Yehia Jaber: Fighting with Words



Magog via Wikimedia

How do you choose to protest? Colin Lowther and Liz Waid look at Lebanese poet Yehia Jaber.

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Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Colin Lowther.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 3 

“Yehia Jaber is a Lebanese poet. He is well loved and very funny. When I first met him, it was his laughter that immediately drew me in. His laughter is warm. It makes other people want to laugh too. He looks like a poet. His white hair sticks up from his head. He always has a cigarette hanging from his mouth. He questions society and politics around him. He has good and funny observations of life. I immediately like his poems. They are both very funny and deeply emotional.”

Voice 1 

These are the words of Roxana Vilk. She is a British Iranian filmmaker and artist. She wrote on her blog about meeting the famous Lebanese poet Yehia Jaber. Today’s Spotlight is on Yehia Jaber and his protests through poetry.

Voice 2 

For centuries, poets have had a great influence in the Middle East. These artists are usually well educated. Their communities respect them highly. These poets have also had an important place during times of conflict. Their poems share ideas and protests. They write to express their anger and their joy.  Yehia Jaber explains to Al Jazeera how he became one of these poets:

Voice 4 

“Our war in Lebanon started in 1975. My life began as a political fighter and poet. And I was 14 years old. Israel invaded Lebanon in 1978. So the three ideas came together suddenly: first love, then war, then reading. The three combined to create the poet Yehia Jaber.”

Voice 1 

Jaber grew up in a small town in Lebanon. His father was a very religious man. Jaber loved his father. But they had a difficult relationship. At age 18, Jaber rebelled against his father. He became a member of the Lebanese communist party. At that time Jaber saw injustice all around him. He wanted to change the world through revolution. So he became a fighter.

Voice 2 

Jaber saw many terrible things while he was a revolutionary fighter. And soon he saw that violence was not solving the problem. So Jaber left the Lebanese Communist Party. He decided to try to change his country in a different way. He became a student and a writer. He told Roxana Vilk:

Voice 4 

“I discovered that war is not a real solution to change. I believe in peace. I believe in humanity. I believe that my place in this world is to be a poet not a fighter. I regret that I was a fighter and ask for forgiveness for what happened.”

Voice 1

Jaber had always liked to read and study. And other people encouraged him to do so. When Jaber was a young man he worked as a builder. But the other builders saw what a good student he was. They told Jaber to sit and study; they would build the house. Jaber’s co-workers and family knew that he should build up his mind.

Voice 2 

Jaber studied until he had built something else. He now had a different kind of weapon. Jaber began to write poetry. He no longer fights with a gun. He now uses poetry as a form of protest. And he is not the only poet to do this. Roxana Vilk made a film about six Middle Eastern poets. These poets have become leaders. Their poems show people what is happening. They also encourage people to work for change. In this film, Yehia Jaber says:

Voice 4 

“Basically, poetry is a cry of “no”. It is a “yes” for change. The relationship between poetry and protest is a deep one. All revolutions begin as poetry. Poetry is questions. Change begins with questions. So poetry and protest cannot be separated.”

Voice 1 

Jaber uses poetry to discuss politics. He writes about what he sees around him in Lebanon. His poetry is often very funny. This sense of humour has made Jaber famous. Jaber even performs his poems as if he is a comedian - someone who tells jokes for his job. But Jaber is also saying something serious about his country. He comments on the problems of the world around him. He writes about his personal experiences.

Voice 2

One of Jaber’s poems is about a sad time in his life. His mother died of cancer. Jaber wanted to bury her body in her home town. But that town was across a bridge that was guarded by soldiers. The soldiers would not let Jaber cross with his mother’s body. Every day he took his mother’s body to the bridge in an ambulance. Every day he had to bring his mother back to the hospital morgue - where dead bodies are kept. This experience made Jaber very sad about his mother. It also made him angry about the conflict. His poem about it is both political and personal:

Voice 4 

I sit under a cloud in Beirut
I am waiting for someone to wash her body
I am waiting for the soldiers to leave
I am waiting for the Red Cross
I am waiting for permission from the Israeli guard.
And my mother, like a frozen flower
Is waiting in the hospital morgue
She is waiting for the warmth of a hand
And for the touch of the earth
And it was raining, raining,
It was raining.

Voice 1 

Many people in conflict areas have difficult experiences like this. That is why poets like Jaber continue to write about them. Poems are a way of expressing emotion. They are also a way of showing the truth of a situation. And they demand a solution to the problem. So, Yehia Jaber will continue to make people laugh. He may also make people angry or sad. But his purpose is to help bring peaceful change for his country. He says:

Voice 4 

There is a relationship between war and words.
There is a relationship between love and words.
I choose my battle in words.
I make fire by words.
I save some people in words; make victims in words
This is my playground. I fight by words
The violence inside me will come out in words
So that there is no blood.

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Rena Dam. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Yehia Jaber: Fighting with Words’.

Voice 1 

You can also leave your comments on our website. Or you can email us at radio@radioenglish. net. You can also find us on Facebook - just search for spotlightradio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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Question:

Do you read poetry? Who is your favorite poet? What message does this poet share through their poetry?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
nature187_vn
said on April 25, 2013

Program’s story I felt much emotions big love of son for his mother.Although my childhood when I was children I didnt like studying poetry…but today this story it really changes my mind,these poetries contains all love,thinking of son…Sometime,in the life these words simple to saying with people we love them,but sometime it’s difficult to making it,hrough poetry we can describe and revealed emotions for anyone.Thanks for sharing!

Avatar Spotlight
kenhieuloilam
said on July 10, 2014

In the life we build for peace. We keep the life peaceful. Peace is our desire. Peace is everyone’s desire. Not good things destroy the life. Not good things need to be pushed away. We do all things we can to keep the life peaceful. We use our speaking and writing to fight not good things. There is the good. There is the evil. We choose the good. We do all things we can to push the evil away.

natasoul's avatar
natasoul
said on September 19, 2014

this stoty was very emotional and cognitive. I think it is very important when we have such people like ‘Yehia Jaber who can fighting with words .I agree that war is not a real solution to change. I beilive in peace, i beilive in soul and spirit.This poet had a very hard life but he found force to fight to live with his faith in better life and doing everythng to achive this. And really, poems is the best way of expressing emotion.  Sometimes i like to write too ,espeсially when i sad i can expressing sad emotion and write sad songs but when i   am funny i will be able to write buxom song.Thanks my dear Spotlight it is very useful for me))

Avatar Spotlight
Honneur
said on November 20, 2019

I like poetry so much. I have not a favorite poet, but I like a lot of them: Luis Vaz de Camões; Junqueiro War; Vinicius de Moraes; Olavo Bilac; Alphonsus of the Guimarãens; Cruz e Souza and Cecilia Meirelles are some of my favorites. Each has its own favorite themes, but like almost every poet, his writings are about man and his path through life.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on November 20, 2019

From .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
To spotlight program
Subject to answer to the questions below
Location São Paulo city São Paulo Brazil
Wednesday 20, November 2019

Dear Rena Dam, Michio Ozaki, and Liz Waid

I thank you for producing and writing more one great article for us brazilian people and others around the World.
Question 1 - Do you read poetry?
Answer 1 - Yes, I do.
Question 2 - Who is your favorite poet?
Answer 2 - My favorite poet is a famous brazilian poet and his name is Carlos Drummond de Andrade (1902 - 1987) his birth year and his death year.
Question 3 - What message does this poet share through their poetry?
Answer 3 - A message of encourageness, hopeness, and good thoughts.
God bless you
Severino Ramos
Brazil