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Title Three questions to Fouad Fouad on the publication of his latest collection of poems, “Once upon a time in Aleppo”
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  • “Do not look at the images / I implore you”, how do you ask us that while you document the atrocities yourself through poetry, so poignantly, to the point of deterring us from looking at the words?

You are right; documentation, in all its forms, hurts. And even if I still believe that the image is worth a thousand words, and that the horror detected and revealed by the image needs several pages to be transmitted, I also believe that if literature, no matter how direct its approach may be, is always able to give different reflections on any event or tragedy, which cannot be portrayed by the image.

  • When declaiming your poems, you said: “I do not know if this is indeed poetry”. Why? Do you have a new vision of poetry that is linked to the situation of the past six years, and the abundance of Syrian literary production whose genre we cannot always determine?

Truth is, I have tried in this book method that is new for me, a style of direct writing that relies on rapidity of what is happening and does give much time for observation. This is what gave the texts of the book (or at least in its first part) the character of diaries or quick commentaries. Later on, as I reread the texts, I saw in them what I thought was poetry, but I did not want to impose this opinion of mine on anyone. Concerning the abundance of production in the last six years, I do not think it is that tremendous at all, on the contrary. In my opinion, what has been produced (not talking about quality) is much less than it should be. We have not yet touched the intensity and depth of the Syrian tragedy, which will be the subject of writing (and other artistic products) for decades to come.

  • In times of revolutions, tragedies and catastrophes, some say that a poet must be a social messenger, while others consider this opinion as “cultural luxury, whereas poetry is a bridge of personal liberation”*. What would be your personal opinion?

We must not put poetry (nor art in general) and poets in this dilemma; a poet is neither a messenger nor a fighter, he is neither a social reformer nor a revolutionary, a poet has never been that and will never be, neither in times of tragedies and disasters, nor in times of prosperity and civil peace. Poetry is also not a personal liberation or a collective preaching. Quite simply, a poet writes because this is what he can do best (or does not do best) and this is what musicians, painters, novelists and filmmakers also do. I do not think the question concerns all of those as well; otherwise we would have had to ask what is the use of art, any art.

*The phrase is from the late Iraqi poet Sargon Boulos.