Samih al-Qasim is a Palestinian Druze poet and citizen of Israel whose Arabic poetry is well-known throughout Arab World. His poetry is influenced by two primary periods of his life: Before and after the defeat of an alliance of Arab armies to Israel in 1967. He joined the Communist Hadash political party in 1967. Al-Qasim published several volumes and collections of poetry.
Al-Qasim was born in 1939 in the city of az-Zarqa in northern Jordan while his father served in the Arab Legion of King Abdullah. He came from a Druze family from the town of Rameh in the Upper Galilee. He attended primary school there and then later graduated from secondary school in Nazareth. His family did not flee Rame during the Palestinian exodus (Nakba) of 1948.A Bilingual Anthology of Arabic Poetry - Victims of A Mapby Samih al-Qasim, Adonis, and Mahmoud Darwish. Al-Saqi books 26 Westbourne Grove, London W2 1984 In his book About Principles and Art'', he explains,
While I was still at primary school the Palestinian tragedy occurred. I regard that date as the date of my birth, because the first images I can remember are of the 1948 events. My thoughts and images spring from the number 48'.
Life as a poet and journalist
As of 1984, al-Qasim had written twenty-four volumes of nationalist poetry and published six collections of poems. His poems in general are relatively short, some being no more than just two verses. Some of his famous poems include:
Sons of War
Confession at Midday
The Story of a City
Conversation between Ear of Corn and Jerusalem Rose Thorn
How I became an Article
Story of the Unknown Man
End of a Discussion with a Jailer
The Will of a Man Dying in Exile
The Boring Orbit
The Clock on the Wall
Al-Qasim has contributed to the journals of Al-Ittihad, Al-Jadid, Index and others. He claims, that the pan-Arab ideology of Nasserism impressed him during the nationalist post-1948 era. Most of his poetry relates to the change of life before and after the Nakba, the Palestinian and broader Arab struggle to free their lands from foreign influence, Arab nationalism, and various Arab tragedies. In 1968, he published his first collection of poetry, Waiting for the Thunderbird. Al-Qasim wrote about these subjects while they were at the climax of their popularity among the Arab population in the later half of the 20th century. When asked by his Iraqi friend, poet Buland al-Haidari if he had visited Baghdad, he replied by saying he did not have to, since he views any Arab city as equal to his own Arab residence.
Al-Qasim claims, that the pan-Arab ideology of Nasserism impressed him during the nationalist post-1948 era. He has been jailed several times for his political activities that have involved advocacy for Palestinian rights and dissent against government policies, starting in 1960 for refusal to enlist in the Israeli army which is required of Israeli Druze.The Druzes in the Jewish State: A Brief History 171. He has also been under house arrest. He joined the Israeli Communist party Hadash in 1967 and was detained along with other members of the party at the outbreak of the Six-Day War. He was sent to al-Damoun prison in Haifa. During this time, he virtually lost his nationalistic emotions upon hearing Israeli radio announcing its territorial gains after their victory.
Al-Qasim currently works as a journalist in Haifa where he runs the Arabesque Press and the Folk Arts Centre and is the editor-of-chief in the Israeli Arab newspaper Kul al-Arab. He recites many of his poems to large audiences in the Arab towns and cities of the Galilee monthly. Al-Qasim has refused to leave Israel; In an interview with Index he is quoted as saying "I have chosen to remain in my own country not because I love myself less, but because I love my country more".
Sadder Than Water: New & Selected Poems by Samih al-Qasim, translated by Nazih Kassis, introduced by Adina Hoffman. 2006.