The Poetry Gathering

Last Sunday my friend Maysa, whom I had met at the Techwadi conference in January, invited me to a poetry meet-up at a bookstore here in San Francisco.

That Sunday was the 10th anniversary of a car bomb that exploded on Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad, its historic bookselling center, killing 26 people.

There was a crowd of maybe 30 people in that bookstore. It was an older crowd and I enjoyed their company. The bookstore itself was very pleasant. I felt a bit of nostalgia when I encountered books like this fine one:

All the poetry was in English. While I objectively thought that some of the poems recited were nice, they don't quite resonate with me in the same way that Arabic poetry does. I keep finding that surprising given that I write and read significantly more English than Arabic.

Of the people at the gathering I met up with Deema Shehabi. She is a Gazan as well and was one of the organizers. Despite how short my conversation was with her, I immediately felt that she is a very wonderful woman and is incredibly nice. She'll be informing me of an upcoming dinner/gathering. More on that when that happens.

Here's a picture of how the meet-up was. The one reciting poetry to the group was Deema.

I don't want to get unnecessarily philosophical, but while I was there I kept them thinking about an article I read the other day about putting a dent in the universe.

I started thinking to myself, did this gathering actually matter? More broadly, did any of the poetry they shared actually matter? Was the purpose of this gathering to spread awareness around the bombing incident or issues in Baghdad? Or, was it only for pleasure? I argue that it was the latter.

The reason I am arguing that this work isn't changing the world is because it seems to me that the primary consumer of the output of these poets/literature enthusiasts is other poets/literature enthusiasts.

I share the hypothesis with the author of the article I linked to above that, in order to make a dent in the universe, your output needs to be free. Free in the sense that, people who are potentially very different from you find utility in your output in ways that may perhaps surprise you.

I don't know why I went off on this philosophical tangent. This thought process isn't yet crisp in my head, but I am sharing it here in its rough form nonetheless.

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