Uncategorized

Words Against Weapons. The Poetry of Kadhem Khanjar

He screams against sectarian violence and the self-proclaimed Islamic state. He mourns the victims of yet another car bomb destroyed by terrorists, and he challenges death by running on a minefield, while declaiming his verses. Kadhem Khanjar is much more than a young Iraqi poet whose works have been translated abroad. He is the creator of the Militia of Culture, a collective of Iraqi poets who are using their poetics to fight against the transmission of the deadly semantics of the militias which have consumed the lifeblood of Iraq since 2003. In a country shocked by the many armed groups that escape state control, Khanjar and his colleagues from Baylon, south of Iraq, have decided to create this militia (the only one unarmed in Iraq) to change the country using verses and rhymes. Culture against weapons. Performances on the battlefields, against violence. All with a clear mission: to make poetry known, and to use its transformative power to create something constructive out of the rubble.

Khanjar started to write during the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. At that time, he was just 13 years old, and he was forced to stay at home to avoid bombs. He had just one poetry book in his home library, and after having read it several times he decided to start writing. He continued to write for the last 15 years, early developing a certain degree of poetic maturity. While following – on line – poetry and drama festivals in Western countries, he started thinking to organize his own performances. But while Western ones were held in bookstores, universities, and sometimes in small scenic squares, he decided to organize his performances and readings in the middle of a minefield, inside the carcass of car bombs used by terrorists, and in a destroyed nuclear reactor. “I do not distinguish my poetic from my activist self. In the minefield I was no longer a poet but a potential martyr” he says, while participating in the demonstrations that gained momentum in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, in October 2019. Yet another opportunity that has shown – as the poet denounces – how easy it is to be shot dead in Iraq, often a battlefield of war or clashes by proxy, such as those between the United States and Iran.

Iraqis are shot dead in a battlefield, in a minefield or even in the street during a demonstration. And indeed, the denunciation of the perpetual state of war that ravages Iraq since, at least, 2003 becomes a sort of national manifesto, filled with bitter irony, in one of Khanjar’s most known poems:

We are the Iraqis

The American soldiers in the helicopter throw leaflets with inked arms onto our sleeping women on the rooftops

We are the Iraqis

Daily at breakfast our mothers dish up sectarianism, we chew it until we consume our mouths

We are the Iraqis

We make iron doors for our houses so we rust behind them

We are the Iraqis

We fire when one of us dies until we kill the other

We are the Iraqis

We fight with the roosters and wipe away our blood

We are the Iraqis

At the checkpoints military dogs rub their noses against our eyes

We are the Iraqis

We plant graves in front of our houses (…) [1]

 

Yet Khanjar does not seem to be content with a poetic denunciation, however sharp. “Normally poets write”, he says. “Iraqi poets often write about bombings and death. But for us, writing was not enough. To speak the unspeakable, we felt that we needed to exchange writing for action. We needed to face death and no longer just talk about it”, Khanjar explains, while showing his performances in Najf cemetery, the biggest necropolis in the world[2]. Here Khanjar and the other Militia poets recite their verses, lying on the ground next to the bombs, to show that death is something that all human beings share. In order to speak to death, the Militia also performs in a kind of graveyard made up of the burn out carcasses of vehicles that were used in car bombings.

“We pretend to use culture and poetry to elevate death into something better for the future of the Iraqi human beings. These cars were used to kill dozens of people. Now we want to transform it in a cultural stage”, he adds, insisting on his idea of being connected with his own reality.

Questo articolo termina su ResetDoc.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*

*