here, there and gone: where?
Home is a controversial word for Iyad Hayatleh, a Palestinian poet who was born in a Syrian refugee camp. “The most controversial word of my life,” he told us. He has never been to Palestine but to mark Refugee Week, Iyad read poems about home in Arabic and English as we gathered round a dead tree in Edinburgh’s Poetry Garden.
It was a simple idea. Poems about home written by refugees were hung in the old cherry tree near the Coffee Republic pavilion in St Andrew Square. In pouring rain words gathered tears of their own.
That was Tuesday 16 June. Oddly when we met for the poetry picnic on the sunnier 18th some of the poetry had vanished. Including the three word poem, “Here and There” and Iyad’s three poems written in beautiful Arabic script.
Iyad Hayatleh (photograph by Nick Gardner)
Never mind. We had real, live poetry while shoppers passed by. Iyad, who now lives in Glasgow, read two of his own poems and one by Mahmoud Darwish in both Arabic and English. Ryan read one about his family home in the US. Gordon Munro (a Leith councillor with a not so private passion for poetry) read a poem in Scots dialect about Leith’s welcoming internationalism by the Leith poet Rodney Relax. While Jason Bergen of Oxfam reminded us that Scotland is not always a welcoming place for refugees.
Gordon reading Rodney Relax. (Pic by Nick)
Poems in the tree were written by refugees at a workshop in The Welcoming led by Ryan van Winkle, Reader in Residence at the city libraries and Scottish Poetry Library. The workshop was organised by the poetry library in partnership with The Welcoming and Oxfam.
And the poetry was supposed to be on display until Monday 29 June but the poems were vanishing so fast it looks as if poetry library volunteers won’t have much clearing up to do after the weekend. Where “Here and There”?