Algerian poet Rabah Belamri at La Napoule, France
photo: lisa morphew

Our friend Lisa Morphew recently sent us a photo of Rabah Belamri, an extraordinary Algerian poet we met many years ago in the south of France. Accompanying the photo were these words:

“It feels like this Christmas is about remembering the people that somehow changed my life.”

Rabah was blind; he lost his sight when he was a teenager living in a remote village in Algeria. He had a poet’s memory for the world, with a blind man’s acute senses: hearing, touch, smell, the “feeling” of a place.

Fearless, he would walk with us in the mountains, guided by his companion Yvonne, along rough dirt paths and steep inclines, through meadows of wild thyme, crossing streams by stepping trustingly on one rock after another, as Yvonne talked him across. Rabah and Yvonne, as though their senses were intertwined, would comment on scent of flowers we hadn’t seen, plucking wild fruits for us to taste that we hadn’t noticed. Writes Lisa:

“Rabah taught me to look at language and nature with my heart and ears. He taught me to subvert rules of language to find a new language. He taught me again to rely on tenderness as my guide and kindness as my action. I fail sometimes but I sure try hard…”

We love Lisa’s view of the holidays: that it is about remembering the remarkable and valiant people who have touched our lives…


Having spoken out against the repressive government in Algeria, Rabah lived in exile in Paris. Tragically, he died several years after we all had met. Although he wrote many books, – mostly poetry –  in French, we know of only one novel that has been translated into English: Shattered Vision.

Related posts: dept of the future: how would you like to be remembered?
quilts as memory-keepers
digital memory archive (photograph stuff then give it away)
building -> growing -> alive (in memory of eleanor mailloux)
a jar of air + memory

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2 replies on “‘christmas is about remembering’

  1. thanks for sharing. he sounds like a wonderful person. i agree with your quote, too. let’s be thankful for those who have made a difference in our lives. of course, if you are a christian, jesus is the first one. but there are many in our daily lives who we need to appreciate more. joy and christmas blessings to you!

  2. i just thought in how many ways people have an impact on our lives – with a smile , a helping hand , with a song that changed our mood for a moment .
    Of course there are always those certain people we remember , who showed us how much more is possible (when we were about to forget it) .

    Talking about people who have an impact : ***Happy holidays to you at Improvised Life ! ***


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