Self portraif of Khalil Gibran

Welcome back to the Richmond Read-along! Today we are reading a poem by Khalil Gibran. Gibran was a poet, author and artist; while his art fell out of favour due to his commitment to the symbolism of his youth, his writings remain popular to this day. Only one of his Western published works (a book of drawings) has gone out of print since it was published.

Gibran’s family emigrated to America from Lebanon in 1895 and he was a well-respected voice of Arabic immigrants, due largely to the fact that his writings lacked the structure and discipline of traditional Arabic literature and were therefore much more accessible to his peers. He wrote extensively in both Arabic and English. His poems and writings were often philosophical, and contained themes and settings more common to Arabic works; however, his writing spoke to the American public as much as it did to those who read his works in Lebanon, Egypt and other countries where he published in Arabic. “The Prophet” is his most popular work. Despite critics ignoring it or criticising it as sentimental and shallow, “The Prophet” has sold millions of copies. Indeed, while Gibran is ignored in many accounts of twentieth-century American literature – although he is rightly acknowledged among accounts of Arabic literature – he is the best-selling American poet of the twentieth-century.

Today we are reading “Fear:”

It is said that before entering the sea
a river trembles with fear.

She looks back at the path she has traveled,
from the peaks of the mountains,
the long winding road crossing forests and villages.

And in front of her,
she sees an ocean so vast,
that to enter
there seems nothing more than to disappear forever.

But there is no other way.
The river can not go back.

Nobody can go back.
To go back is impossible in existence.

The river needs to take the risk
of entering the ocean
because only then will fear disappear,
because that’s where the river will know
it’s not about disappearing into the ocean,
but of becoming the ocean.

Read more about Gibran at The Poetry Foundation.

Come back tomorrow for the next Richmond Read-along!