Books · Poetry · Read in 2021 · Reviews

(Poetry) Book Thoughts: Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone? (Mahmoud Darwish)

Exquisite prose that touched my heart even if I did not quite understand


Title: Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone? (original title: لماذا تركت الحصان وحيدًا)
Author: Mahmoud Darwish (translator: Jeffrey Sacks)
Genre: Poetry
First published: 1995 (in Arabic) / first English translation: 1999
Edition: Paperback, published by Archipelago Books in 2006

At once an intimate autobiography and a collective memory of the Palestinian people, Darwish’s intertwined poems are collective cries, songs, and glimpses of the human condition. Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone? is a poetry of myth and history, of exile and suspended time, of an identity bound to his displaced people and to the rich Arabic language. Darwish’s poems – specific and symbolic, simple and profound – are historical glimpses, existential queries, chants of pain and injustice of a people separated from their land.


There is something about Arabic poetry that touches me deeply. Maybe it is the words used, maybe the symbolism and metaphores, the imagery, the different emotions…. I am not entirely sure. All I know is that it touches my heart.

I will not pretend to understand what this poetry book is trying to say, but the imagery and the words are beautiful. At times they moved me to tears or made me smile. I got themes of displacement, the human effects of war, home, insecurity, transience and love in its many forms… Yes, I admit that much of it went over my head. I often did not understand the metaphores or symbolism. And you know what? I am ok with that. It only means that I will need to let it simmer and I will want to return to it at a later date, to drench myself in these exquisite words again. Maybe then I will gleam something different from them. Maybe then I will grasp some of the deeper meaning. Or I may just enjoy the beautiful prose.

Whatever the author is trying to say, it means something to me. Maybe it does not matter whether I got their meaning exactly, I felt something, and when a poetry book does that it makes me happy. I do not need to understand implicitly. I just need to feel it.

I definitely want to read more from this author.

6 out of 7 stars

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