In addition to applying the theories of Edward Said, regarding the notions of diaspora and Arab exile, this study has also utilized the theories of Salhi and Netton who have mainly focused on the issue of Arab diaspora. The works of the critic, Faist (2010) has also benefited this study, regarding the concept of diaspora in general, and finally Al-Maleh (2009) has been chosen to be applied since her work is concerned with Anglophone Arab writers such as Mattawa.
In The Arab Diaspora, Salhi and Netton (2006) have described diaspora as those who are in exile, living far away from their homeland regardless of the reasons behind their escape, be it to escape prosecution or out of their own choice to live in a country other than theirs. They all tend to keep an idealized image of their homeland as a paradise from which they were forced to flee.
Faist (2010) has also analyzed diaspora and transnationalism as research perspectives rather than as characteristics of specific social communities. He has focused on conceptual uses, theoretical challenges, and methodological innovations in the study of social links that transcend nation and state boundaries. Faist (2010) has introduced three characteristics of diaspora, which can be subdivided into older and newer usages. He mentions the first characteristic to be related to the causes of migration or dispersal (i.e. forced dispersal or labor migration diasporas). Faist links the second characteristic to cross-border experiences of homeland with destination (i.e. shaping a country’s future by influencing it from abroad or by encouraging the return, or diasporic experience of all mobile persons as ‘trans-nation’, or imagined homeland that can be a non-territorial one, such as a global Islamic umma). According to him, the third characteristic discusses the incorporation or integration of migrants and/or minorities into the countries of settlement (i.e. assimilation would mean the end of diaspora, or emphasis of the cultural hybridity) (pp. 11-13).
Al-Maleh (2009) has discussed a complete exploration of the field of Anglophone Arab literature produced across the world. She has also sought to place Anglophone Arab literary writers such as Mattawa within the larger field of postcolonial literature, as she finds that the authors like him are plagued by ‘hybrid’, ‘exilic’, and ‘diasporic’ questions.
This study has applied the tenets of the American school of comparative literature in analyzing the two poems of “Tigris the Donor of Welfare” (Ya Dijlat Alkhayr) by Muhammad Mahdi Al-Jawahiri (1899-1997) a famous modern Iraqi poets and ”Date Palm Trinity” of Khaled Mattawa (1964-) an eminent Libyan-American poet, writer, and translator for signs of diaspora in their poetry. These two texts have been chosen since both poets have written and published their works in diaspora. Al-Jawahiri’s ”Tigris the Donor of Welfare” first appeared in his poetry collection named Barid al-Ghorba The Letter of Exile, 1962 by al-Mustaqbal in Lebanon. Mattawa has published “Date Palm Trinity” in his poetry collection, Ismailia Eclipse (1995) by Sheep Meadow Press in America.
The reason behind the choice of these two poets is due to them having lived away from their homeland. For instance, Al-Jawahiri had lived away from Iraq in several countries including Iran, France, Germany, and Syria during the suppression of Abd Al-Karim Qasim and Saddam Hussein’s government (Hussein, 2015, p. 1). Similarly, Mattawa as one of the Libyan-born U.S. intellectuals who had discussed publicly the wrenching events in Libya during Muammar Gaddafi’s repressive rule, left his country in 1979. However, he has often frequented his homeland during the last decade. Consequently, they are by no means able to adapt to their new dwellings, and share with each other feelings of solitude, estrangement, loss, and longing for their homes (Salhi & Netton, 2006, p. 3).
Muhammad Mahdi Al-Jawahiri, one of the distinguished Arab poets who introduced modern writing to Iraqi literature, was under the influence of many Arab poets. Marouf (2010) dicusses the influce of Arab writers in Al-Jawahiri’s works including Al-Mutanabbi, Imru’ al-Qais, Buhturi, and Ahmed Shawqi (Marouf, 2010). Shaaban (2009) traces the importance, influence and style of the poetry of the most distinguished English poets such as Shakespeare, Lord Byron, and Shelley in the works of Al-Jawahiri; he claims that Al-Jawahiri was influenced by T. S. Eliot in a noticeable way (p. 236).
Al-Jawahiri published several volumes such as Between Feelings and Emotions (1928) (Bayn al-Shueur wal Aatifa) his first poetry collection, which he first intended to publish under the title The Dangers of Poetry in Love, Nation and Ode. Similarly, the translation of the poetry written by exiled poets and many Arab poets influenced him to a great extent; however, Al-Jawahiri’s share of ordeals since 1927 (dismissal, imprisonment, deprivation, and many years of exile) has few parallels (Altoma, 1997, p. 6).
As for the other poet, Mattawa’s poetry frequently explores the intersection of culture, narrative, and memory. However, there is no evidence to support that, he was influenced by Al-Jawahiri. Mattawa’s emergence as a translator of contemporary Arabic poetry, started with collections by the exiled Iraqi dissident poets Fadhil Al-Azzawi and Sa’adi Youssef. He published several collections of poetry including Amorisco (2008), Zodiac of Echoes (2003), and Ismailia Eclipse (1995).
In 2010, Mattawa published his fourth collection, Tocqueville, a book that is as daring in its amalgam of poetic techniques as it is astonishing in the breadth of its subject matter, bristling with perspicacity and mordant wit. The title poem uses the explosive “experimental” discontinuities, and the documentary techniques poets such as Williams, Rukeyser, and Reznikoff used to fulfill a narrative and, indeed, epic impulse, the quixotic epic of the exiled and assimilated who assess history (Hacker, 2011). According to Charara (2008), an Arab-American poet is able to explore the theme of diaspora through varied and complicated means such as his poem’s language, style, form, meaning, traditions, class, gender, ethnicity, race, nationality, history, ideology, and of course the self (p. 16).
Al-Jawahiri and Mattawa were both suppressed by their countries’ governments, because their poetry was patriotic, motivating people to free their nations from the repression of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya; as a result, they were deprived of living in their own homeland. The features which inspired both came from different cultures including the ancient ones like the Sumerian and the modern culture like the contemporary celebration of fragments which reflect the broken pieces of their self, haunted by wars and visited by the traumas and complexities of loss and belonging (Al-Maleh, 2009, p. 489).
The years 1930-1990 witnessed a great change in the lives of both poets. Al-Jawahiri temporally left Iraq in 1941 and returned to his country in the same year; then, he left in 1961 and resided in Prague up to 1968. Although he returned to Baghdad, in 1981 he eventually settled in Syria in which he remained until his demise (Shaaban, 2009, p. 502). The same is also true about Mattawa (2011), he depicted Gadda? as a “prison warden” who could not tolerate dissent; so, he was forced to go to the United States in 1979 shortly after the government publicly hanged several dissidents in his hometown, Benghazi. “Even the boy and girl scouts were governmental organizations that had to show loyalty to the regime,” he said in an interview with Reuters (Mattawa, 2011).
Many critics and writers agree that Iraq’s modern literary, cultural, and political history cannot be studied without referring to Al-Jawahiri, known as Sh??ir al-Arab al-Akbar (The Great Poet of Arabs) (Khaleel, 2015). He was given this title, because he was the last neoclassical poet who combines neoclassicism with modernism. It is significant to mention that Al-Jawahiri was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for devoting his poetry to defending freedom and world peace (Dehdari & Jadirri, 2013).
Holly Arida (2011) the coordinator of a regular conference on Arab-American arts and literature called ‘Diwan’, has also announced that Mattawa’s poetry is a representative of an Arab American artist/activist’s concerns. She also praised Mattawa’s preoccupation with his Libyan homeland. The majority of critics believe that Al-Jawahiri had introduced a special poetic school that was almost unique in style, content, and form (Karimi Fard & Ahmadian, 2016, p. 572). In addition, he was the last of the great poets who combined classical form with modern perspective.
Marouf (2010) has declared that Al-Jawahiri had a special cultural stock consisting of environment, books and libraries, and finally the intensity and strength of memory. Ahmadian and Karimi Fard (2016) have stated that the features of his poetry include his revolutionary ideas, contradiction, and his national and humanitarian ties. In addition, it should not be forgotten that the basic theme of Al-Jawahiri’s poetry is the feeling of nostalgia that he felt toward Iraq as his homeland, which was at the same time coupled with pain, violence, and hatred of reality (p. 574).
In spite of the number of books, theses, and articles (mostly in Arabic) which have discussed Al-Jawahiri’s poems and style (Khaleel, 2015), no critic has discussed the diasporic aspects in his writing. Furthermore, there seems to be a lack of studies regarding Mattawa’s diasporic works and Al-Jawahiri and Mattawa’s comparison. To fill the existing gap, this study intends to compare two significant poems of these literary men in order to explore their similarities, differences in terms of literature of diaspora. These poets wrote poetry in different languages and had their own ways in this regard. Mattawa (2000) declared that writing poems allowed him to understand the world, past memories, and the real nature of the self in this world (Mattawa, 2000, p. 2)
Al-Jawahiri’s ”Tigris the Donor of Welfare” (Ya Dijlat Alkhayr) describes his Iraqi homeland, the rivers, and the birds that fly over Tigris in 105 lines. This kind of anguish that Al-Jawahiri suffered during his time away from his country kept him writing many poems describing his pain in exile. This poem is one of the most well-known examples of diasporic writing. Likewise, Mattawa’s ”Date Palm Trinity” describes Libya’s date palms and branches which are same as the ones in Iraq, spreading all over Tigris and Euphrates in Iraq, reminding him of his own homeland, Libya.
“Date Palm Trinity” is a 137-line poem from Ismailia Eclipse’s (1995) collection written by Mattawa depicting the penetrating images of his moments in Libya, where he was distant and in exile. The importance of family, which is evident in Mattawa’s poetry, is also a major theme in all Arab-American poetry, and a dominating aspect of Arab culture, because the family is the poet’s mirror (Abudi, 2010, p. 310). In fact, it is through the family that the poet is able to remember his past, find himself in the present, and then move to the future.
Through a comparison between Al-Jawahiri’s “Tigris the Donor of Welfare” (Ya Dijlat Alkhayr) and Mattawa’s ”Date Palm Trinity” and how different themes such as diaspora, nostalgia, and longing are implied in them, this study investigated how Al-Jawahiri and Mattawa shared the same circumstances which resulted in them becoming known as the exiled poets today. In fact, they were both exiles from their motherland, belonging to the same movement and era, and repressed by the governments of their time.
To do so, the American School, which has done away with all the limitations of the French School, has been applied in this study. This study also reveals which characteristic(s) of diaspora, first introduced by Faist (2010) is/are reflected in Al-Jawahiri’s and Mattawa’s poetry. Under the broad headings of ‘diaspora’, ‘exile’, this thesis moves through the course thematically, taking a cross-cultural and cross-temporal approach and covering the following topics: nostalgia and homelessness, the ideologies of ‘home’ and nation, immigrant and diasporic cultures, experiences and, the exilic perspective, the redefinition of cosmopolitanism, identity questions (belonging, ‘national origins’, assimilation,), issues relating to borders, ‘mixing’, and language, homesickness, memory, longing, and melancholy.