Hala Mohammad [ Syria ]
Hala Mohammad was born in the Syrian port of Latakia. She grew up in a liberal household, studied film in France at the University of Paris VIII and went on to work as a costume designer in three Syrian films (tr: »The Night«, »The Zograscope«, »Under the Roof«). She also wrote scripts and worked as Assistant Director. She directed several documentaries (including »When Qasiyun Grows Tired«, 2006).
Since 1994 Hala Mohammad has been active as a poet. Five collections of her poetry have been published to date: »The Soul Has No Memory« (1994), »Over That Mild White« (1998), »A Little Life« (2001), »This Fear« (2004) and »As If I Knocked On My Door« (2008). The prose poet belongs to a new generation of modern Arabic women poets, who express their individual experiences as women and intellectuals in the Arab world. What gives Hala Mohammad's poetry its unique character is its spontaneity. Instead of complex reflections there are ideas which flicker momentarily into life: colours, sense impressions, smells and movements are evoked and connected to the manifold and recurring themes which flow through Mohammad's poetry like leitmotifs. These include memory, which also plays an important role in her fimic work, emotions like fear, alienation and loneliness, as well as a profound sense of grief and having lost one’s way: »On this morning / light broke without mercy / with clear eyes / I saw / my solitude« (from: »The Soul Has No Memory«). The presence of the »other«, manifest even in his absence, bound to the narrator in love, can always be felt. In her poetry Mohammad rejects complex syntax, relying instead on simple expressions. Modern Arabic dominates, but is free of dialect.
In her first work every piece had a title, but later works are numbered instead, identifying them as mutually dependent elements of a greater, many-faceted whole. Her atmospheric poems derive their power from sequences of images characterised by continual shifts between reality and metaphor. The punctuation at times reinforces the elliptical nature of individual sequences.
Translations of some of Mohammad's poems have appeared in various publications (»Banipal«) and anthologies (Basel 2006, tr: Things Which Other People Do Not See). As a journalist she has been writing for different Arabic newspapers for many years. She is married to the Syrian director, Haitham Hakki, and lives in Damascus.
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