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First Glossary Issued in Palestine
“Palestine’s Poets Glossary” for Mohamed Hilmi Al-Rishe

Tahseen Yaqin

As part of the “Culture and Creativity” series, a new book titled “Palestine’s Poets Glossary”, prepared and authenticated by the poet Mohamed Hilmi Al-Risheh, was recently published by the Palestinian Institute for National Guidance in Ramallah.

Regarding this publication, Al-Risheh stated, “This project is considered the nucleus of other projects for the Institutes that will branch from it and take other study and statistic channels. It has begun preoccupying with handing down another book within this subject, which has been given the preliminary title “A Hundred Palestinian Poet in A Hundred Years” and it shall be an expanded anthology since the few other known anthologies had not introduced Palestinian poets more deeply or comprehensively. In some of them, despite their small number, personal preferences had a deep impact [on the content]. Additionally, this glossary, which is a preliminary guide on Palestinian poets, especially those who were not now to other Arabs or even Palestinians due to the Israeli occupation’s control over culture’s movement over many decades.

The glossary included 339 Palestinian poets (male and female) over more than a century. It is considered the first glossary to be issued in Palestine (whether general or specialized) and it provides many opportunities for researchers and those interested in gaining necessary information on poets. For the Poet’s page included the poet’s name, date and place of birth, date of passing for those who have passed away, as well as a listing of his/her poetry works and details of their issuing and publication in addition to listing works in other non-poetic fields such as novels, stories, studies, theatre, translation, etc. What’s notable is that the glossary included numerous poets from the last two generations – eighties and nineties – and it attempted to gather what it could of poets, to the point that some poets who only had one work in the beginning of their life but did not continue their poetic journey or move on to the next step, were listed. However, this glossary did not entail a brief personal excerpt about the poet’s life, unlike what we are accustomed to in known Dictionaries.
Concerning the poets’ dates of birth, we find that they were concentrated in particular decades, which is a phenomenon that may need studying. The poets’ places of birth as but a panorama for the Palestinian land, “historical Palestine” and “the Diaspora”, which has many indications on the Palestinian presence as well as the places in which Palestinian poetry appears more than others. That is why the glossary is not viewed as in terms of its cultural value. Rather, it is also a count of the names, years, and places of national and human value.
The poet relied on numerous sources in preparing his work, which is recognized for him as an important value in addition to his poetry and prose work (Approximately a month ago, his tenth poetry collection: “Fertilized Abysses” was published). The most important of the sources that the poet relied on were those that he collected through personal interviews, surveys, and various other means of communication, in addition to other glossary reference sources.
In this regard, Mr. Al-Risheh spoke of the various and big problems that confronted him since he started implementing this project, especially during the invasion and siege that started in March 2002 and caused the severance of any means of personal, post, or telephone communications. He also pointed out the difficult he faced in finding a seemingly small piece of information to complete [what he has on] , say, a publication for a poet but that the siege that kept him and continues to keep him and his colleagues in the Palestinian House of Poetry [working] for long and numerous periods of time; this situation did not sway him however from continuing his glossary work. Here, he thanks his colleagues, the poet Al-Mutawakel Taha (Head of the House of Poetry and of the Institute) for furnishing him with the determination to complete this simultaneously exacting and exciting job, and the poet Ghasan Zaqatan who furnished his knowledge on many of the poets, as well as the poet Murad Al-Sudani who says that in addition to his help, he spent the first months of the invasion and siege with Al-Risheh inside the House of Poetry with little food and many bullets from the other side.

The glossary was published in 317 large-sized papers with marked organization and production that the poet personally oversaw. Ms. Nagham Al-Halwani designed the cover while the final cover was dedicated to the education of the Palestinian Institute for National Guidance’s role in the project on the Palestinian novel and memory; it should also be noted that the Palestinian National Committee for Education, Sciences, and Culture supported the publication of this glossary.