The Language of my Parents


We decided to begin with this poem by Roy Hassan, as it felt like a statement of poetic intent, and enabled us to talk about language and class. Hassan is a Mizrachi, a Jew of middle-eastern descent, and so his parents would have spoken Arabic before moving to Israel. The imagery is incredibly dense and nuanced in this poem – we spoke for a long time about what sort of headscarf we should picture, whether its significance was cultural or religious, and its relation to class – it might be an image of poverty, as a woman covers her roots if she can’t afford to have them coloured.

Our translator Micha Meyers explained that the ‘Ben Gurion tent’ would be an army one (Ben Gurion was Israel’s first Prime Minister and a military leader). There is perhaps something here about the Mizrachi immigrants put up in camps at shifting borders. But workshop participants also thought of The Book of Exodus. The last two verses certainly have a biblical resonance.

Clare Pollard


The PTC would like to thank Tangier Publishing for helping us contact Roy Hasan.

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