Echo Location

One thing writers (and pretenders) don’t tell you is the importance of location.

When it comes to writing, location is key: a poem written on a bathroom stool will come out differently than one written in the comfort of one’s bed.

For a writer of any sorts, it’s all there is – location is his voice, his map to the world.

I tend to remember that thought and hold on to it whenever I’m roaming the country: from the busy bustling streets of Beirut to the narrowest alleys in the suburbs, crossing paths with the rich and poor alike.

I’ve wandered countless days and nights, walked into more bars than I can recite and drove on roads I had no intention of taking.

And in each one of those places, I found a story to tell. When you’ve seen different places, especially in a small country like this, you are more likely to catch the little things: your observations fall on the wicked, the helpless, the hopeless. It becomes easier to spot and narrate tragedy, as well as relate to it. It becomes easier to recognize corruption or governmental frauds in disguise, it becomes easier to understand the suffering and disgust of the people.

I’ve written poems in more places than I can remember: in the darkness of my writing room, on rooftops in the cold winter, on street corners next to bums and homeless people, in parking lots, and even in bathrooms.

And when I reread those pieces – I can almost hear the voice speaking to me in every single one of them. This voice is changing, mutating depending on the piece and the place where it was written. Some voices are more tragic than others, some come out more desperate, some contain a faint hope, some even sound optimistic.

It’s hard for me to accept that these voices all belong to the same person. I used to think I only revealed my true colors whenever I drank and got drunk. I felt naked then, like a turtle out of its shell. But when I read through my own lines, I feel a new honesty surging past the words and blazing through the paper, tearing at the whiteness of it. I feel a person coming to life or finding his way into it. I feel little pieces searching for a structure, for an identity, for a shape to take form.

A writer given permission to write is dangerous; once he lets loose on the typer or the paper nothing can slow him down or get in his way. But a writer who recognizes his home soil, who relates his writing to the locations that marked his life from its beginning is truly an unstoppable force. He can go through walls, walk on water, climb on the sides of buildings, charge through war, terrorism, survive bombings, slaughter, corruption and human decay.

At the end of the day, what really matters isn’t what he writes – it’s where he writes from.

The rest will follow on its own.

 

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