Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Monument Has Fallen

I'm deeply saddened by the untimely death of poet Maxamed Xaashi Dhamac "Gaarriye" who passed away yesterday in Norway at the age of 62. My condolences go to his family and friends, as well as to all Somalis for we all have lost an inspiring treasure. Fathomless respect! Alla Ha U Naxariisto! Rest in peace!

A biologist by training, Gaarriye was a highly respected poet. His numerous poems deal with a wide variety of topics - contrasting simple daily life with a complex form of existence beyond/after death, decadent wealth to abject poverty, all-engulfing war to ever-lasting peace, mankind's ugliness to nature's beauty, oppression to resistance, democracy to dictatorship.... and many things in-between.

As Martin Orwin of the the University of London's SOAS puts it: "His language is characteristically striking: with images ranging from the delicacy of a butterfly feeding on a freshly bloomed flower, to the force of likening a poem to a bomb which explodes inside the listener or reader, and all of this is set within a carefully structured flow of language that uses syntax, alliteration and metre creatively".

Gaarriye's poetry is consistently highly conscious, politically and socially, and his engagement with national, African and international issues had led to the banning of his works by dictatorial regimes in Somalia, Saudi-Arabia, Ethiopia (and possibly South Africa, Zimbabwe... ) where he's marked as an "enemy of the state"!

Poetry of freedom and human rights
This obituary by the Poetry Translation Centre speaks for itself. PTC has translated a few of Garriye's poems into English. Here is "Aadmi" (literally meaning "Humanity") taking head on the volatile human vanity and its nihility in front of Mother Nature.  


Wandered brood of Adam,
lost, bewildered people,
hear what I have to say.

Stop for a moment before the mountains
and for the simple sake of awe
be humbled, let your tears fall.

Look to, look through the air above,
be moved by the sight of stars,
watch their bodies wheel.

Ask the thunder, see what lightning says,
the rain-bearing wind which blows
the good grey cloud, ask them.

The camel's old keen for her calf,
be hushed and hear it, hear how
the birds' song weeps with it: weep with them too.

How the sea sounds out its old chorus,
what moves in its abyssal womb:
acknowledge these and what they mean.

Examine the earth at your feet,
the rush of the rivers,
raise your eyes to the clouds.

Glimpse what lies above
the auroral mist, the winds,
understand what these things have to say.

The scent of wild acacia -
inhale it, relish it, and
delight in the green of pastures.

Count up the lineage of all life,
mark the endless days and days:
this worthless arrogance of yours,
you have to let it go.

All nebulae and galaxies,
the Camel of the Southern Cross,
our own burning sun, who said these
were lit for humankind?

Before a man was made in this world
didn't Virgo blaze above?
Aren't all those gatherings of stars
far older than us?
Since when was their high light
kindled only for you?

Exactly when do you think the heavens
were told to carry out the order
‘Confine yourselves to the human race'?
If you simply ceased to be
wouldn't their light continue?
Wouldn't it be then as it is now?

Wandered brood of Adam,
your bluster is a lie.
You shared this womb with all
wild things that roam,
all roots that flourish,
you entered this world together.

All creation is your cousin,
each creature your equal
and you share an ancestor:
all living things are to you
as stick is to bark, bark to stick.

You and they are like two eyes -
when one sheds tears
the other weeps.
They were not made for you alone,
nor were they created to serve.

Of everything which is, half is secret -
however things appear
the meaning is always deeper.

With Martin Orwin who translated some of his poems


  1. gabayaa wacyi weyn oo dhaxal ballaaran reebay weeye. ilaahay jannadii fardawsa ha ka waraabiyo ehlkiisii iyo soomaali dhammaanteenna sabar iyo iimaan.


  2. RIP Gaarriye. I discovered this great poet via Bill Herbert, Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Newcastle University. He writes about him here: http://wnherbert.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/gaarriye/

  3. It's nearly impossible to find well-informed people in this particular subject, however, you seem like you know what you're talking
    about! Thanks