Skip to content

Palestinian poet Ghassan Zaqtan is a novelist, editor, and the author of ten collections of poetry. He was born in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, and has lived in Jordan, Beirut, Damascus and Tunis. He returned to Palestine in 1994 and now lives in Ramallah.

Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me

Yale University Press
2013 Winner
United States

Judges’ Citation

His poetry awakens the spirits buried deep in the garden, in our hearts, in the past, present and future. His singing reminds us why we live and how, in the midst of war, despair, global changes.

What does poetry do? Nothing and everything, like air, water, soil, like birds, fish, trees, like love, spirit, our daily words … It lives with us, in and outside us, everywhere, all the time, and yet, we are too often oblivious of this gift. It’s a poet’s job to bring this gift out and back, this gift that makes us human again. And Mr. Zaqtan has done it. His poetry awakens the spirits buried deep in the garden, in our hearts, in the past, present and future. His singing reminds us why we live and how, in the midst of war, despair, global changes. His words turn dark into light, hatred into love, death into life. His magic leads us to the clearing where hope becomes possible, where healing begins across individuals, countries, races … and we are one with air, water, soil, birds, fish, trees … our daily words pregnant with beauty, and we begin to sing again till ‘ … the singer / and the song / are alike (Biography in Charcoal)’. This is Mr. Zaqtan’s only ‘profession’. It’s now also ours. About the translation: as a translator of poetry myself, I know the danger, frustration and the joy in the process of catching the fire from the original and delivering it through/into another language, another culture, another sentiment. Mr. Joudah delivered with such grace and power. My salute to Mr. Joudah, as translator to translator, as poet to poet, as doctor to doctor.