Never Tell An Arab Poet Not To Write

>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington, D.C.>>Well, good afternoon,
ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of my colleagues, in
particular, Doctor Mary-Jane Deeb, Chief of the African and
Middle East Division, I’d like to extend a very
warm welcome to everyone. I’m Joan Weeks. I’m head of the Near East Section
that is sponsoring today’s program and we’re very pleased to
present this program entitled, “Never Tell a Poet Not to Write.” And for a moment, I’m not going
to tell a poet not to speak, but I’m wanted to give you just
a little bit of an overview of our division and its resources
in the hopes that you’ll come back and do research and
enjoy our collections. Today’s program is
about Arabic poetry. So, I did a brief search
in our catalog and that’s at And I invite you to search for
yourself and come back in here and enjoy our books,
particularly on Arabic poetry. If you just search under those
terms, you’ll pull up 192 items. And if you further refine your
search to Arab women poets, you’ll find specifically
materials about other women poets. And if you would like to, you can
refine your search by language so that you can actually have
materials in Arabic or English or whichever way you want them. So, this is a custodial division
and it’s comprised of three sections that build and serve collections to
researchers from around the world. We cover over 78 countries and
more than two dozen languages. Our Africa section covers all the
countries of Sub-Sahara Africa. And our Hebraic section
covers Hebraic the worldwide. And our Near East section all of the Arab countries
including North Africa, Turkey, Turkic Central Asia, Iran,
Afghanistan, the Russian, Balkans, Armenia and Georgia. And I’d like to invite you
to try out our 4 Corners Blog with our special posts by our
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and if you do that, you’ll hear about further
events that — and programs we’re
planning in the future. And so, I’d like to remind
you also and invite you to ask questions at the end. But if you do, you’re
implicitly giving us permission to videotape you as this
program is being videotaped. So, without further ado, I’d
like to call up my colleague, Doctor Muhannad Salhi,
to introduce our speaker. Thank you.>>Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you all for joining us. Our speaker today, Waed Athamneh,
is an Assistant Professor of Arabic Studies at
Connecticut College. She is the Director of the
Arabic Studies program. She received her PhD in Near
Eastern languages and cultures from Indiana University,
Bloomington in 2014. Her research focuses on modern
Arabic poetry and refugee studies. Athamneh’s first book is Modern
Arabic Poetry, Revolution and Conflict, University
of Notre Dame Press. She’s currently working
on her second book with Muhammed Massoud Refugee
Voices, Women of the Zaatari Camp. Athamneh’s articles have appeared
in Middle Eastern Studies, Arabic Studies, Arab Studies
Quarterly, and The Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies. Athamneh teaches courses in Arabic
language, literature, and culture. There will be a book signing
at the end of the event. The question-answer period will
also be at the end of the event. But the — Waed has been very kind. She brought us a not
big box of baklava for anybody who’s interested
in her book, okay. And so, at the end of the event,
please come to the conference room. And anybody who would like — I’m sure Waed would be
happy to sign your book and have some baklava as well. So, without further
ado, Waed Athamneh.>>Thank you. Thank you very much
Doctor Muhannad Sahli and thank you for being here today. It’s an honor being at
the Library of Congress and I couldn’t be happier talking
about Arabic poetry to you. So, thank you for being here today. Today, I’m going to talk
about modern Arabic poetry and why the Arab regimes
should never tell and Arab poet not to write. Poetry has played an essential in Arabic culture since
pre-Islamic times. Dating back to the sixth century, also known as a the
Jahiliyyah period, poets were the political
spokespersons of the tribe. Each tribe had its own
poets to write its history, defend its stature, and be
its representatives and voice. Poets held esteem positions
in society. Not only to document the
ins and outs of their tribes and defend its identity, but also to promote their tribe
among the other tribes. Arab poets described in carefully
crafted verse the political and cultural aspects of their
Bedouin society and used poetry to praise the tribe
or attack its rivals. Praise, boasting, satire, and elegy,
were among the major functions of their pre-Islam
[foreign word], the oath. Pre-Islamic poetry was oral and its
performative nature demanded rhyme and meter to draw the attention of
the audience through its musicality. Tribes competed through
the talents of their poets who would gather every year to present their finest
poems to the public. The stronger the tribe,
the more powerful the voice of its poets became. By the same token, the more
gifted a tribe’s poets, the louder its voice
among other tribes. Poets moved men to go to war
and recounted their exploits after their return
from the battlefield. If the tribe won a battle, its
poets wrote verses in its praise which quickly traveled among
other tribes raising its status. If it lost, poets wrote
elegies and cited the tribe to avenge its heroic,
slaughtered kinsmen. Arabs consider poetry one of their
supreme, cultural accomplishments. All though modern Arabic
poetry continued to retain some of the major functions of the
pre-Islamic [foreign word], its deeply concerned about
questions that pertain to the identity and future of Arabs. And here are some of the
functions of modern Arabic poetry. Another function is questioning
the political status quo and giving voice to the
silenced, voiceless multitude. Modern Arab poets, like the
Egyptian, Ahmad abd al-Muti-Hijazi, the Syrian, Nizar Qabbani,
the Egyptian, Fatma Kandil, and the Iraqi, Muzaffar
al-Nawwab, wrote poetry for decades to guard the collective memory,
to preserve our Arabic language, and to address the challenges
of our culture and society. In so doing, they were also
questioning our understanding of history and rewriting from
the perspective of the people, not their authoritarian regimes. Because these poets opposed their
governments and incited their people through poetry to reject their
enslavement in a life void of basic human rights, they
were often exiled, imprisoned, dismissed from official positions,
and harassed by the Arab state. Therefore, the experience of a
wandering human being in exile, or diaspora, and the search for
the lost paradise, the homeland, is a popular theme in
modern Arabic poetry. Poetry offered these poets and the
Arab individual a space to grieve, to criticize the status quo,
to dream of a better life, to meditate, and to feel. Poetry is one of the few remaining
expressions of art and beauty for the Arab individual
in this tragic age. Poems do not lie and if the future
looks dim, poetry will say so. For those reasons and
many more, Arab regimes and rulers should never tell
an Arab poet not to write. Because poetry invites
creativity and imagination. And Arab regimes do not want
their people to think or dream. They want ignorant, obedient
nations living in fear. Writing poetry is searching
for the key that has been lost
to open closed doors. Poetry invites readers
to find their keys or break their closed doors
and set themselves free. The price of freedom in the
Arab world is hefty for sure and poets are the first to know. Here are the poets I’ll
be talking about today. Qabbani, Nizar Qabbani, Ahmad
abd al-Muti Hijazi, Fatma Kandil, Muzaffar al-Nawwab, among
many other Arab poets, wrote poetry to preserve Arabic
language and the poetic tradition as well as to address universal
causes that are of utmost concern to humanity, and especially
to the Arab citizen. They feared for their fellow Arabs
and their language and heritage. And they used their
only weapon, poetry, to voice their concerns
and shape their stances. They saw poetry as
a platform to fight against dictators and oppressors. They warned against the
loss of Arab identity and anticipated a grand future if
Arab citizens and poets continued to live in fear of oppression. For change to take
place in the Arab world, fear of repression must
be eliminated and death and ruin should be expected
before the sky rains and the land can be fertile again. The first poet I’ll be talking about today is Nizar
Qabbani, the Syrian poet. Nizar Qabbani was born in 1923
[foreign word] in Damascus and he died in London in 1998. He wrote over 40 books
of poetry and prose. And his poetry has been celebrated
and translated in several languages. He’s often referred to as the poet
of the people or the romantic poet. So, who is Qabbani? Let’s read some stanzas of
his poetry and discuss some of the major themes and functions. The following stanza here
— this is Nizar Qabbani — We are Accused of Terrorism. Because of limitations of
time, I selected some stanzas. The following stanza is from his
poem, We are Accused of Terrorism and in this poem, he voices his
disappointment with the status quo in the Arab world which
reflects that of Arabic poetry and how poets are treated. He says, “You will not find with me
a secret poem or a secret language or secret books I imprison
inside the doors. I do not have even one poem walking on the streets while
wearing a hijab. We are accused of terrorism
if we write about the homeland that forbids us from buying a
newspaper or hearing the news about a homeland where all
birds are banned from singing, about a homeland whose
writers are accustomed to writing the air
out of extreme horror. We’re banned from writing about
a homeland that resembles poetry in our country, improvised,
imported, and loose of foreign tongue and
soul and having no beginning or end, detached from man and land
or from the plight of man.” According to Qabanni, nations
that fail to nurture their poets to defend and preserve
their language and literature will have no
civilizations to be remembered. Qabbani realizes how
fear governs Arabic life and threatens Arabic
literature as well. Arab writers and poets like
Qabbani, lived and live in a country that forbids them from
living a normal life. It forbids them even from buying
newspaper or hearing the news. It turns the poets
down and bans them from writing poetry,
from speaking out. However, Qabbani insists on
writing about this homeland because it too is a victim. Qabbani refuses to oppress his bird by using a secret language
to imprison the poem. Rather, he insists on writing naked
free poems about this homeland and its displaced people. If Arabic poetry is reduced
to improvised, imported, and loose words of
foreign tongue and soil, then Arabs will have lost not
only a part of our culture and thought, but also
their identity. Therefore, writing poetry for
Qabbani is an act of resistance against erasing an Arab identity and stripping its people
from their language. I quote, “Qabbani’s hailed by
the Arabs to be a modern poet of stature, whose poetry is read,
put to music, sung, and memorized. This is the most important
testimony to his genius.” End of quote. J. Gatin [phonetic spelling]. Qabbani said in 1948 when he published his first
collection the following — and it says a lot about
him being a poet. I want art to be the property
of all people, like air, water, and the song of the sparrow. I dream about a poetic city. If the reader feels that my heart
becomes his heart and that I become for him a mouth and throat, then I certainly shall have
achieved my aim, that is, to make poetry exist in every
house besides bread and water. The Arab authoritarian states
will continue indefinitely to hunt down poets, call them terrorists,
and try to buy them off. But as [foreign name] says, “The dictator perishes
and the poet remains.” Qabbani maintains that writing free
poetry is the key to combat fear, to fight oppression, and to preserve
what remained of our Arabism. This is what he can do as a poet. My second poet is Ahmad
abd al-Muti-Hijazi. Ahmad abd al-Muti-Hijazi
was born in the village of [foreign word] Al-Menoufiya,
Egypt, 1935. His family was one of the
middle-class peasant families in the Egyptian countryside where
he was educated and brought up. He wrote seven collections of
poetry between 1959 and 2011 and he has written 25
books in prose as well. His poetry has been translated
into several languages. The following stanza
is from his collection, Creatures of the Ninth
Kingdom, in 1989. This Ninth Kingdom refers to
[foreign name] dictatorship. In this poem, Hijazi gives shape
to the feelings of loss and despair in the life characterized by
fear where he is, I quote, “At his closest to
modernist dramatization.” “Nothing remained of the glory
of this country but a bar. Nothing remained of the state
but a policeman showing off under the last light
his long shadow one time and another time his short shadow. Fear has become a homeland, a
currency, a national language, anthem and identity,
and elected council. And fear has become its savior.” According to Hijazi, the country that once lived Arab nationalism
has been reduced to a bar populated by chattering drunks and
a state of policemen. There is nothing to be proud of
about Egypt according this stanza, which has become a wasteland
devoid of democracy, freedom, morals, ethics, and security. Hijazi complicates the
image of his wasteland by projecting fear into the scene. Fear has become the dominant theme
in every aspect of life, as we see. More importantly, it’s
become the homeland. Dominating every aspect of
life in the Ninth Kingdom, fear’s now the religion and
the god everyone worships and fears in the Arab world. Instead of promoting security,
Arab rulers use fear and oppression to terrorize their people and
oppose their authority over them. Failing to maintain an
identity or speak a language that doesn’t involve
fear, Hijazi distrusts and despises everything
he sees and he hears. In another stanza from another poem,
Cement Trees, and commenting on fear and hunting poets —
“The wind comes and goes without crossing this
silence or being able to convey the villages’ distress. And the shipwrecked vessels and these cement trees are
everywhere showing off and roaring, like demons, and hunting birds that
fall like stones in the radars. Or hanging them from
the fuzz of their necks on the wires of the spying machines. From our balconies, we know
that the birds are dying now in these skies when
the flock crashes. Hijazi watches the
villages in distress and shipwrecked vessels while
the wind comes and goes uncaring. Life seems to go on without
sympathy for the ordeal of a poet whose life
came to the birds. Writers express the struggle of
the individual in their societies and oppose their oppressive regimes. These regimes are like cement trees. They suffocate the individual and hide his screams
between closed doors. They’re like demons
which hunt human beings and throw them mercilessly
to the grounds. Hijazi criticizes the Arab
regimes for spying on writers, torturing them, and censoring and
banning their works from the public. The poem reflects the
disappointed pessimistic and oppressed Hijazi’s
poetry in the 1980’s. Hijazi expresses opposition
to the lack of freedom of expression throughout the Arab
world, particularly in Egypt. Writers are hunted down and
their lives are monitored. Hijazi sees the Arab
world as a wasteland that oppresses its citizens
and silences their voices. That’s why poets speak out
on behalf of their people. My third poet is my favorite
poet, Muzaffar al-Nawwab. Muzaffar al-Nawwab was born
in 1934 in Bagdad, Iraq. He spent over 40 years in exile
voicing his strong opposition to and criticism of authoritarian Arab
regimes and Western imperialism. His words I quote,
“Are so controversial that they cannot be
printed officially in the Arab world are
under an interdiction. His poetry readings circulating
on cassettes are photocopied and passed from hand to hand.” End of Quote. And now, the age of the internet, his poetry is available
online, of course. Although, Arab governments
continue to censor any threatening, poetic material like that of Nawwab. This is a quotation about al-Nawwab. Most central to al-Nawwab’s
project as a poet, is the very concerted dedications
to the composition, orchestration, and performance of poetry
that is meant to stir and agitate his audience, to provoke
and arouse a wide rate of emotions, childlike wonderment, nostalgic
longing, sensuous arousal, disgust, rage, all in some way meant to be
intimately related back to the fate of the contemporary
Arab world as a matter of urgent collective concern.” A major recurring theme in the
following stanzas from With Wine and Grief is My Heart Intoxicated
is in the words, grief and longing for his homeland in diaspora. And since you see it in translation,
I can read it in Arabic. [ Foreign Speaking ] al-Nawwab finds no keys in
diaspora to free him from his grief. He wanders in exile and wonders
if there is still a chance to rescue what remained of the
homeland, its identity, and future. In this poem, al-Nawwab treats
themes of grief, oppression, ruthlessness, and homesickness. In the Arab world, poets like al-Nawwab become a
ruthless plant living, or pretending to live in water. This plant longs for any dust
to call home but it finds none. Knowing what it means to be
a ruthless plant in water, Nawwab looks at a sleeping
baby, hears him cooing and wishes he does not
grow up to be as listless and ruthless as the poet, himself. He prays the child grows up to find
himself a place he can call home. Because in the Arab world, there
is no privilege that equals that of truly having a homeland. Having none, Nawwab realizes how
open wounds are not meant to heal and therefore they
become the memory of loss. Grief runs in al-Nawwab’s blood
and drowning in a ruin sea of infinite pain is now the port. And Nawwab knows and
reminds us that the mud of love in our land is harmed. If the dirtiest mud sprouts jasmine,
when it’s nurtured with love, what would the best Arab mud sprout? And Nawwab weeps for
the lost paradise and the lost potential
of Arab youth. A youth oppressed and stripped
from its basic human rights. What does the future have
in store for this baby? No one knows but the poet
is worried and rightly so. For no one knows what it means
to have a place to call home more than a ruthless plant in water. [ Foreign Speaking ] I threw my keys in the Tigris
in the days of longing. And now in diaspora, there
remains no key to unlock me. Here I am, locked up but outspoken. He who was locked up in longing
and was lost on the sidewalks of al-Shaam, shall relate to me. Those who share the poet’s
experience of walking on the sidewalks of al-Shaam,
lost, sad, and alienated, would understand his words
and relate to his pains that no remedy can treat. Despite being locked up in diaspora,
al-Nawwab continues to be outspoken. Many Arabs in the Arab
world and in the diaspora, relate to Nawwab’s poetry and share
some aspects of his experience. In another poem, the Old Tavern —
this is the last one by al-Nawwab — Nawwab reminds us all that as an
Arab poet, he rejects two things. And we shall see these two things. Oh lord, I have accepted all
things except humiliation and having my heart caged
in the sultan’s palace. I was content that my lot in this
world be like that of a bird, but oh Lord, even birds
have homelands to return to. But I am still flying over this
homeland stretching from sea to sea, prisons pressed against one another,
one jailer huddling another. [ Foreign Speaking ] al-Nawwab projects two things,
humiliation and becoming the voice of the sultan instead
of that of the people. For a poet like Nawwab, the act of
writing poetry is a necessary act of resistance to maintain
a dignified life. Like a bird, he needs
to return home. However, because of his poetry,
he’s destined to weep over the ruins of the Arab world which has turned into prison stretching
from to sea to sea. Now, I’ll be talking
about Nazir Qabbani — coming back — Nazir Qabbani. The complete poetry for
political abduction incident. This poem speaks afresh of the
status quo in the Arab world and more specifically
to the refugee crisis in Syria despite being
written some 40 years ago. So, it’s a very interesting poem. There are a few quotations — stanzas, of course because
it’s a very long poem. Forgive us, our blood has
been shed since we were born. A thousand policemen
are on our papers. They shot us but we did not fall. They tried to cut our legs to hinder
us from crawling but we stood up. They cut off our hands, so that we
cannot hold the pens but we wrote. They tried to convince us
that poetry is disbelief so we became disbelievers. Forgive us if we urinate on all
the statues that fill the squares of the city and all the images
that the police post forcibly and all the shops of the
city and all the slogans at which the children of
the city throw bricks. Forgive us if we pile like
sheep on the back of the ship, if we are scattered on all the
oceans for years and years. We did not find among
the Arab traders, a trader who would accept
to feed us our buy us. We did not find among the beautiful
Arab women a woman accepting to love us or free us. We did not find among
the Arab rebels a rebel who did not stab us with a knife. Forgive us, forgive us if we reject
everything, if we break everything, if we uproot everything, if
we throw our names at you because the valleys refused
us and the ports refused us. [ Foreign Speaking ] Qabbani questions the predominant
narratives of Arab history, religion, and literature. He envisions the future of the
Arab world, either in a revolution where Arab leaders are attacked
in their palaces and ousted by the people or in a
major refugee crisis where the people are
ousted by their leaders. Qabbani defends the
people against the regime in this court trial
offering a complete account of an abduction incident that has
been taking place in the Arab world without being reported
or fairly tried. In ironically offering a poetic
apology to oppressor forces that crush Arab individuals
and undermine their humanity, Qabbani reveals a history
of systematic oppression in the Arab world and incites
his people to revolt if they want to stop this abduction from
continuing indefinitely. Towards the end of the
poem, Qabbani speaks for his scattered fellow
Arabs, particularly refugees who are denied entry by
Arab ports across the world. Qabbani tells the rulers of fear
in police states in the Arab world to forgive us because we couldn’t
change the way things are, because we let you shed our blood
to get drunk with it as Nawwab said, and because we gave you the
keys to our prison cells as obedient sheep you made us into. Until we face fear and take these
keys back and break these chains, nothing will change and no prophets
will come to save us from the abyss. The sun of oppression will
continue to burn us alive and the world will continue to become less humane
with every passing day. I end my talk today
with Fatma Kandil. Fatma Kandil was born [foreign
word] in Cairo in 1958. She wrote several collections
of poetry and she’s popular among
the young generation. The following stanzas are from her
poem, Thorny Gap, Suddenly Moving or Keys [foreign speaking]
in which she raises questions about the fate — about fate and
free will and she addresses fear and how to better deal with it. The keys that open doors
are the keys that lock them. And the keys strangled
in chains have nothing but the drama of tinkling. But the key that dies in my
pocket reminds me it is time that I become a reasonable
woman who lives in a house without keys, without doors. [ Foreign Speaking ] Every day while I am on the express
metro, a rundown house flashes by, a wooden ladder leaning against it, and a corrugated iron
door, always open. Every day, until it became my home. Fatma Kandil addresses the fear
controlling her life in general, her life as a female Arab
individual and uses the same keys that suffocate her life to
unlock the doors of the rooms that Arab citizens have been
confined in for centuries. She realizes that the house
she lives in only becomes here when she breaks its doors open. So, she no longer needs
keys to open these doors. Fear governs every aspect of
our life, public and personal. Therefore, Kandil realizes
that the keys that strangle her are the
keys that will set her free. Freeing the keys from the
chains is freeing oneself from the same chains,
no keys, no doors. That even the rundown
house which is a metaphor of what our life has become in this
tragic time, becomes free home. Kandil tells us that we glance at our rundown life everyday while
holding the keys to our freedom. But fear stops us from
acting, from changing. She reminds us that no one will
act on our behalf and if we want to turn this rundown house into a
home, we better take responsibility for our own fates, for our own
future, and make our own destiny. More important than this
realization, is that confession that our life is a rundown house. In writing such poems, Kandil
refuses to be silenced and refuses to surrender her destiny to fate. If Qabbani declares
he has no secret books that he imprisons inside the doors,
Kandil insists to break these doors and their keys altogether. A home is a loving place
you make for yourself. And it doesn’t qualify as home if
its keys are with someone else. It doesn’t qualify as home if closing its doors means
imprisonment instead of freedom. Keys will not give you a home but
Arabic poetry becomes your home when you have nowhere else to go. Never tell an Arab poet not to
write because you cannot take from poets their final refuge
when everyone has failed them. Thank you very much. [ Applause ]>>Thank you very much
for such a wonderful talk. We have a few minutes
for question and answer.>>Thank you. Please? [ Inaudible Comment ]>>Thank you. [ Inaudible Comment ]>>Fear. They refuse
to submit to fear. And they know they hold the keys
which is for poets to speak out, to encourage their people to
speak, to run a dignified life, to refuse to be humiliated. So, everyone is searching
for his key and some of them know they will never
find the key like Nawwab. He lost his key and he knows there
is no key but he’s still talking about the homeland and
diaspora and longing and he’s sharing his pain
and grief with others. So, for people, for Arab people in
the Arab world and in the diaspora, they read his poetry,
they relate to his grief. They share the same experience. They find home when they
don’t have a home to go to. So, they’re all — they all
reject to submit to fear and they all are looking for these
keys and they all want us to look for these keys and to
speak out through poetry if the audience is poetic or in
other means or to read poetry — to relate to this poetry
because they write for us and the poetry is universal,
of course. Everybody can relate to the
poetry in one way or another. Thank you for your question. Yes, please. [ Inaudible Comment ]>>Yes [ Inaudible Comment ]>>Yes, yes. [ Inaudible Comment ]>>Yes, the hijab is figurative. He wants to — he writes
free, naked poems. He says what he wants to say
without using a secret language. So he is against oppression and authoritarian regimes
and he says it. So, his poetry is very
political and speaking of Arab women, yes, exactly. That’s why I wanted to end with
Fatma Kandil because she knows that she has the keys to her life,
to her destiny, to her freedom and through poetry,
she can reveal some of these keys and secrets to others. So, we’re seeing more and more
of some kind of engagement of Arab women in politics and in
poetry and being able to speak out against the same conditions
they’re subject to as men but more so because they’re definitely women. Yes. [ Inaudible Comment ]>>Yes, yes — my favorite poet. [ Inaudible Comment ]>>Yes. It still is, actually. [ Inaudible Comment ]>>Yes, in America, you
can find everything online. There are –>>Where is it published?>>It’s published online as pdf’s
so you can download and read or you can go to websites that
publishes Arabic poetry so — [inaudible comment] It’s been
published in the Arab world but you cannot have it, of
course, unless it’s secretive. It still is, interestingly,
even online — here I can find things
online because I’m here. But when I go to Jordan or if you’re
abroad, the websites are blocked. So, we can’t really
read Nawwab easily. So, people make photocopies and share them even
now in the Arab world. I used to read him as a
child because my father used to read his poetry and we
have some of his collections. Sure, but ironically, still, he’s
still banned in the Arab world and if you try to go online if
you’re in Jordan or in Syria or in Iraq, it is a challenge. Yeah, but he’s still, you know,
maybe because of these reasons, he’s celebrated, he’s
translated, he’s read. His poetry’s memorized,
it inspires and incites. It aroused the audience. And if you go online,
also you can listen to him read his own
poetry on YouTube. And people can relate
to his emotions and the way he says things —
especially about [foreign words]. [ Inaudible Comment ]>>Very, very few. Very few. And I’m hoping I
will be able to do that next. There are epic poems, excellent
and amazing, by Nawwab, nobody translated, nobody
knows anything about. And that would be my
next project hopefully. Yes. [ Inaudible Comment ]>>Shem, [foreign word], Shem. Yes, yes. Shem [foreign word] Shem. In Syria, they refer
to Damascus as Shem. Outside Syria, Shem is Syria. Yes. [ Inaudible Comment ]>>Yeah, thank you. Yes. Please, [inaudible] [ Inaudible Comment ]>>The younger generation is turning
to Qabbani and Muzaffar al-Nawwab. We have new poets, but
they can relate more to that generation —
the 1960’s generation. And we have new voices, one of them
is Fatma Kandil, but I can speak about my generation, 1980’s, it’s
not a surprise that we go back to the 1960’s generations and
read their poets and we feel that we can relate more to that
generation and their poetry. For some reason, I
think the poetry was and still is one of the best poetry. The poetry of Nizar Qabbani,
the poetry of [foreign name], and the poetry of Muzaffar
al-Nawwab. I do read sometimes for young poets
like [foreign name] and other poets and Fatma Kandil, but I always feel like something brings
me back to al-Nawwab. Something brings me back to the past
to read and appreciate their poetry. And whenever I go to Jordan, I go to
the library, I speak to professors and most of them say, “We’re still
looking for something missing in the new poetry which
makes us go back all the time to the 1960’s and 1970’s
generation.” So, we would have to wait to see
how the new poetry turns out. But this poetry is still celebrated
and memorized in the Arab world. My father used to read
it to my mother and I now read it to my husband. [ Inaudible Comment ]>>They want to give them more time
before they critique their works. So that’s why we go back
to the 60’s and 70’s. It’s been time since they were
written so we can go back and, you know, take a distance and read. [ Inaudible Comment ]>>Yes, they are still very popular. [ Inaudible Comment ]>>Absolutely. Especially because of music as well. Some of this poetry has
been put into music, Nazir Qabbani and Muzaffar
al-Nawwab. And you were talking about that. So, it travels across time and age. It’s a strong poetry. It’s beautiful poetry. And we can relate to it although it
was written 40, 50, 60 years ago. Especially [foreign speaking]. You see what’s happening now
in Syria and you read this poem and you say it’s been 40 years
but it feels like yesterday. So, some of these poems have
emerged again now to the surface and people have been reading them. And music also played a great role
because musicians usually look at the poetry, at least in the
other world and want to put into music something
that has been read, world translated, and
that’s popular. And this poetry is popular, so
instead putting to music something that has just been published
or new or not critiqued or has not been translated,
they would go to the 1960’s or 70’s generation, especially
Nazir Qabbani and Muzaffar al-Nawwab because people can relate to them. The language they use,
as Nazir Qabbani said, is a language that the
public can understand. It’s beautiful, it’s poetry, but it’s something that
they can relate to. Unlike the poetry of Adonis. Adonis writes to the
elite because he believes that the public will not change
anything and his hopes are on the elite who will change things. So, he writes the poetry that
only the elite can understand. But Qabbani said and Muzaffar said,
“No, we’re writing to the public. Not only because we want
them to change things, but because we relate to them. We are their voice so we speak
for them in one way or another.” Thank you.>>Thank you very much
Doctor Athamneh. And as I mentioned, there’s going
to be baklava in the conference room and there’s going to
be a book signing. Thank you again.>>Thank you. Thank you very much. My pleasure. [ Applause ]>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at

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