Tag Archives: poetry

Nizar Tawfiq Qabbani and Damascus

I am researching and writing a novel set against the backdrop of the First World War. It is partly set in Australia: Margaret River and the Tumut Valley and in London and the Middle East. It is a time-split novel and has two casts of characters who are connected across time. And the research is a such joy!

One character is botanist and and another an artist who live a hundred years apart yet are connected by botanicals. The modern day botanist brings abandoned gardens to life and the hundred years ago artist paints images of the wildflowers she has collected.

One of my male characters joins the Light Horse Regiment (conveniently raised in Western Australia where part of the novel is set) and another travels to England and becomes a pilot.

The 10th Australian Light Horse Regiment AIF was the only AIF regiment recuited in Western Australia during the First World War.

My research lead me to the city of Damascus. 

In 1917 the 10th Light Horse Regiment were part of the Desert Column that advanced into Palestine. The regiment participated in the bloody battles to break the Gaza-Beersheba line and helped capture Jerusalem. They participated in the Es Salt Raid in May 1918. In August they were one of the regiments re-equipped with swords and rifle boots, and retrained to take a more orthodox cavalry role. In their new role they took part in the rout of the Ottoman army in the Jordan Valley, a campaign the light horse referred to as ‘The Great Ride’. In September the 10th was the first formed regiment to enter Damascus.

I spent time in Egypt some years ago and felt a connection to the culture and the history of the Middle East so a great joy for me while researching was my discovery of the poet Nizar Tawfiq Qabbani and his exquisite poetry.

Nizar Tawfiq Qabbani (Arabic: نزار توفيق قباني‎‎, Nizār Tawfīq Qabbānī) (21 March 1923 – 30 April 1998) was a Syrian diplomat, poet and publisher. His poetic style combines simplicity and elegance in exploring themes of love, eroticism, feminism, religion, and Arab nationalism. Qabbani is one of the most revered contemporary poets in the Arab world.

Nizar Qabbani was born in the Syrian capital of Damascus to a middle class merchant family. Qabbani was raised in Mi’thnah Al-Shahm, one of the neighborhoods of Old Damascus.

Part of Verse 14: Damascus, What are you Doing to Me.

I put on the jubbah of Muhyi al-Din Ibn al-Arabi
I descend from the peak of Mt. Qassiun
Carrying for the children of the city . . .
Peaches
Pomegranates
And sesame halawa . . .
And for its women . . .
Necklaces of turquoise . . .
And poems of love . . .
I enter . . .
A long tunnel of sparrows
Gillyflowers . . .
Hibiscus . . .
Clustered jasmine . . .
And I enter the questions of perfume . . .

  1. Gillyflower
  2. A Syrian cat sitting behind a jasmine vine

Have a wonderful day (I am spending the afternoon with friends at  a lovely house with a walled garden).

Cheers, Elise.

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The Sleeping Wood

Fairytales are magical, I loved reading them as a child, and now I enjoy them as an adult. The below is from a book I have long loved.

‘Ah, it was lovely in the Sleeping Wood with the budding trees all around, and you with your secret thoughts flowering so that it seemed you held a posy in your hands! And in the middle of an ash grove, where the long sun rays fell slanting, the prince of her dreams came cantering on his snowy steed with shining armour and a red plume flaunted . . .  Only when the dazzlement had gone from her eyes it turned out to be no more than Patrick Creegan, the miller’s boy, on a shaggy donkey, and both of them dusted white with mealies.’

I can see a moral in this story . . .

One of my favourite poems to share with you:

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

William Butler Yeats 

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for honey-bee,

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,

Dropping from the veils of morning to where the cricket sings;

There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,

And evening full of linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore:

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,

I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

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My Writing Journey

I continue the re-writing of my WIP (work-in-progress) and some chapters are now second or third drafts.  I have decided to cut my  point of view characters from four to three or possibly two. I will let you know how I go with it next week.  My novel follows a duel narrative structure which gives texture and depth to my story, ensuring the reader never tires of the one storyline. Both story strands are written in the third person but there is always the option to write one strand in the first person although it is not something I plan to do. I haven’t heard from the editor who has my manuscript From the Heart.

Have you read The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran? AE George Russell wrote:

‘I do not think the East has spoken with so beautiful a voice since the Gitanjali of Rabindranath Tagore as in The Prophet of Kahlil Gibran, who is artist as well as poet. I have not seen for years a book more beautiful in its thought, and when reading it I understand better than ever before what Socrates meant in the Banquet when he spoke of the beauty of thought which exercises a deeper enchantment than the beauty of form . . . I could quote from every page, and from every page I could find some beautiful and liberating thought.’

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.

For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together yet not too near together:

For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

(Part of the verse on marriage)

Have a good writing week,  Elise

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