“Negation of the negation” – a poem about the freedom of expression

Excerpt from the poem “Negation of the negation” Goethe-Institut, Cyprus – 2/3/2023

Negation of the Negation

***

My head was never a quiet place. 

Serene it was, but quiet never 

Two poles so well wed, perfectly kept in balance 

By the peaceful force that drives 

The moulding of thoughts and the sculpting of noise

For the creation of a meaningful voice

***

To some, a divine gift 

For all, an inalienable right

the freedom of expression

***

For years I’ve wondered what would my sanity become

Had I been forced to stay silent 

Had I been forced to keep my thoughts confined 

within the minuscule prison of my own brain

***

Confine my thoughts within a circle

***

Confine one’s thoughts within a circle?

***

Confine one thought within a circle and 

watch the thought expand

Reaching the boundaries of its prison,

possessing its circumference,

pushing and pushing 

until the circle breaks. 

And bends. Transforming

Into a spiral ascending to cognitive heights previously unnamed

And there, helpless against its internal explosive baggage

Breaking down into trillions of coded pieces of burning language rain 

Showering the world with its 

allegorical trace

***

Confine a thought within a circle and watch as it transcends its cage

Confine a thought within a circle and watch as it negates its own negation 

***

But how could I know that? 

I, the privileged, the lucky 

With my unquiet in place and my serenity in peace, 

With a vague idea 

of what the absence of freedom can really mean,

And that burning conviction 

That, even imprisoned,

Thought 

Cannot be contained 

 

The poem “Negation of negation” was performed on March 2nd, 2023, at the event Al Mutanabbi Street Starts…in Nicosia, that was co-organised by Atlantis Culture and Lisa Suhair Majaj. Hosted by the writer, researcher, event curator, and facilitator of Cypriot literature, Annetta Benzar, the event brought together a number of creative voices from the local scene (including some of my favourite poets, visual artists, storytellers, and video creators) to lift their voices and speak out for freedom of expression, justice, and equality and it was an honour to be invited to share some words on such important themes. It was an honour to be included.

The event, part of a worldwide series of events with the same theme, commemorated the 20th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the 16th anniversary of 5 March 2007 car bombing of Al Mutannabi Street in Baghdad.

Taken from the event description:

“Named after the 10th-century classical Iraqi poet Al Mutannabi, this street is the historic centre of Baghdad bookselling, known as a sanctuary for diverse voices. The 2007 bombing, which killed over 60 people and wounded around 100, was quickly recognised as an attack on Iraqi culture and humanity.

Two weeks after the bombing, the project Al Mutannabi Street Starts Here was formed in San Francisco, California, USA, as a book arts response to the assault. Writers, artists, and book lovers wrote poems and created hundreds of artist books, prints, posters, and paper art pieces, as well as a photography project honouring assassinated Iraqi academics, to show solidarity with Iraq’s ancient culture of literacy. This work has been displayed around the world, in the US, UK, Italy, Egypt, Baghdad, the Netherlands, Canada, and Sweden and this year Cyprus is joining in the global movement.”