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In the 20th century, a number of acclaimed Palestinian writers have produced a prodigious body of literature and intellectual thought. Leading figures of the past century include Emile Habibi, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, Ghassan Kanafani, Sahar Khalifeh, Edward Said, Samira Azzam and Raja Shehadeh, to name but a few.

Kanafani was a journalist and political activist but is best remembered for novels like Men in the Sun. The late Said was an enormously influential professor of literature at Columbia University who authored the seminal book Orientalism. Shehadeh, a lawyer and rights advocate, is also a noted writer and political commentator who, in Palestinian Walks, conveys Palestinian landscapes with a richly detailed sense of place.

Palestinians have a particularly strong poetry tradition. From Fadwa Tuqan and Samih al-Qasim, to their most internationally famed poet of all, Mahmoud Darwish, to diaspora poets like Tamim Al-Barghouti and Palestinian-American Naomi Shihab Nye, Palestinian culture has produced a remarkable number of admired poets. Themes in their work express concerns central to the Palestinian experience such as the loss of land and attachment to the land, confrontations with injustice, resistance and steadfastness, and the quest for freedom. For Palestinians in the diaspora, themes of exile, return, and identity also figure prominently. At the same time, it is important to note that Palestinian poets also write about universal themes including romantic love, family relationships, life and death, and natural phenomena. The loss of Palestine in 1948 also influenced Arab poetry as a whole, with poets across the Arab world questioning war and injustice and expressing anger toward Arab leaders.

Like other Arabic-language poets, Palestinian poets started experimenting with form in the middle of the 20th century and exploring free verse and less structured meter and style. They have produced a diverse and dynamic corpus of poetry that continues to grow and evolve. Many Palestinians are also influenced by American hip-hop artists. Bands like DAM explore themes that include politics, injustice, and gender relations. There are a number of Palestinian American poets today who are garnering widespread attention. Many Palestinian poets who write in Arabic, like Najwan Darwish, are being translated to English and other languages. Spoken word poetry, often combined with activism, is popular, and notable examples are Rafeef Ziadah’s powerful performances.

Source: Anera

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