The Writer and the Taboo: with Moheeb Barghouti

moheeb laghoo

“Sin has made me a poet”

Moheeb Barghouti is a Palestinian poet who defies typical definitions, especially in the context of Arab culture and Palestinian politics. When you read him, you feel a mixed vibe of Rimbaud and Bukowski, but with less nobility and more sadness; ordinary and basic sadness that is. He is a rebel who is fighting all sorts of battles, including his favorite battle against grammar. Nevertheless, he remains sincere to his fresh images and his naïve yet skillfully simple diction.  In a world where many Arab writers tend to stick to their dogmas and ideological affiliations, he refuses to be defined within a political niche; instead he goes to the source where aesthetics are defined away from the crowd and their screams. He says in one of his poems:


Carrying my desires

And walking through

A gloomy night

The night is tired

of rubber faces

It’s breezy and the stars

are corn beads

Laghoo has interviewed Moheeb, who chose the title “Sin has made me a poet” to his interview:


Do you think that writing about taboos is really necessary?

Poetry is intended to break all taboos including you as a writer. I do not think there are taboos in writing, especially when they are outside the framework of the picture, i.e., that the taboos break down by themselves in front of what you perceive as serving your project, and you do not draw up a list of taboos and jump from one to the other.

Is there a specific controversial topic you prefer to write about?

There is more than one controversial topic in life, including human anxiety as a reaction to life in its material and dialectical sense. And I see that madness is an eternal subject.
Madness in the sense of jumping off everything you see as real and breaking your reflection in the mirror. Madness is one of the subjects I love to write about as an individual condition.

Do you think about the reader or the audience when you are writing?
When I start to write I do not see anybody, so I start to draw the words as though I am playing a forbidden game. For after the poem ends, neither the reader nor I have room for intervention or change it. Writing makes me sense that my vision of what I see and feel is renewed and my writing will not cure it. I have not come to this world to distribute medical prescriptions. Only in madness and destruction will the world fall back to health.

Do you support censorship on art and writing?
No, not with any censorship, even self-censorship. Because those who set certain standards for their writing and write according to the morals and religion and society have to be psychiatrists, not writers.
I write in the street, in the coffee shop, in the bathroom, or in the office. There is no general mood for writing or any preferred time “I owe sin my life, for it made a poet.”

How do you balance the real and the metaphorical in your writing, and do you feel that sometimes you betray your idea because of the indirect writing?
To write means to enter into the depth of your self, i.e., to separate yourself from what surrounds you, be it religion, politics, or the zeal for the sacred or the taboo. Other places and as I enter the core of your soul I move away from everything that is outside you and I move away from the theme of the sanctioned and forbidden. You are looking for a rose that sustains the heart with its shadow, because we do not find this space through politics or religion. I had two choices: the first was suicide, and I failed at it miserably; the second was madness, and it opened its doors widely for me.

I write because I desperately need a lot of time and grief to write an honest text equivalent to the destruction of the soul, the body’s desert, the world’s stupidity, and small infidelities to women. In short, it is equivalent to me in all the happy and sad moments, so I do not think about the sacred and the profane in my writing, or when I write I do not think about what I see because writing itself opens for me the sky of my freedom; I breathe and shake my head from drowsiness, fatigue, air polluted with death and destruction.
I appealed to my childhood for help, to the places I love in the bodies of the women with whom I played in my dark room.
I write to see the back streets in my body, to smell the scent of the forbidden in it.
I write to scream and scream the glory of madness and for destruction to prevail.


Interviewed by: Ashraf Zaghal
Translated by: Ghada Mourad