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Salt in the wounds



Jogchum Zijlstra


We are at war. Or so says French President Emmanuel Macron. He is of course referring to the worldwide fight against the corona virus. In other words, an outright world war, with all its consequences. But isn't it wise to be more careful with overly big words? After all, there is no rampant lawlessness or dangerous escalation of violence, as we always see it in armed conflicts. But still, our freedom of movement is severely limited and there is fear. A feeling that former refugees also say they recognize. A fear and limitations that many associate with war. The poem quoted here determines us in yet another aspect that gives us the feeling of being at war. According to a well-known saying, the first victim in a war is the truth. "The first casualty when war comes is truth," as the American senator Johnson first formulated it in 1917. This applies not only to violent confrontations, but also to the cultural war that is going on in many parts of the world. And it applies to battles against invisible enemies, such as the current haunting virus. As a non-expert in the recent media and talk show violence, try to distinguish the real facts from the self-interest-inspired interpretations. What is the truth?

For Armando, who died in 2018, World War II was the most important source of his work as a

visual artist, writer and poet. He mainly immersed himself in the motives and motives of the 'Daughter', which was not always appreciated in the post-war Netherlands. The facts were clear, were they not? But Armando was averse to simplified contradictions such as perpetrator and victim, violence and reconciliation, truth and lies. The bundle of Toch appeared in 2019. Abandoned work. The collection contains forty short poems, including the one quoted here, and thirteen very short stories. In this poem he explicitly connects the themes of "truth" and "power". The countervailing power lies in asking questions. By questioning the "power", he criticizes the claim that the "impudent truth has been found." In a few words, Armando shows what happens when rulers appropriate the truth. Then it remains to be seen whether there is room for uncertainty or for a different perspective. Then it remains to be seen whether suspicions are described and failures are collected. Then it remains to be seen whether there will be recognition (of wrongdoing?). Then people fleeing from the incumbent power are fabrications and protest is crushed.

The poem also raises the question of what, in the context of power structures, is the relationship between truth and facts. How do the two relate to each other? Is the truth actually ever to be found, as "power" claims? After all, there is always

the actual reality and the truth of the individual experience. Reflecting on a war in and through art, in and through poetry: it is almost always a mixture of verifiable facts and personal interpretations and experiences. Or is it precisely because of this that poetry offers a "higher" truth?

Palestinian poet Asmaa Azaizeh, who was born in 1985, is emphatically careful not to impose the claim on a "higher" truth on her. After all, poets are sometimes assigned the role of expressing them as prophets in their poetry. A truth that transcends the actual reality of the history books. However, Azaizeh refuses to be locked up in the expectation of speaking out for a people who rarely get a voice. She concludes her bundle with the warning rules: "The problem is not that poets are liars / the tragedy is that they are believed blindly / as massacres."

As far as the use of language is concerned, there hardly seems to be a greater contrast than between Armando's work and Azaizeh's poetry. Armando writes short poems in boned language, the poems of Azaizeh swarm over the pages in an imaginative language full of metaphors. Her collection consists of twenty-six long poems and the title poem begins as follows:

"The war keeps me busy. But I'm ashamed to write about it. I scourge / my metaphors and I pray for them. Pain leads me to describe /

a bullet, after which I describe an emotional blow. I rip open the belly of the / words and the victims of harakiri wake up, all of them, and they rip open / my belly. // You shouldn't believe what I said about the war. // Because I talk about blood while I drink coffee, about digging while picking / daisies in Marj Ibn Amer, about the murders while going on in / laughing with friends, and about the burnt down theater in Aleppo now / stand before you in this air-conditioned theater. "

The war keeps her busy while she freely drinks her coffee with friends. It doesn't matter what she writes about, love, her grandfather, a circus, poetry or movies, the war always somehow reappears. In all poems there are traces of war and violence. However, she does not want to be the voice of her people, it is about what she experiences. In the Netherlands we are not involved in an armed conflict and we do not feel it as close as, for example, in the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. This year we commemorate seventy-five years of freedom. Because of the corona crisis, we have to celebrate in a way that may determine us more intensively than ever in war.

Although the poems of Armando and Azaizeh deal with war and its consequences in a totally different way, they are both impressive attempts to rub salt into wounds in words in such a way that the pain will heal to work.

(This article is translated into English through Google translate)

Azaizeh HR.jpg
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