Capstone 2015: Spanish and Arabic poetry

Posted by Rebecca Moore - 21 May, 2015

IMG_1308By Mustafa Hassoun '15

When I told Señora Perry, that I wasn’t planning to take the Capstone class, she was incredulous. After seeing the presentations from last year’s class, I reconsidered and I am glad I did. It was a challenge to work by myself, to put my language skills to the test.

For my project, I explored the effect of the Modernist movement on Spain and the Arab world. The Arab world is now reduced to unpleasant headlines. People don’t understand its vast depth and powerful beauty. Using the medium of poetry, I set out to demonstrate the Modernist influence and to write two original poems, one in Spanish, the other in Arabic.

I took note of the confluence of history, politics, and the arts in the emergence of Modernist hallmarks in many far-flung cultures. A series of failed regimes in Spain followed by the long dictatorship of Franco and the repressive effects of colonialism in the Arab world produced similar results in artists, a certain darkness, a deep distrust of establishment authority, and a yearning for freedom, both personal and political.

2015-04-20 12.30.09wThe Spanish poets I focused on were Antonio Machado and Federico Garcia Lorca. Machado was perhaps the darkest of all and most emblematic of his generation. And Lorca was the biggest influence on my own Spanish poem, with its themes of free love, isolation, and religious doubts, themes that so threatened the Fascists that they arrested and murdered him during the Spanish Civil War.

I read a wider array of Arab writers, and then focused on Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran and Ma’ruf bin Abdul Rusafi of Iraq, known as the ‘poet of freedom’ in his country. Each line of his Arab poem begins with ‘Like the…’ and associates a variety of countries with things they are known for: the Arabic coffee of Bahrain, the civilizations of Iraq, the cedars of Lebanon, the Dead Sea of Jordan, the olive trees of Palestine, and so on.

Fortunately, I didn’t fully realize that I was not a poet until after I wrote my poems. Now I have much more respect for the art form. I hope people came away with an appreciation for the power of ideas, and how they can be transferred across land and sea.

These are the poems I wrote:

Solo tu vida


Solo Tu VidaOnly your life, and nothing else
You are gone, when you go
No forward or backward
Churches, houses of falsehood
In the past, and in your time
Prospering in the darkness
God, do not love him
Images, worship them
The name in vain, take it
The Sabbath, do not sanctify it
Parents, do not honor them
Adultery, commit it
False testimonies, raise them
That of your neighbor, covet it
For two thousand years you felt full
Now you feel an emptiness
But this void is divine
A void filled with the truth
In the future and in your time
Prospering in the light
No forward or backward
But there is now
Only your life, and nothing else

Arabic poem

Like the Roar of the Atlas Lion in Morocco
Like the Million Martyrs in Algeria
Like Cities out of Salt in Tunisia

Like Omar al Mukhtar in Libya
Like Cotton in Egypt
Like the Flow of the Nile in Sudan

Like Uways al Barawi in Somali
Like Qat in Yemen
Like the Head of the Khanjar in Oman

Like the Pearl Divers in the Emirates
Like the Eye of the Maha in Qatar
Like the Flavor of Arabic Coffee in Bahrain

Like the Palm Trees in Hijaz
Like Civilizations in Iraq
Like the Makers of Silk in Syria

Like the Cedar Trees in Lebanon
Like the Dead Sea in Jordan
Like the Olive Trees in Palestine

Topics: 12th grade, Academics, Arabic, Capstone, curriculum, languages, poetry, Spanish, teachers, the world, People

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