Contamination

Yousif M. Qasmiyeh

They told me that my dialect is not as pure as it should be. According to them, I have failed to preserve what I have inherited. But in truth I have inherited nothing. I just heard noises and without even knowing how or why, I accumulated some in my pockets and ran away. I robbed them in daylight.

They tried to catch me but before laying their pure noises on me, I swallowed what became mine quickly.

As I walk on my own, I think of what I swallowed that day. I smile without letting my dialect know that I still do not know what it might sound like in the singular.

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Yousif M. Qasmiyeh
Photo:
E. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh

Yousif M. Qasmiyeh was born and educated in Baddawi refugee camp in North Lebanon and is Creative Encounters Editor of the Migration and Society journal. He is currently completing a DPhil on containment and the archive in ‘refugee writing’ at the University of Oxford’s English Faculty. Time, the body, and ruination inform his poetry and prose, and his poetry and translations have appeared in journals and magazines including Modern Poetry in Translation, Stand, Critical Quarterly, GeoHumanities, Humanities, and Cambridge Literary Review. Yousif’s collection, Writing the Camp, published by Broken Sleep Books, is the Poetry Book Society’s Recommendation for Spring 2021.

“Yousif M. Qasmiyeh’s Writing the Camp is a book with which every reader needs to be in dialogue, carrying it in their heart or on their back as a perpetual interlocutor. Qasmiyeh’s vast and cohesive philosophy of being, time, encounter, and place answers and displaces more comfortably established thinkers. Grounded in the exact and intimate knowledge of the camp, these writings acknowledge and refuse to rest with anguish or particularity, the archive or the universal. The fragment always has the integrity of the sequence. Here is dwelling, questioning, and life. This is what we have to consider if we are considering humanity, or modernity. This is a book to love.”
—Vahni Capildeo

“Yousif M. Qasmiyeh’s Writing the Camp is a profound meditation on time, family and language, set in his native Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon by a poet with a rare gift for universal imagery and reflection. It is a sustained concentration on a nexus of crucial issues: dividing thresholds, human touch, place. For a comparison in English we might turn to the range of Blake’s 'Auguries of Innocence.' It is an extraordinary achievement in our time.”
—Bernard O’Donoghue

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