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Renewal and Rebirth with Hoda Daouk and Shamshaid Jutt.

Renewal and Rebirth with Hoda Daouk and Shamshaid Jutt.

Refugee Poets: Renewal and Rebirth
Poetry by Hoda Daouk and Shamshaid Jutt

“We are reborn here in Europe. We must start our lives again.  We must renew ourselves. Re-learn everything. Language, how to live, how to be.”

These words were spoken by a young Syrian refugee who we met in Mytiline, Lesvos in the Summer of 2016. His words express very clearly the challenges that he and many of the 61,000 refugees languishing in Greece must face while awaiting a decision about asylum claims. The themes of rebirth and renewal that feature in this issue of Irisi mark so many of the stories told to us by refugees in Lesvos last summer. The bitter-sweetness of reaching a safe place after the trauma and tragedy of war is adumbrated by profound feelings of loss and the urgent need to restart life in circumstances of deep uncertainty.  Refugees must face the task of recreating a new life without being able to leave the old life behind, and without knowing what the future holds. The poems by Hoda and Sham reveal how, despite being haunted by hope and disappointment, driven by dreams of love and despair, it is possible to find a place inside oneself where one can to dwell and recover, and find peace through poetry. We met Hoda and Sham at Pikpa refugee camp while volunteering there last summer. We ran a photo and poetry project with residents at Pikpa. Sham and Hoda both came to us with pages and pages of handwritten poetry that opened our eyes and our hearts to their experiences and to the place of poetry in remaking their lives anew.

Introduction written by Marie Gillespie and Rosa Cheesman.

Poems by Hoda Daouk

Only “I Love You”

I knocked on all doors
I asked all men
I scanned all the books
And I skimmed through the pages

Searching for the words
That wailed your absence
Having wept for you for days, months, years, and even for ages

Walking unsteadily in the woods
Met the daffodils
Asked me, ‘why so pale’?
With a broken heart
Blocked with misery and filled with rages

I couldn’t know the answers
Chocked without you
Like free birds
Flying and fluttering in empty cages

Finally I reached the place
Where once we lived
Hoping to find you
But no one instead
Only loneliness and memories
Filling the empty shed

Puffs of cigarettes
And your assemblages
Our photos and dreams
Wrapped in your packages

Shattered I stood
Like a tumbling torn leaf I felt
Helpless without you
Pleading for you to come back

And down on my knees I knelt
Needless to say how much
I Love You, I Love You
This is all that I meant!

Without a Goodbye

You left without a farewell
Not even a goodbye or a word to tell
You vowed to love me
And you made me promises as well

You fed me the words that I needed to hear
But your whispers turned out to be null
I stole after the steps to see you
But the lull of the train
Reminded me of the timing of the bell

Maybe it’s never too late
Because you have always been
My enchanted prince
And without you, magic can only be a spell

Don’t lose the way
For it is I who will always love you
And inside my heart
Is the rail where you dwell

So lock me in and
Share with me the secrets that
I will never declare or waste,
Give to anyone, or sell

Hoda Writes:
I was an English teacher in Syria before the war because I have a great love of English literature. I am blessed with three beautiful sons. Life is full of surprises and it won't stop surprising us. To my surprise, I had to quit my job and leave my country along with my three sons. We crossed risky territory and rough seas to step into a new life. We landed on the island of Lesvos as refugees. It was such a totally new environment for us and hard to get used to. We have been stuck in Lesvos in a camp for nearly a year. Looking forward for a new life? Definitely. Waiting for our dreams to come true? Surely. We lost everything. We are simply hoping to regain what once seemed to be the small things in life – a home, an education for my sons, peace, safety, good health, work. But these are the big things. Life in Europe doesn’t begin here at the camp. We need luck. We need magic. But I don’t own a magic wand. If it weren’t for hope, the heart would break. Thank you readers of Irisi for reading my humble poems. - Hoda Daouk, 2017

Poems by Shamshaid Jutt


The noise in my heart
Made by my favourite
Lovely-named Europe
I am a refugee
This is the Europe
That God gifted me
I have fallen in love
Only to be told
Europe is already in love
What is this Europe?
Look at me!
Don’t you love Sham?
Oh God! They did not understand
Will not understand
My heart
Encourage them
If You don’t want to
Don’t give me a tongue

Shamshaid Jutt, May 2016

My World, May 2016
How are you eating my world?
With technical planning
My World
Stolen by someone
    Bad luck, my World
    In the hands of
    Blind politicians
    No fear, no shame
    Not a servant of the people
Pain in my heart
Please pray for me
My heart is my pain
Nothing can be done
    My small request
    You can shoot me
    But in return
    Can you free my world?    
Listen Sham! Don’t cry
The beauty of the EU’s heart
Has long expired
Since 20th March 2016

I’m sorry, my World


Listen, EU!

I heard, did you?
My job is to help others
Who are homeless, just alive
Facing different kinds of war
    Thought a lot about the EU
    Lots of love to the EU
    Sweet dreamed about the EU
    Studied about the EU
Safety in Europe (where?)
Equality in Europe (where?)
Human rights in Europe (where?)
Peaceful life in Europe (where?)
Humanity in Europe (where?)
    After waking from my dreams
    Dust on my mouth
    Without cleaning it
    I looked in the mirror
Making me useless
By keeping me in jail
Otherwise Sham could
Be a useful person


Lover vs Forgetter

Is love alms?
Hard to get
Plan to write
But tears come
Before writing
Feeling lonely inside
Crowds of people
Cannot remove my loneliness
I’m going to resign
From the job of love
It is not the time
To bear more problems
The Sun rising shows
By spreading love and light
Both will not be less
Sham is forced to love
No access to reach it
No morale to forget

Happy forgetting, EU


Don’t worry Mum

Done with dangerous ways
Crossed the Aegean Sea
Got a new life
Sweet mum don’t worry
    Between humans now
    Humanity is alive
    People like angels
    Sweet mum don’t worry
‘’Love you, Europe
Thank you, Greece
God bless you
Keeping my son safe’’
    I’m treated well
    Eating energetic food
    Air-conditioned rooms
    Sweet mum don’t worry
“Why have you been there so long?”
Getting an education
Doing a project
Sweet mum don’t worry
I’m sorry, mum

Sham Writes:
My name is Shamshaid Jutt. I am 22 years old. I am a refugee from Pakistan. I was Computer Science student back home but I had to leave my country suddenly. So in the third semester of 2016 I arrived on Lesvos, Greece as a refugee. I was detained for three months by the police without any charge. During this time was nothing to do but wait. Then I started writing the words that my heart wanted to express. I spent my time with my pen and paper. They became my best friends. I began to love to write poetry. Now I write poetry all the time. I love poetry. My hero is Allama Iqabal. He is the national poet of Pakistan. After eight months in Lesvos, I moved in Paris and claimed asylum in France.

I have suffered a lot on my journey to Europe but my hope and dream is to continue my study in Europe. - Shamshaid Jutt, 2017

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