Rug of a Thousand Colours is the title of a short collection of poems inspired by the Five Pillars of Islam. The poems were composed over a period of four years by two poets, Tessa Hansford and Iyad Hayatleh. Tessa is a Scottish poet and is well known as one of the founders of the Scottish Poetry Library. Iyad is a Palestinian poet who was born and brought up in a refugee camp in Syria. He has lived in Scotland since 2000.
Last week I was privileged to attend a reading of some of the poems from this collection. The event was part of a series of literary events organised by the Dundee-Nablus Twinning Association, A Celebration of Palestinian Literature.
We were very pleased that Iyad Hayatleh was able to attend and read his own poems for us. Unfortunately Tessa Hansford was unable to attend, as she is quite seriously ill. Luckily for us, her good friend and fellow poet, A C Clarke was able to come and read Tessa’s poems.
Though the poems explore Tessa and Iyad’s personal responses to the Five Pillars of Islam, the poems are not especially religious. As A C Clarke informed us, Tessa regards herself as a follower of Jesus unencumbered by any church. The poems form a dialogue which is interwoven throughout the poems to create a vivid tapestry of ideas. Each poet translates the other’s work so that each poem is presented in English and in Arabic.
One of the most impressive and fascinating pleasures of the evening was the contrast in reading styles of the two readers. A C Clarke spoke in a gentle, almost reflective voice, but nevertheless full of expression. Iyad, on the other hand, who read in Arabic, was much more dramatic with hand gestures to accompany the poems. As someone who does not understand Arabic, it was quite a sensation to listen to the poems in that language. One could grasp immediately that there was a lot of repetition of words and phrases in Iyad’s poems. The poems sounded very rhythmic and some seemed to build up to rising crescendo.
Below are a couple of short extracts from the collection.
Let me wake to light
to the daystar in my heart
to the sun in my soul
however dark the day
and overcast with pain
with loneliness with grief
with knowledge that hopes
must be for others not myself,
others whom I live or linger for
that they may welcome daily
the dayspring from on high
From dawn to dusk
I go without food and water
and have no sense of hunger
for hunger is not the hunger of stomachs;
it is the l ongoing
longing of l overs to be with their beloved;
it is the yearning
yearning of the homeless to return to the land
where memories for six decades
fall asleep on a promise,
the promised return of the dream
on the wings of the nightingale.
translated with Tessa Hansford