Agi Mishol: My encounter with poetry in school was wretched; I managed to connect in spite of school rather than because of it. Only a teacher who loves poetry and understands the language within language is able to pass on this love.
Perhaps because of this, over the years I have
become a teacher of poetry. Sometimes I feel
I am like someone tugging at people's sleeves,
saying: "Look how beautiful!" and
"Listen to how beautiful this sounds!"
I was exposed to Western poetry relatively early. When Israel was founded, great [Hebrew] poets such as Hayyim Nahman Bialik, Avraham Shlonsky, Natan Alterman and Lea Goldberg saw it as their duty to translate [European] masterpieces. Every high school student studies Shakespeare, Greek tragedies and a selection of short stories and poems.
Ghassan Zaqtan: My father was a poet, so I was among the lucky few in the refugee camps, for I lived in a house with a rich and selected library that almost specialized in poetry (classical Arabic, modern and translated Western poetry and literature). This fact allowed me to be exposed to different models of Western literature at an early age. I continued this search on my own with a special focus on the northern part of the Mediterranean region (poetry in Greece, Spain, Italy and France).
At a later stage, my temporary residence in Moscow allowed me to be exposed to Russian literature, especially 19th century literature. I continue to update myself with the cultural production of the West from Ramallah and my repeated readings and literary contributions outside of Palestine.