Biography & selections from Mohammed Al-Sharafi poetry [Archives:2003/646/Culture]

June 30 2003

Selected by Ismael Al- Ghabri
Al-Sharafi was born in 1940 in Al-Shahel Mountain, Al-Mahabisha, and Hajja governorate in Yemen. About his conception of poetry, Al-Sharafi found it difficult to formulate a definite conception of poetry, which he could call his own. In his opinion, poetry is either a gift or a talent. It is a special energy or power that is different from that of ordinary people. There are other factors such as the poet's culture, emotions, imagination, and power of depiction. For him, poetry is a powerful intuition, a far-reaching fancy, and a lofty imagination. Poetic creation occurs only to talented men who are born to be poets. Any person can write versified language, but this is not poetry. Concerning form, Al-Sharafi does not distinguish between one kind of poetry and another. For him, poetry is poetry. He says that when we read a good poem, we feel that we are before a real poet has succeeded in putting us in a unique mood of artistic ecstasy. Perhaps we may not understand everything the poet says, but we feel that we are changed after reading of listening to a great poem. In actual poetic creation, Al-Sharafi has more than one kind of experience.
As for the actual composition of his poems, Al-Sharafi used to write in all kinds of places: at home, in the street, in the bathroom, or even in a coffeehouse. He first composes his poems in his mind, and then he puts them on paper. As for the time of writing poetry, he has written poems at all times, even while in bed; when a poem comes to his mind, he turns on the light and starts writing it.
Asked about his poetry, Al-Sharafi said that his first book was Tears of Al-Sharafi (Al-Sharafi is the traditional black head to toe robe used by women in Yemen, especially in Sana'a). the book produced a tempestuous social and religious reaction. The poet believed that only the male in Yemeni society was everything: the soldier, the factory worker, and the merchant. As for the female, she had no acknowledged entity. Because he wrote the book after the September Revolution of 1962, he felt that the Revolution had brought a complete change in people's attitude and had created a firm belief in the emancipation of the Yemeni individual, male or female. Finding that the Yemeni women after the Revolution still had no place in the new revolutionary society, Al-Sharafi felt that she ought to be emancipated. So he began to write his poems about women, and he believes that this was the first time for a Yemeni poet to speak about Al-Sharafi, for even talking about it was blasphemy. After Tears of Al-Sharafi the second book, Songs on the Long Road was written before the September Revolution of 1962. The songs are mainly sung for the Revolution. His next book, To Her I Sing, written in Cairo, is similar to the Tears with the only difference that its poems are free from traditional poetic patterns and meters. ''For Her'' was also written in Cairo. Though it is about Yemeni women, it is a step forward as it is a more developed book than the Tears. “With Her For Ever'' is, as Al-Sharafi says, not a new book; it is a selection of poems from previous works. His attitude towards women in this volume has developed greatly. In his early books, woman was Sharshafed; but in the present book, she has developed through the language he uses, through the aim of his writing, and through poetic symbols. In From Her and To Her, Yemeni women have acquired larger connotations: they have become the entire motherland, the revolution, the people, the earth, and finally the symbol of unity. After From Her and To Her, he addresses everything: the revolution and the earth, as if he were addressing a woman. His poetry about the Yemeni woman has always been developing; it did not stop, as some people think, after the Tears. His next book, Love is My Vocation, marks a further development. As a work of art it is, as Al-Sharafi says, more profound than the previous books, in language, images, and symbols. His last book, Love is Tears; love is a Revolution is, in the poet's opinion, his most daring work in its images and poetic vision. The book is, in Al-Sharafi's words, extremely controversial.

In the temple of love

I love you
With all my heart,
You, who have full control of it,
I wish you know
How long I pray
That you would remain all my life beside me
How my heart aches
If I find you not
Beside me
Take my heart;
Even if you ask for my dearest thing,
I will never refuse
I gave all my love
I didn't keep any thing
I didn't hide anything
Whatever you expect from love
You'll not know such love as mine
Water my thirsty wounds
And satisfy my thirst
And barrenness
I am the flame of desires
Amidst the dryness of love
You're my liquor and you're my cup
Without your love
My plant will droop
All my roses and weeds will wither
A traveler I am throughout this life
And you are my wings and my road
My dear beloved
If I have a god or a faith
If I have a sin
That you have forgiveness
Or if I had an ailment
That you have cured
You are my ailment and my cure
However much you gave me
I'll ask for more
Never in my life will I say enough

Rebuke to a Sharshaf

And she walks like a mass of coal
Like a sad monticule of coal
In her black submissive Sharshaf
Piled in it and rolled,
Like the night of sorrows encircling a prison
Do I see a woman?
Or a mass
Of sorrow revealing the treachery of years?
She stretches her steps
Like the shadows of cursed fear
Falling upon the night
No breast to echo sweet songs
No eyelid
To flutter the magic of the eyes
No glances
To excite every one around
And no glimpses of tender smiles
My girl
Who wants your youth to be buried?
Behind this shameful blackness
And be separated from
The wisdom of life,
And the beatings of love
And desire?
Like others, you are
A human being
Who has what we have of love and passion?
To love beauty
And its blossoms
And to adore the draw of longings and attractions
I love you, my girl, as I love the flowers;
I gratify my eyes all the time by their sight
Let me alone
If you adore nothing but
The night as the bat does
Let me alone
If you adore nothing but
The night as the bat does
Let me alone
I do not like wandering in the dark
But I enjoy
The beauty of the true morning
When will the adoring lover enjoy?
A hidden face
And an imprisoned body?
My girl…
I love you
But without,
Al-Sharshaf insensitive to our love