“Imagining Peace” was the theme of the Southbank Centre’s Poetry International this year. Many of the poems that were performed during the festival reflected on peace, war, Palestine, Iraq and other places that have known conflict. Kristiina Ehin, who performed on the third day of the festival, amazed me with her poetry which is rich with fictional images. She talked about sea maidens and sea creatures. I was taken away by her calm voice and her unusual images.
Besides her fictional images, Kristiina’s words about peace planted themselves in my mind. Instead of writing 500 words here to express my feelings and ideas about peace, I want to use Kristiina’s language to share my feelings: “When I find peace, there’s warmth in my hands for a moment”. It is a feeling I long to know.
Yang Lian, who performed on the last day of the festival, also talked in his poetry about war and peace. He read his poetry in his mother tongue, Chinese. It was amazing how you can feel the poetry even if when it is said in a language you don’t understand. During the discussion after the reading, he spoke about peace and how war and peace are, somehow, connected. This quotation from him holds a little hope to reach peace or maybe just to understand it someday: “We need to live in war in order to understand peace.” The meanings of his words affected my understanding of war and peace.
Recently, someone asked me, “Do you feel you live in peace in Palestine?” I answered: “I don’t know how it feels to be living in peace. Since I came to life, all I’ve known is war.” But now, I can understand the situation in Palestine a bit more. I will know peace when it comes because I have known war. War has defined for me what peace should be, and I long for the day when I both understand the idea of and know the reality of peace.
Filed under: Poetry International 2010