Poetry Depot

February 28, 2011

Again About Poetry and Arab Revolution

Filed under: Egypt, Egyptian — Tags: , , , , , , , — razvan @ 7:16 pm

CNN presented this image where Egyptian popular poet Ahmad Fu'ad Nigm rallies attendants during a public meeting organized by the opposition movement 'Writers and Artists for Change' in a main plaza in Cairo, August 2005.

According to CNN, poetry is an important part for the revolution from Egypt too. A venerable contemporary poet being in the cener of public protests.
Monday night at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, writers Reza Aslan, Azar Nafisi and Nathan Englander will take part in a panel, “Literature and Revolution in the Middle East” – on how poetry and novels have been used to fight for revolution throughout the Middle East—from Israel to Iran to Egypt.

ONLY ON THE BLOG: Answering today’s five OFF-SET questions is one of those panelists, Dr. Aslan, a contributing editor at the Daily Beast, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of “No God but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam and How to Win a Cosmic War” and editor of Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East.”

By now we’ve heard that protesters in various Middle East countries are using Twitter and Facebook to coordinate anti-regime activities. But are you saying that demonstrators, including the many young people who have been protesting, are being informed by literature—by poems and novels?

What I am saying is that their very identity is being formed by the literature that is so much a part of the cultural awareness of the peoples of the Middle East. They are using social media to communicate and organize, but using poetry to define who they are.

What countries are you talking about–and tell us more how the poetry is being used.

So for instance, during the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, the great Tunisian poet Abu al-Qasim al–Shabbi—his verses were being transformed in slogans and chants by the protesters.

According to the website Arabic Literature (in English), one of his poem’s “Life’s Will” begins…

When people choose
To live by life’s will,
Fate can do nothing but give in;
The night discards its veil,
All shackles are undone.
Whoever never felt
Life celebrating him
Must vanish like the mist;
Whoever never felt
Sweeping through him
The glow of life
Succumbs to nothingness.

The same thing happened in Egypt with the septuagenarian poet Ahmad Fu’ad Nigm–his poetry was also being used as slogans and chants.

According to the website jadaliyya.com, one of his poems translates this way:

I am the People

I am the people, marching, and I know my way
My struggle is my weapon, my determination my friend
I fight the nights and with my hopes’ eyes
I determine where true morning lies

I am the people, marching, and I know my way
I am the people.
My hand lights life
Makes deserts green, devastates tyrants
Raising truths, banners on guns
My history becomes my lighthouse and comrade

I am the people, marching, and I know my way
No matter how many prisons they build
No matter how much their dogs try to betray
My day will break and my fire will destroy
Seas of dogs and prisons out of my way

I am the people and the sun is a rose in my sleeve
The day’s fire horses galloping in my blood
My children will defeat every oppressor
Who can stand in my way?

I am the people, marching, and I know my way.

The point being–this is a region in which–because of the limitations on the freedom of speech and freedom of the press—literature, and poetry in particular, become the avenue through which people’s frustatrations and their aspirations can be communicated, through symbols and metaphors.

read full article on CNN


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