6 min read  | Damascus, Interviews, Politics

Aram: ‘No one will save this country except its sons’


April 1, 2015

April 1, 2015

Syrian poet Aram has published two volumes of work, in 2005 and 2007, respectively. Originally from Damascus, he worked as a journalist and held poetry readings in Paris.  

But since the Syrian war began, Aram, 36, has a sort of writer’s block…yet another a casualty of a civil war without end.

 “I stopped writing for a long time because of the ascendancy of scenes of killing and blood,” the poet tells Syria Direct’s Ghardinia Ashour.

The scenes of war “froze my fingers and evaporated my soul.”

Aram has since returned to the pen, and says he intends to publish a new collection in the coming months. Here, he discusses the cost of war on the culture, the intellect and the mind.

Q: How has Damascus changed for you over the past four years?

Damascus today is a sad city, a bereaved mother in every sense of the word, everything whispers of death and loss, mourning.

At the same time, there is the other Damascus, patient, resilient, bigger than her wounds. Damascus is not the only one who has changed. We’ve changed as well.

The war doesn’t ever show mercy. It shows mercy to no one. Despite that, Damascus is greater than everyone, and she will remain immortal just as Damascenes, like all Syrians, will remain a people who have presented the entire world with an epic battle marked by resilience and heroism.

0401Poet Aram’s diwans. Photo courtesy of Aram.

Q: A poet whose language is beauty and butterflies, what does he write when words turn to bullets and blood?

I stopped writing for a long time because of the ascendancy of scenes of killing and blood. I wasn’t able to write a letter, my entire existence was shaking. Not because of fear, although I can’t deny that I lived through many fearful moments, but because of the terror of the calamity on the whole.

An entire culture changes in the midst of war and tragedy. People often change and subsequently everything is capable of changing. The sight of killing and blood froze my fingers and evaporated my soul, I was disappearing with every drop of blood that was spilled on Syrian soil.

Q: You wrote that the defeat of love means the defeat of God. Hasn’t love been defeated, in your opinion, as we’ve become used to all these bodies, all this frustration and hatred every day?

No, love has not been defeated. As proof—you posed this very question. I only say this based on experience, we are still living and will remain, and we will rebuild everything with love and for the sake of love. It’s not possible to give up on love, ever, it’s like God—immortal, forever, and everywhere.

Q: The poet is by nature a rebel, and at the same time is afraid to scratch a rose—where do you find yourself today?

I’m a poet living between water and fire, between a rose and its thorn, between the tree of life that insists every day on growing taller, and between the lumberjacks who chop down life, love and entire peoples. In short, I’m a mixture of anger and tears.

Q: Why didn’t you stand in line at the borders and embassies?

I always had hope that the war would end soon. I still hope for that. Maybe that’s one of the main reasons that made me continue to live in Damascus.

Despite that, I tried to travel for reasons that might be connected with the difficulty of life and tough living conditions. Every time I would find myself back once more in Damascus.

I would be lying to you if I said that one does not think about travel in the midst of these oppressive conditions. If trees could travel, they might have left to protect their birds, and to save what remains of the spring.

Despite all this I’ll say to you that a day might come where I find myself packing my bags to save what remains of myself and my humanity.

Q: Can words be an ambassador of peace? Or have a real impact?

Of course words can have an impact. I’m not exaggerating when I say that sometimes words can start wars and destroy countries, just as sometimes, words of love and peace can re-order the world and humanity. A word can be a bullet, and at the same time it can be a rose that tells of the coming spring.

Q: What do you think of those who say, “today is for the rifle,” and that the politicians, writers and poets should step aside?

I’m against violence entirely, the bullet only brings about blood. People’s experiences prove this point. We are seeing right now what the rifle has wrought in a number of Arab countries, including Syria. Politics is unavoidable, but it’s sad that politics only arrives atop piles of guts.

Q: How will life emerge from between the graves, and childrens’ bodies, the dreams and cities?

Clinging to life is something inevitable. Life will emerge whether we like it or not, just like it is born every day from the song of birds alongside each new sunrise. Life is continuing and it will continue, but we need to think about it, and love it, and put death and hatred aside and learn the alphabet of love.

Q: You wrote that we are part of a play; that we’re the audience and sometimes the play itself. Who are the writer and director?

Unfortunately, Syria no longer has a role on stage except for death. The writer, director and main actors of this tragic play are the entire world, the world that has let us down, and sent to our aid those murdered by their own swords, dripping with blood. Believe me, the entire world is responsible for the Syrian tragedy, not just in Syria but in practically all the Arab countries.

Q: You wrote that war destroys even the air. So what about the soul, children, schools and mosques?

There is no difference between a child’s neck and a minaret, between his smile and a church bell. War is a blind, crazy creature. But this is our mission, to have a vision and hasten to stop this war by all means necessary.

Q: Tell me about your collections of poetry. Did you write during the war?

I published two collections, the first in 2007 composed of texts I wrote between 2002 and 2004 under the title “Orbits of the Place and Change” and the second in 2009, under the title “Hallucinations for the Mind’s Tables.”

I now have a lot of texts that will hopefully be published as a new diwan [collection] soon. I stopped writing for a long period of time; from time to time I would write a short story here and there. But after four years I found that writing was no longer just a psychological or cultural necessity, or merely pleasurable. I came to see it as a duty, an expression of clinging to life in the face of death’s machinery.

Q: Among this tapestry of threads and net of conspiracies, what is the most mixed-up thread?

All of the threads are mixed up. The big states are fighting over Syria. Large plans are in the works for Syria. These states don’t care about humankind, or about the number of victims, and the Syrian issue will not be solved except by a great international settlement.

But I think that everyone wants this country to burn. It is burning, we’re all burning inside its borders and out. Once more I’ll say it, no one will save this country except its sons, by foiling all the conspiracies, but the disaster occurs when these sons themselves are part of the conspiracy.

Q: Damascus, the dove of peace…considering poets have their prophecies, will Damascus soar one day?

The dove of peace will soar, certainly. No war continues forever, just as the dove of peace is an idea; every Syrian can be a dove of peace. Each child is a white dove who screams amongst the bullets: Stop this war, you murderers!

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