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Abstract

Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish grew up in Israel as an internal refugee living under Israeli military rule, legally classified as a “present-absentee alien.” This article focuses on his 1995 volume of poetry, Limādhā tarakta al-ḥiṣān waḥīdan? (Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone?), to study the manner in which Darwish’s cultivation of the musical and aural aspects of poetry serves as a means of poetically attending to the effects of dispossession and displacement. Through a discussion of the poems in the collection’s fourth section, Ghurfa l’il kalām maʿ al-nafs (A Room to Talk to Oneself), this article traces how poetry becomes explicitly delineated by echoes, rhythm and rhymes—forms of reiterating sound that displace the original source and create a domain of generative resonance between source and its modified repetition. As I argue, these auditory effects of betweenness function as a means of disrupting the idea of a set and bounded identity with its displacement, such that an original identity is transformed into an interval of otherness that is nevertheless claimed as that which is not exile. Ultimately, this article claims that the aural possibilities of displacement showcased in Darwish’s work fundamentally assume the task of writing a non-sovereign form of identity, wherein unified norms of selfhood are continually dismantled through a repeated and willing submission to others and otherness. Darwish’s texts invite Israeli readers of the present and future to seek these acoustic and psychological displacements that he writes into intervals of possibility and coexistence.

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