Ahmad Salleh bin H. Ahmad, Book Review

PEACE BE UPON YOU DAVOS: ANTHOLOGY OF WORLD PEACE POETRY

The first thing we cannot afford to ignore while reading and fathoming the poetry anthology, “Peace Be Upon You Davos”,  is to give credit to Siti Ruqaiyah Hashim as an editor as well as the translator of poems that saw  the collection of peace poems from poets all over the world. It is not an easy job to work together and collaborate with many great and influential poets of the world. Siti Ruqaiyah’s relationship with these famous poets must have been fostered for quite some time. As a Malaysian, I am very proud of her efforts, dedication and achievements.

Siti Ruqaiyah has also chosen the title of her poem: “Salam Untuk Davosor Peace Be Upon You Davos” contained in this anthology, as the title of this anthology. In my opinion, this title, coincides accurately and greatly as the best title of the anthology that presents peace and anti-war themed poems. Known to everyone especially Muslims, the word “salam” is derived from the Arabic word meaning peace and becomes greetings that bring salvation and well-being not only in the world but also in the hereafter, which is the day that all mankind will be resurrected to meet his Creator, to receive a recompense equal to what has been done throughout life in this world. Islam attaches great importance to peacefulness and security to all lives. Islam also encourages human beings to love and pray for each other’s welfare. When meeting someone or a group of people, Muslims are encouraged to initiate goodness to the person or group encountered, by saying “As salamu alaikum” which means “peace upon you”, and the one on the receiving party is obliged to answer it with the greeting “Wa’alikummusalam” which means, “and peace be upon you too”.

Why “Davos”? It is known that Davos is the world’s annual economic forum. A human being is a special servant of God who has soul, mind and body. Knowledge, Faith is the food of the soul, but the economy is the material need for physical requirements. If food supply is threatened, humans can act violent like animals. Therefore, it is not surprising that humans are willing to kill and fight solely to meet the physical needs of the body. Thus, the second series of this peace anthology is given the title of “Salam for Davos” which expects the annual economic forum to discuss grave matters of human survival in a transparent, justified manner in order to create economic balance and equality indirectly to serve the whole world. Is it (the World Economic Forum) really transparent to achieve that goal? It is the nature of human beings to love peace and justice, and poets have sensitive souls and they are not happy, if mankind’s needs are not met, so this anthology suggests some answers to create conducive means to a good peaceful living.

In this Peace Be Upon You Davos, Siti Ruqaiyah worked together with sixteen world-renowned poets publishing another bilingual peace anthology series which she worked on and translated, after “Khabar Dari Strasbourg/News from Strasbourg” which she published in 2017.

Siti Ruqaiyah herself wrote fourteen poems in this anthology, starting with “Peace Be Upon You Davos” and ending with a poem titled “Between Stolen Glances”. Peace Be Upon You Davos is loaded with cynicisms, on the plight of the victims of war who suffered and were forced to be refugees. They are represented by Osama, Mohamed, Shaif, Brahimand and Ziaur. War happened solely to fulfill the agenda of great powers with their greatest economic sources in the arms trade. The great powers of the world have never fought each other but cunningly waged their proxy wars for the sake of their arms trade. Siti Ruqaiyah cynically clings to the Davos-based economic forum and invokes hopes to return to universal peace values needed by everybody.

The poem, “Alleys of Paradise 2” revolves around relationship, which ends up in a break-up and split due to differences of beliefs. This poem is rich in metaphor. The poems “Sketches of Love” describes situations that even in violent, war-torn communities, the human soul amongst the sophisticated armies of Israel, men eventually succumbed to their consciences when asked to do things contrary to their soul. This message is featured in the form of a true story cited from the Haaretz.com online newspaper. The poems, “When I Met You”, “Prayers For Dad”, “Are You Happy Now?”, “Poem For A Little Brother”, “Getting to Know Brother”, “Existence”, “Sands of Sri Lavender”, and “I Really Love You Very Much” are documentations of personal feelings and expressions in nature.

“When I Met You”, is an expression of relying on the divine intervention of God to solve problems according to the rites of the sufi as in Islam while “Prayers for Dadwas” is  a personal impulse having to leave a beloved father who passed away while the author had to leave the country. However, the love between a daughter and the father is inseparable. Although far away and unable to attend the father’s burial, the prayers from a loving, devoted, righteous child will be fulfilled by God.

“Are You Happy Now?” is about difficult realities in a relationship between two people who end up in a parting. “Poem For A Little Brother” is also very personal in nature, about love between brothers who are reminded of the greatness of sacrifices from a brother to his younger sibling. The poem “Getting to Know Brother” is also a personal poem about the author who remembers stories of her mother who never forgets her dead brother after reading a poem written by her friend Ibrahim about his son Irvin who also died young. On the other hand, the poems; “Existence”,” I Really Love You” and “The Sands of Sri Lavender” portray the author’s hopes in love to last forever whether to her beloved ones or to her homeland.

The second contributor of the anthology, Professor Mohamed Abdul Aziz Rabie contributed four poems including “Do You Have A Clue?”  In this poem, Mohamed uses the questioning technique in order to portray the weaknesses of the social and economic systems and injustices of the world towards the poor and the weak, by saying that the safety and well-being of the world might be enjoyed if they did not manipulate the weak and the poor. In this life, to achieve justice is very difficult. But man needs to be sincere and committed to create justice on this earth. However, it is impossible for justice to be achieved easily because many human beings are greedy.

In his poem “Farewell”, Mohamed becomes the  spokesperson to all mankind who love peace and happiness. A hope that will never come. The poem “Let the Sun Shine” is indirectly an answer to the poem “Farewell” which invites people to forget their sufferings and enjoy life as what it is. It is clear on the first and second lines of the poem that reads, “Let the sun shine again” and “Sing your favourite song”. Likewise, his poem “Anniversary” is a hope of a safe, peaceful and happy life besides family and friends that bring much happiness to us all.

If anyone expects every poem to be in stanza forms, then it is a big mistake. Hungarian Literary figure Istvan Turci, indirectly describes that poetry in particular poems can be presented in other forms. Istvan Turci in all four poems in this anthology writes his poems in the form of interesting short prose which is the prose poems. Through his “Rilke” using metaphorical elements, he managed to touch the reader’s emotions. All of his poems in this anthology, such as “Rilke”, “Brightness And Darkness”, “Folk Song” “As If Emerging From Myth (My Days In the Mountains)” are all written in the form of short prose like essays using lots of metaphors. I think they are very interesting and effective ways of writing poems in varieties like these.

Cordoba-born Argentine poet who lives in the United States Luis Alberto Ambroggio, contributed two poems in this anthology. His poem titled “Father” was written after his father’s 90th birthday, indirectly representing children who remember their father’s sacrifices to his children. Through this poem he uses the technique of re-impacting and thanks the father for all his sacrifices in raising him to grow up as a human being who gave a lot of benefits for the community. This is a reality that we cannot afford to ignore in this life. Where would hope live and breathe air of peacefulness if the child is unable to appreciate the services of others, especially those of a father. This hope is expressed by him through his second poem titled, “We Want to Breathe Air of Peace”.

The Syrian-born poet Osama Esber who lives in California today, cannot hide his feelings about the importance of peace and security and is upset that his homeland is in turmoil of war. All his hopes and regrets are expressed in his poems, “Mother’s Day”, “King of the World”, “Waves in Childhood” and “Question Marks”.

Dr. Maurus Young, 87, who was born in China now living in Paris and is president of the World Congress of Poets did not miss sharing three of his poems in this anthology, titled “My Story”, “A Beautiful Leaf”, and “A Jar of Wine”. All of his prayers revolve around the theme of peace and security, longing for the life and love of his fellow inhabitants of the world, who hoped for eternal peace. The author’s desire is evident in the final lines of his poems: “A Beautiful Leaf,-” buried in my heart forever” and in the poem titled “A Jar of Wine,-“and Kept Forever in the Heart”.

Tetovo, Macedonian-born poet Shaip Emerllahuin contributed three poems: “The Broken Project”, “Breeze” and “Anxiety of Returning” in this anthology. Through “The Broken Project”, Shaip expresses his disappointments to see a peaceful life in this society destroyed. In spite of the various efforts made for peace, the world remains unpeaceful. The poem consists of three stanzas, poured in metaphorical and symbolic forms. Shaip’s persistence in fighting for peace can be seen in the “Breeze” poem. Through “Anxiety when Returning” he describes the worry and insecurity faced in his life.

A professor from Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architercture, Jia Rong Xiangalso narrates the poem, “In That Era” and “From Wing to Wing”. “In that Era”, the author wrote about the misery that the Chinese people, especially young people, went through around the 1960s and 1970s. It was the time of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The author also explains how important loyal friends are to be able to work together for the sake of future happiness. This overflow of his heart is poured in the poem, “From Wing to Wing”.

Poetry “Decades” expresses the tribulations and sufferings which the people of Ramallah and Palestine face since Zionist occupation and the nasty work of foreigners. This is described in the poem, “Strangers”. It is a reality of life that cannot be denied because the poetry is written by an experienced Palestinian journalist, Ahmad Zakarneh, who was born in Egypt.

Norway’s contemporary poet Knut Odegard also contributed three poems: “The Windows Stay Open for Ravens”, “In the Night”, “Paper Clips” and “God’s Breath”. As a scholar in the field of Theology and Philology, his poems are inseparable in discussing about things of Godliness. This state of circumstances is evident in all his poems.

The young poet from Tamale, Ghana also expects peace and prosperity in the world. He expresses this desire for love and peace through his poems “For Our Children” and “It Is Time”. Through the poem “For Our Children”, this pure desire is spilled over into the third stanza:

For our kids

How about we build a world

Made with emeralds,which are bombed proof

Racial, extremism and violence

In the poem “It Is Time”, this desire for peace and security, is clearly seen in every verse and line of the poem.

The Skopje, Macedonian-born poet Biljana Biljanovska, through a poem titled “Phoenix” states that she was a descendant who inherited a revolutionary spirit, both from her father and mother, who never stop fighting for justice to make the world a safe and comfortable one to live in. Sufferings from war, separated from her loved ones and heartbreaking love relationship are revealed through her poem titled “In the Last Circle”. The hope of being happy with her lover is expressed in a poem titled “Between My Lips”. Through these poems, the reader could feel much how ill-hearted human beings are tearing apart peace and security.

The prominent poet Agron Shele from Albania now residing in Brussels too, cynically expresses his disappointments with the lack of peace in an insecure world of arrogance and greedy human beings who fight and kill each other without solving problems and differences by peace. This disappointment is seen through his poems entitled, “Never Ask a Poet” and “I Know…!

“The voracious world rips everything apart by war, the mother’s longing for a lost child, the little ones who become refugee and the various stories of war and grief. This sadness is expressed by the poet Hasna Jasimuddin Maudud of Bangladesh through her poems: “Waiting Mother” and “The Small Refugee from Syria”.

“Born in Osijek, Croatia Zdravko Odorcic expressed his sadness and hates for wars, through his poems “Scent of Holocaust”.  In this poem he portrays disgust of war of ethnic cleansing. This is evident in the first line of the third stanza:

I counted the pellets in a number of holes in your head.

The memories of the Balkan Wars were fresh in his mind and described the cruelty of man which is hard to stomach. In “Keeping You Under My Skin” he also illustrates how much the author craves for peace and security.

The Ulanbataar-born poet, who lives in Chicago Oyuntsetseg Jamsrandorj also shares a mother’s feelings and affections, through her poem titled “My Elder Brother and I”. The comparison of the affections of a bird’s mother, who is able to do anything for the safety of her child, makes the reader understand much of the great sacrifices of a mother. The author uses comparison techniques, such as in the fourth frame:

Their Mother will fly overhead

protecting them

rushing in circles to reach home

Her poem, entitled, “The Road Across the Low Bridge”, also revolves around a mother’s affections.

The poetry that filled the final space of this anthology was contributed by Padmaja Iyengar-Paddy. Her poems are titled “The Journey” and “Hatred”. In “The Journey” the author expressed her sadness in exposing her discomfort and misery from changing places and being in a new place. While in “Hatred” Padmaja invites

the reader to stay away from this negative trait because hatred does not give anything good or will result in other negative traits that destroy oneself. The author wanted to invite people to show compassionate feelings to their fellow human beings for the sake of respect and peace in this world.

Ending my analysis of this anthology, published by Kultura Snova, Zagreb, Croatia under the poet Zdravko Ordorcic, I once again take this opportunity to congratulate and express that I am proud of my compatriot, Siti Ruqaiyah Hashim who has managed to produce a poetry anthology themed around peace and anti-war stance for the world. Thank you and congratulations also to all her famous friends from all over the world who had contributed verses of great and interesting poems, to be laid out in this book for the world to think and ponder the voices of the poets. I believe her love for peace will certainly record history on the world peace map, which will be indirectly documented that the world’s inhabitants love and crave for peace and no-war. I am also personally happy and with a willing heart will provide as much help as I can if that desire is to be realized. In joy I close my writing with a poem of my own.

GOD IS THE CREATOR

God is the Creator
the most conscientious of the wise

Creating the world
Man is servant created begins with one
from the ground and mud
Don’t walk with arrogance and proud

The most perfect creation
comes from heaven
gifted with ear eye and heart
mandated to look after planet earth
Equipped with mind and lust
Be wise to administer it
For peace, harmony and tolerance together

The slave of life is dead in the end.

Resurrect to life
Brought to judgement
Sublimeness returns eternally happy to the end

The cruel following lust will always be burned.

Ipoh29 August 2020TUHAN MAHA PENCIPTA

Tuhan maha pencipta
maha teliti maha bijaksana

Mereka alam maya
Manusia hamba ciptaan mula satu
dari tanah dari lumpur
usah angkuh jangan takbur

Ciptaan paling sempurna
berasal dari syurga
dikurnia mata telinga hati
diamanah planet bumi
disisip akal dititip nafsu
mohon tadbir bijaksana
aman damai toleransi sama-sama

Hamba hidup sudahnya mati

Hidup kembali
dikira diteliti
luhur berakal kembali bahagia kekal ke asal

Zalim bernafsu derita terbakar selalu.

Ipoh29 Ogos 2020Ahmad Salleh bin Haji Ahmad Poet Committee Members of Perak Association of Writers. NOTE: ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN MALAY LANGUAGE. TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH BY: JAA JASRIL. EDITED BY: SITI RUQAIYAH HASHIM.

Ahmad Salleh bin H. Ahmad @ Asha was born on July 28, 1957 in Tapah, Perak. Received early and secondary education in Tapah. Entered The Perak Teachers College (New) in 1978 and began serving as a trained teacher in 1980. Pursued his studies at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) in 1986 and obtained his Bachelor of Education (PBMP) in 1989. Served as a lecturer at the Department of Education at the Institute of Teacher Education (IPG) Ipoh Campus, from 16 January 1993 until his compulsory retirement in 2015.

Currently, he is active as Committee Member of Perak Writers Association ( Karyawan Pk) given the responsibility of organising activities such as poetry readings, concerts and theatre. An active writer on essays, political books, religions, educations, poetry, and novels. Now he is preparing a political book called “Politics of Malaysia: A confused Father of The People”; an education book called ” Is it Difficult To Be A Teacher? ” and a religious books entitled “O Believers” and “Anti-Polygamy Inviting Torments”. Many of his poems are published together in joint anthologies with other poets, besides his poems published in magazines and newspapers in Malaysia.

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