Having spent several months teaching in Gaza as well as reading and leading workshops on the West Bank, subject to the spectre of random raids and explosions, as well as party to the simple pleasures of daily life, Agnes Meadows’ selection of poems exploring life in the Gaza strip carry a flame of humanity that can not be denied. She does not echo the sensational headlines, she speaks of the mundane things we take for granted, refracted through the lens of an ever-present threat.
In ‘The Dreaming of Children’, she notes how the young dream “of ripe food smells soft-crawling from the plate, / Of aubergine love and green olive consummation, / The scent of tangerines knife-sharp at four p.m.” but in ‘Sarah Behind Glass’ she speaks of how the father of a girl traumatised by a sudden raid “attempts reassurance./ She no longer believes him.” It is indeed in the tragedy that shadows these juxtapositions that the poetry lies. Meadows is an accomplished poet; fleet of phrase and adept at rousing imagery into action, but this is not the place for that.
At Damascus Gate on Good Friday is the restrained poetry of human dignity – a triumph of witness over propaganda.
“Agnes Meadows is a champion of humanity: her powerful poems of witness on behalf of Palestinian people are gifts of listening, compassion, and eloquent care.” Naomi Shihab Nye Poet & former Guggenheim Fellow.