dangerous God. Pharaoh Hosni Mubarak
said "cut his testicles off, I'll make him worthwhile."

4. Lailat-ul-Bara'h (Night of Forgiveness)

What is the danger, you ask? Terror is our enemy.
What if they keep one trillion-trillion phone calls
in a sacred box? We shake them. We bake them.
We eat them after Ramadan with New Year's libation.
Rub the belly of the Pharaoh's telephone genie. He will spit
your words back. Everybody sing: "we are the enemies
of the state -- true terrorists of the heart. Never forget it!"
Locked inside the broken tick tock, your keys
to the kingdom for obedience to Pharaoh.
We rise from the dead after Hegira.
Nothing we do after, will be remotely a shock.

End 5-13-06

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Comments by other Members

joanie at 19:57 on 14 May 2006  Report this post
Sean, I feel like an eternity would be far too short to do your poems justice. I need to read, re-read, then come back again and again to get to grips with your ideas.

My mind is buzzing! I'll get back to this.


seanfarragher at 20:01 on 14 May 2006  Report this post
Joanie.... part of it may be American politics. Recently we have learned that the government is keeping a record of ALL domestic phone calls..... It is a big issue in the states, and the parallel
to the lost of liberty for words in Eqypt is more about american views on freedom of speech. Perhaps, privacy is a world issue now.
Thanks for you read.

NinaLara at 20:49 on 14 May 2006  Report this post
Difficult to know where to start! I'll follow your numbers..

1)The first verse seems like a prayer - it is timeless and beautiful. The pace of the second verse is quicker, immediate. Do not curse cartoon balloon. is a fantastic line ... and the Ass rhyme with Assam Dam ties us back to the first verse.

2)The different voices here have a powerful effect, creating an echo. The last line is so clear and controlled:
"Life was a merry
prison with five by five walls and no pen to write."

3)I can't write about this. It is perfect and very moving. (sweet dangerous God! ... fantastic)

4)this is amazing and suprising. You keep the images coming mercilessly. Rub the belly of the Pharaoh's telephone genie and Locked inside the broken tick tock, your keys
to the kingdom for obedience to Pharaoh.
again - clean and vivid.
I think this is a truely excellent poem. Do something with it.

Beanie Baby at 19:44 on 18 May 2006  Report this post
Love "Sweet dangerous God
- it just hangs in the air so beautifully - as if addressing everyone's fears and achievements all at once.

I loveyour work Sean. It has a truth that only poets can understand.

Beautifully and powerfully written.


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