(For the writers of Sun on Shuttered Windows)
yes, now the sky’s a hole and as you resume your lives everywhere
at your feet roads pull out a hemorrhage
earth, far way overhead their knives of dread
what cause to take up fallacies and treasons clouding up the future
when child and lover home or exile your riveting yearnings
your lives and others’ can’t be shed a hemorrhage of dread
I’ll never forget your faces how you’ve wanted to see strangers
subsumed in other hearts bound in your poems and stories
joy and sympathy your hearts' work read and re-read
Note on ’Alams for 2017
In the summer of 2017, my colleague Laila Moghrabi and I published an anthology of young Libyan writers titled Shams ’ala Nawafidh Mughlaqa (Sun on Shuttered Windows). The 500-page anthology contained short stories, poetry and prose by 25 writers, all under 35, as well as two essays by prominent Libyan literary critics. It was published by Darf Publishers, London, UK.
The book was meant to launch a new generation of Libyan writers to their nation which had been embroiled in civil strife since the death of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. Two months after publication and a generally positive reception to the book, a fierce campaign instigated by Islamic extremists erupted on the internet. The outrage was mainly directed at one selection from the anthology that depicted a sexual encounter. Almost everyone involved in the book received death threats and insults that numbered in the thousands. But it was Laila and other women contributors who received a disproportionate share of the public shaming and threats. Fearing for their lives, some of the writers hid with their families, changed residences or left the country. Laila left Libya shortly after the attack and has not returned since then. The poem is dedicated to all the contributors in the book, and to all writers working in extreme circumstances.
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Read next: ’Alams for Tripoli Night by Khaled Mattawa