Suheir Hammad: Poems of war, peace, women, power

“What I Will” I will not dance to your war drum. I will not lend my soul nor my bones to your war drum. I will not dance to that beating. I know that beat. It is lifeless. I know intimately that skin you are hitting. It was alive once, hunted, stolen, stretched. I will not dance to your drummed-up war. I will not pop, spin, break for you. I will not hate for you or even hate you. I will not kill for you. Especially I will not die for you. I will not mourn the dead with murder nor suicide. I will not side with you or dance to bombs because everyone is dancing. Everyone can be wrong. Life is a right, not collateral or casual. I will not forget where I come from. I will craft my own drum. Gather my beloved near, and our chanting will be dancing. Our humming will be drumming. I will not be played. I will not lend my name nor my rhythm to your beat. I will dance and resist and dance and persist and dance. This heartbeat is louder than death. Your war drum ain’t louder than this breath. Haaa. What’s up TED people? Let me hear you make some noise. (Applause) A bunch of pacifists. Confused, aspiring pacifists. I understand. I’ve been wrong a lot lately. Like a lot. So I couldn’t figure out what to read today. I mean, I’ve been saying I’ve been prepping. What that means is prepping my outfit, (Laughter) prepping options, trying to figure out what I’m coming behind and going in front of. Poetry does that. It preps you. It aims you. So I am going to read a poem that was chosen just now. But I’m going to need you to just sit for like 10 minutes and hold a woman who is not here. Hold her now with you. You don’t need to say her name out loud, you can just hold her. Are you holding her? This is “Break Clustered.” All holy history banned. Unwritten books predicted the future, projected the past. But my head unwraps around what appears limitless, man’s creative violence. Whose son shall it be? Which male child will perish a new day? Our boys’ deaths galvanize. We cherish corpses. We mourn women, complicated. Bitches get beat daily. Profits made, prophets ignored. War and tooth, enameled salted lemon childhoods. All colors run, none of us solid. Don’t look for shadow behind me. I carry it within. I live cycles of light and darkness. Rhythm is half silence. I see now, I never was one and not the other. Sickness, health, tender violence. I think now I never was pure. Before form I was storm, blind, ign’ant — still am. Human contracted itself blind, malignant. I never was pure. Girl spoiled before ripened. Language can’t math me. I experience exponentially. Everything is everything. One woman loses 15, maybe 20, members of her family. One woman loses six. One woman loses her head. One woman searches rubble. One woman feeds on trash. One woman shoots her face. One woman shoots her husband. One woman straps herself. One woman gives birth to a baby. One woman gives birth to borders. One woman no longer believes love will ever find her. One woman never did. Where do refugee hearts go? Broken, dissed, placed where they’re not from, don’t want to be missed. Faced with absence. We mourn each one or we mean nothing at all. My spine curves spiral. Precipice running to and running from human beings. Cluster bombs left behind. De facto landmines. A smoldering grief. Harvest contaminated tobacco. Harvest bombs. Harvest baby teeth. Harvest palms, smoke. Harvest witness, smoke. Resolutions, smoke. Salvation, smoke. Redemption, smoke. Breathe. Do not fear what has blown up. If you must, fear the unexploded. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Suheir Hammad: Poems of war, peace, women, power

  1. She has a beautiful soul and a golden heart. And that makes her even more beautiful.

  2. Why do so many assume that if someone says women have specific strengths to bring to the table that this is "sexist" or "anti-man"? No one is advocating that men take a back seat or relinquish social or political power. That is anti-man. Rather, these videos tend to say that there is an imbalance of power, of thoughts and ideas caused by the absence of women in certain circles. That women's presence in academia, professional jobs, and public offices bring a new vitality of discourse.

  3. That their absence fetters further progress as conversations and debates grow stale. The underlying assumptions are that women tend to have a different way of thinking than men, and that diversity of thought will bring about creative solutions to problems. This can also be said of a hypothetical society in which men are historically repressed. Thus, there is nothing anti-man in these premises.

  4. @bluefootedpig TEDMen? Oh, wait, hasn't that been the past few millennia? Of course, I'm speaking metaphorically.

  5. @GameDevMonkey Hmmmm… a flaw in how we deal with conflict? I think I'm getting a picture. More of a challenge to see the lesser side in all of us, so that we can overcome it together. Interesting.

  6. Man, TEDWomen would be so much better if they showed women implementing programs to aid their cause, stuff like that. I realize the E is entertainment, but this certainly doesn't qualify as that. Instead of saying bad poetry, TEDWomen, try showing us active efforts. I'll bet you won't see the 'misogynist' comments you see here. We're fed up of bleeding hearts doing nothing but bitch and complain. DO SOMETHING, and you'll earn the world's respect;

  7. I dislike this. Indeed, this rhetoric is passionate and appeals to our emotions very well. But behind it I see a very skewed view of the world. A male war machine, where sprinkling estrogen on the government buildings of the world causes war to vanish, and middle/upper class people can stop it by feeling pacifistic.

    I do not see beauty in this view. I see simplistic and misleading rhetoric, too vague to have substance. How about we discuss real causes of war, like poverty?

  8. @Jotto999 I would rather take this as art. It would be to much to ask for poetry and solutions. She expresses a view of the world which you don't have to share but it is nontheless good to hear.

  9. male violence is a product of natural selection, if there were only females a strong form of violence would rise as well .

  10. @highway234 You are asking me to engage in a kind of debate I find childish and intellectually dishonest.

    Watch each of the TEDwomen videos in their entirety. Ask yourself honestly if you would accept these talks if the gender pro-nouns were reversed. If, after that, you still think TEDwomen is a good thing, then that's your opinion.

    If however, you think pointing out that this woman didn't use the words "the problem is men" invalidates my argument, then you are not a very thorough thinker.

  11. @highway234 You see, you made a blanket assertion that anti-woman videos aren't hard to find, on youtube. I found this a little irrelevant, since anti-woman videos ARE hard to find on the TEDtalksdirector channel. I pointed this out to you. I then pointed out to you, what I see as sexism permeating TEDwomen.

    Your demand of a timecoded quote mine does not in anyway reverse the lazy thinking of your original statement. If you're convinced by that sort of tripe, then you're welcome to it.

  12. @bluefootedpig No one ever answers this question! I want my special rights now! Because I have a penis and I need everyone's attention!

  13. @reafdaw01 Not necessarily solutions, but art has messages, and it does reveal about the artist. I disagree with the messages. They seem to be of the variety where you must be a little naive or shortsighted to assert them. If you enjoyed her poetry, then that's fine, all I'm saying is that I didn't, even though she does have a nice skill with words.

  14. @highway234 I agree that trying to distance yourself from fools is not intellectually lazy. The way you went about it was not successful, in my case. From my point of view, you were standing right next to them.

    However, I join you in condemning people who call these women bitches and whores, instead of commenting the content of their talks. I may be so dismissive of those people, that I didn't consider them the target of you original comment.

  15. @LiberaLib You have me all wrong. Kudos on your restraint, because someone arguing that there is no such thing as sexism would be the worthy target of a lot of anger.

    I am arguing that many of these woman ARE sexist. Just as intelligence does not have a gender, sexism does not have a gender. Women are just as capable of baseless sexism towards men as men are towards women. Some of these women are.

    "Switching the pronouns" is meant to illuminate how sexist some of their statements are.

  16. @LiberaLib Sexism is very real, and one of the most destructive forces in our history. It must be opposed, regardless of the perpetrator's gender.

  17. @jackstorm777 What about this was sexist? Sure TEDwomen smells of sexism but where is it in this presentation?

  18. @LiberaLib Try re-reading my comments. I don't think you're paying very much attention. I think you are just interested in being indignant.

  19. @ 3:27 Holy fuck a guy! Fuck what the hell is going on?! I thought they went extinct during the great boxing wars of superbowl cheetohs!
    All jokes aside, I am neutral to the pacifist stance. I understand that violence is necessary in many instances, but we need to be careful. More people need a "violence is wrong" mindset, and that need a larger nation overpowering a smaller one and giving it a stable government.

  20. I wonder how many thumbs down votes are american? All? Hm…

    In all cultures poets where respected as seers. Once. Before you flame me when was the last time you bought or even read a poem?

    Fear the unexploded. I agree.


  21. @Nightriser271828 The problem isn't that they are showing the problem, but just that. They are only showing the problem. Yes we know there are inequalities, this is common knowledge at this point, at least among TED viewers. We like solutions. The men, although not always, tend to offer solutions, or projects they are working on, or new research about why it happens. Just pointing it out does nothing. Its like raising child abuse awareness, we already know it is bad, no awareness needed.

  22. i love how every upload that has anything remotely to do with women or feminisim (or even nothing) is considered bad. and people try to argue that women have complete equal standing in the first world… psh-ha!

  23. Women are equal? Just take a look at the dislike bar for this video. Then compare it to that of any other male TED speaker. Surely, not ALL of them are better than this speaker? Yet she is looked down upon because she is speaking about a topic that she is passionate about. A topic that men tire to hear of because that's all women talk about. That attitude of "just another women talking about inequality" is what remains to be a strong issue in our society.

  24. @MistressSerenity I don't know about the other people who disliked this video, but I disliked it because it is bad poetry, not because of the subject matter.

  25. This isn't a bad video because of what her subject matter, it's bad because it's shitty poetry. Plain and simple. Read Woolstonecraft or Plath or Sexton or Barbauld or H.D., but please don't complain about bias when she's just a bad poet.

  26. @ShakespeareAvenue She's a shitty poet. If you think it's good, then your taste is in shitty poetry.

  27. lol. You made my day. Still with all the hate in here including yourself 'kak poetry'.

    Shite it my be, I don't know her from Adam but now I like her a little more. Your dizzy flatulence pooped from your supreme bum lacks everything including charm.

    You are farting in the wind honey. Kisses. Xxx

  28. I would have liked this, but I met this woman in Rammalla at the cast party for Milh Hadha al-Bahr [Salt of This Sea], I was with her costar and she was a B-E-O-T-C-H to me. Arrogant, tried to belittle me, borderline racist… So

  29. @lemonrind Really? Your taste in poetry is so cultivated that if anyone appreciates poetry that is not up to par with your standards, they appreciate shitty poetry. Many words come to mind but contemptuous sums up what you are to perfection.

  30. @himansku I can respect that. I appreciate that you at least supported your opinion with reason. Her poem to me, is just more of an art piece, something to be appreciated but not to be taken too seriously.

  31. @MistressSerenity Sorry. That's just bullshit. Take a look at Liza Donnelly, or Cynthia Breazell, or Ali Char-Chellman. Examine their like/dislike ratio if you please.

    She isn't being attacked because she is talking about equality. She is getting thumbs down, because they don't like her poems.

    TEDwomen isn't getting a massive hate-on because "Men" are tired of "just another women talking about inequality". It's because those of us who believe in equality are tired of being talked down to.

  32. @MistressSerenity Really reflect for a moment. Do you often find yourself talking about "men" as an all-inclusive group? Does that give you pause at all?

    I ask because if I say "Women need to stop complaining about things they already have," my insides curl a little bit. They curl because that's bullshit. "Women" don't need to stop doing anything. "Women" aren't a homogeneous group with a unified agenda. Neither are "Men".

  33. @MrDarkbloom There is couple problems here. It's simply not true that every society we know about has treated women poorly, let alone as property. We know of several societies in history, which were matriarchal. There are extant African tribes with exclusively female leadership. Even many European cultures worshiped women, before the Catholic Church.

    You also can't "take a look around the world" to judge gender equality. It is at different stages in different places.

  34. @MrDarkbloom TEDwomen is a disaster for gender equality. Instead of being a conference to talk about ideas for gender equality, the majority of the talks posted, have been one long string of male bashing garbage. It isn't about finding solutions, it's about assigning blame or talking trash.

    They should have called it TEDxgender equality. Then they should have invited a people a balance of Men & Women. Then they would have gotten somewhere.

  35. @colemiller56 You speak of burden of proof. War is not a high-minded discourse. Not a debate. It is the culmination of myriad human impulses and emotions.

    Shall that weaker country lay down and die. Shall they entreat peace with people intent on their destruction.

    Pacifism is at best a delusion & at worst a lie. A falsehood made possible in the peaceful places that warriors have created at great cost in blood.

    We work to make war obsolete. We do not pretend it was never necessary.

  36. I've always disliked this style of poetry. Give me an Emily Dickinson, or a Robert Burns or anything but this poet slam blank verse garbage.

  37. TED Women? Wow, I lost a whole lot of respect after seeing that. What's next? TED Black, Disabled TED, TED Turner Commuinications Corp. Why not just stick to the original TED with no special target or interest group and just people who want to see other amazing people talk?

  38. This is a really sad bunch of comments. How is this misandry? Is it because she never really mentions men at all? How many male TED speakers have gone through their entire talk without using a single feminine pronoun? Is that an example of sexism? Is that an example of sexism deserving a huge avalanche of negativity like the ones found on virtually every talk from TEDwomen?

  39. "before form, I was storm"
    "don't look for a shadow behind me, i carry it within"
    Great stuff, thumbs up, and yeah, I'm male THE END IS NEAR 😮

  40. I liked it. Well spoken., the start was great, and it ended the same way. Poetry is art and many cannot ,or refuse to ,understand it. I am niether ., I can not refuse to try and understand and enjoy.

  41. @MistressSerenity Men don't like hearing about gender inequality, because they might have to give up some of their privilege.

  42. people, stop hating. this women is beautiful. this is true spoken word.

  43. I love her and I loved her performance.
    Does anybody know what happened to Suheir? She has lost so much weight

  44. @jayc342009 one: I'm not a woman

    two: Marie Curie

    three: Casey Anthony was found not guilty by a jury of her peers – if there isn't equality in that department, then OJ Simpson would have gotten away with killing his wife. herpa derp


  45. I don't hate women. I just think this is just shitty poetry. And I'm sick of this male bashing world.

  46. It's not just a bunch of men who are prepared to accept a violent world so that a small minority can be rich at the expense of the majority. Both genders experience negative emotions such as greed and hate which can lead to war.

  47. She is lucky that she doesn't HAVE to march to the war drum. It's only young men that are conscripted, taken violently from their home and physically and emotionally beaten until they are sent out to die screaming in a foreign field. Thatcher, Mier, Gahndi all women who used male only conscription. This is so self-centered it's offensive.

  48. Islamaphobia? That's how you intend to try and claim some kind of moral high ground? Religious bigotry plus a pathetic insult?

    I hope your comment was a momentary lapse in judgement, for if it is indicative of you're general intellectual worth then…well…you're worthless.

  49. I think you'll find that not many people are impressed by a self contained delusion like that. You just claimed that if people find you're bigotry and vulgarity offensive, it proves that you're right. You've set up a mental trick for yourself, to allow you to pretend that you're always right. It's naked intellectual cowardice and a further indicator that you have nothing of value to offer.

    I think you'll also find that I don't intend to waste anymore time on you.

  50. "Colin Powell: Kids need structure"
    As soon as I read your post I remembered that talk's dislike bar. That was just off the top of my head, there are many other TED Talks with male speakers that have a worse like:dislike ratio, and many TED Talks with female speakers that have a better like:dislike ratio than this one. It does seem to be true that TED and its talk's viewers do not treat women as equal, but the that problem seems to be much less prevalent and severe than you make it out to be.

  51. I very much agree. It's not treating women as equal to have TEDwomen if there is no TEDmen(which there shouldn't be, I'm not advocating for that), it's treating them as a sort of disadvantaged group that need help because otherwise no one will want to listen. There should be more female speakers in the main TED and the other offshoots and another offshoot for discussions of gender and related prejudices and inequalities, in which the participation of both men and women is allowed and encouraged.

  52. That's pretty close to my opinion.

    I actually think women are well represented on the main TED stage. There are a myriad of brilliant talks by women at every TED conference, often garnering the most interesting comment threads and highest views/likes.

    I would very much like to see a conference dedicated to a balanced discussion of gender equality and how we attain it across the world. Ideas for improving access to education and providing reliable protection from violence, interest me most.

  53. HAHA! hell no do you think i can meet the same girl everyday?
    No, im not that arab man! xDDDDD

  54. I need to learn how to seduce women. My friend has begun dating a 10 basically because 2 months ago he joined an internet site called Master Attraction (Google it if you'd like to learn how.) I'm so green with envy because I wish to just fall in love as well. How come it's so hard? I'm going to take a look at this Jake Ayres man's stuff and check out if it might help a person like me. Odd point is, he used to have no luck with females. How could you change that fast? His girl's like a model…

  55. Life sucks. My cousin has begun going out with a ten simply because 2 months back he signed up to a website called Master Attraction (Google it if you wish to learn more.) I'm so envious because I wish to just fall in love too. I'm going to look at this Jake Ayres man's stuff. Surprising thing is, my friend previously had NO results with females. How do you change so quickly? His lady's a banging model.

  56. I need to figure out how to have more sex My buddy has begun dating a stunning woman simply because 2 months ago he registered to a website named Master Attraction Google it if you desire to learn more Im so green with envy since I wish to just fall in love as well How come its so difficult Im gonna look into this Jake Ayres guys stuff to determine if it may help someone like me Funny thing is he previously had Zero success with females How could you transform that swiftly His ladys like a model

  57. She's very beautiful and intelligent. She delivered it with good timing and with emotions that was there. Indeed, I was able to hold…and I was held, too.

  58. shut up, if you can't never talk like that to me in real life because i'll fuck you and who ever you bring with you bitch. so bitch pleaaaaaaaaaase, fuck off

  59. I like the content and the ideas that Suheir is speaking for, But for me this is poor quality poetry. It likes raping words or just reading statement with some Theater techniques  . No wonder many people would say it is great because it was set like any TV Show nowadays.

  60. this just gave me strength to get through the rest of my day. bless. let it be. love and light.

  61. I would love to see her! I wish she was at the TED Talk I was performing at!!!!

  62. Suheir you are an inspiring speaker and the language of your words are jaw-dropping.

  63. the world wide angel with heavenly grace, all i want more of is smiles upon her face, too sweet to believe its her purity of beauty, her eyes tranquilize like honey brown ruby's, but even if she smiles for just 1 second, ill take it as victory and certainly accept it, forever i promise with no more words to use, too properly explain my understanding of you, unselfish love she spoke to me, i follow the truth i value the need, please god this time let it be real, for no more loneliness one ever can feel, our similar interests allow us to see, that together is power, just you… and… me…

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