We Begin Here
Poems for Palestine and Lebanon
By Kamal Boullata & Kathy Engel (ed.)
“This collection offers and intricate understanding of what it means to resist, to give birth to change, to create meaning out of astonishing political chaos and violence.” — Heather Bidell, Artvoice
About this book
We Begin Here: Poems for Palestine and Lebanon contains poems written in response to the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon together with new ones rising from the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon.
Following a great tradition of poetry throughout history, this book shows the vast conscience and lyrical spirit of resistance on the part of poets in support of the dignity, rights, and humanity of the Palestinian and Lebanese people.
We Begin Here is an affirmation of the human and poetic spirit, reminding us that poetry and struggle always "begin here," always leading us back to ourselves, to each other, in community, seeking truth and beauty across all borders.
“No ‘we’ should be taken for granted when the subject is looking at other people’s pain.” — Susan Sontag
“The point, it seems, is not only to document trauma but to find words capable of healing, mourning, becoming human in the aftermath of crimes against humanity.” —The Daily Star
“‘We Begin Here’ offers poetry whose aesthetic labor is inextricable from its political labor- poetry that works to end a silence externally imposed by media framing and outright censorship and internally imposed by those who fear reprisals for speaking out. ” — Philip Metres, Journal of Palestinian Studies
“‘We Begin Here’ is a collection of poems ‘for Palestine and Lebanon.’ Consisting of two parts, ‘Speak Out’ and ‘And Not Surrender, ‘the two headings form a slogan decrying the crimes committed against people everywhere. The poems in the first part, written after the Hizbollah-Israeli war of 2006, depict the perspective of those on the Lebanese side (among them Palestinians still living in refugee camps), most of whom were not participants in the war itself. The second part, a second edition of a book of poems published after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, presents poems that are similar in content to the first part: the sufferings of Palestinians, especially refugees, in Lebanon who are caught in the cross-fire either between terrorist groups and Israeli forces or among mutually hostile groups inside Lebanon…The poems were chosen to reflect the sufferings of Palestinians living in the refugee camps of southern Lebanon during the wars of 1982 and 2006. the book’s declared aims are to express support for the refugees, many of whom live in abject poverty; strengthen their spirits and let them know they are not alone; demonstrate the poets’ awareness of wrongs committed against people everywhere, especially against Palestinians; and to shock the readers into doing more to bring peace, comradeship, and a better life into the world. In short, they remind the readers of a harsh reality that deserves to be addressed… The poems vary in length and style, for they take the form of reports, letters, dialogue, and tales. A recurrent theme is the heartrending suffering of innocents everywhere, and specifically the tragic situation of the Palestinians living in refugee camps in Lebanon… The book is meant for anyone who loves poetry, especially those interested in the Palestinians.” — American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences (AJISS)
“This collection offers and intricate understanding of what it means to resist, to give birth to change, to create meaning out of astonishing political chaos and violence.” —Heather Bidell, Artvoice
About the Author
Kathy Engel is a poet, teacher, producer and consultant for social justice and peace organizations. Her first book of poems Banish The Tentative, was published in 1989. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and publications. She is the founder of MADRE, an international women’s human rights organization, the former President and co-founder of Riptide Communications, co-founder of East End Women in Black and KickAss Artists. Her new book of poems and personal prose, Ruth’s Skirts is forthcoming from IKON. She traveled to Palestine in 1990.