Yousif M. Qasmiyeh
Born and educated in Baddawi refugee camp in Lebanon, Yousif M. Qasmiyeh is a Palestinian poet and translator now based in Britain. His poetry and translations have appeared in journals and magazines, including Modern Poetry in Translation, Stand, Critical Quarterly, Cambridge Literary Review, and PN Review. Qasmiyeh is the Creative Encounters editor of the Migration and Society journal, and writer-in-residence of the Refugee Hosts research project. He also jointly leads the Imagining Futures Baddawi Camp Lab (founded at the University of Exeter), together with Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh at University College London. The Lab involves partner organisations elsewhere in the UK, Lebanon, Ghana, and Tanzania. His debut collection, Writing the Camp (Broken Sleep Books, 2021) was The Poetry Book Society’s Recommendation for Spring 2021. It was selected as one of the ‘Best Poetry Books of 2021’ by The Telegraph, The Irish Times and Ars Notoria, and was Highly Commended by the 2021 Forward Prizes. Yousif Qasmiyeh’s doctoral studies (2018–22), based in the English and Oriental Studies faculties at the University of Oxford, focus on containment, the archive, and time in what he refers to as ‘refugee writing’ in English and Arabic.
In the camp time cannot exhaust itself; it is never ending, both linear and cyclical, invading and examining the lives of those living within it, opening their stories and their thresholds to the gaze of the reader.
Yousif M. Qasmiyeh has been vocal about his effort to write poetry that ‘sits precisely on the threshold’. In an interview with the Poetry Book Society, he describes writing as a process of ‘hunting down my illiterate mother’s words … and my father’s unpublished texts whose rhymes and imageries are those of an eternal child deprived of age’. His writing is inspired by the autobiographical, philosophical, and political – he relays intimate memories of his parents, probes the meaning of time and place, and raises awareness about displacement. Qasmiyeh explains that the poems comprising his 2021 collection, Writing the Camp, were imagined ‘in various times but also about different times in a refugee’s life’, and are preoccupied with ‘afterlives’ and ‘the discarded in living’. In Writing the Camp, Qasmiyeh unwraps his own experiences and facets of the refugee condition at large. Vahni Capildeo exhorts ‘every reader’ to ‘be in dialogue’ with this book, ‘carrying it in their heart or on their back as a perpetual interlocutor’. She adds, ‘This is what we have to consider if we are considering humanity, or modernity. This is a book to love’.
—Serena Alagappan, 2022
Cite this: Alagappan, Serena. “Yousif M. Qasmiyeh .” Postcolonial Writers Make Worlds, 2022, https://writersmakeworlds.com/yousif-m-qasmiyeh. Accessed 2 February 2022.