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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Arab poetry's sometimes subversive answer to "American Idol" - Saifedean Ammous,

is it our culture? poverty? the high cost of books? reading preferences? or the lack of it?

with a population of over 170 million (estimate) the first edition of a poetry book published numbers between 1000 to 2000...fiction and non-fiction by name brand authors fares only marginally better...

over in the electronic media there is hardly any bait-baazi competitions...perhaps folkslazily sit back and are content with antakshiri

that is why i found this intersting-t

The Arab World has had its own enormously successful pop music answer to American Idol in Superstar which has concluded its fourth season with resounding success, unearthing some real stars of today's thriving Arabic cheesy pop scene. But a few months ago, the governors of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi took a bold move by organizing a similar contest for poets. This comes as another step in Abu Dhabi's ambitious attempts to use its petro-dollars to transform itself into the capital of Arab culture, and one of the world's leading cultural centers -- a Florence to Dubai's London.

Perhaps the only thing that is as hard as translating Arab poetry to other languages is trying to explain to non-Arabs the extent of poetry's popularity, importance and Arabs' strong attachment to it. Whereas poetry in America has been largely reduced to a ceremonial eccentricity that survives thanks to grants and subsidies from fanatics who care about it too much, in the Arab world it remains amongst the most popular forms of both literature and entertainment. Whereas America's top poets may struggle to fill a small Barnes & Noble store for a reading, Palestine's Mahmoud Darwish has filled football stadiums with thousands of fans eager to hear his unique recital of his powerful poems. And while in America a good poetry collection can expect to sell some 2,000 copies, in the Arab world the poems of pre-Islamic era poets are still widely read today in their original words, as are those from the different Islamic eras leading to the present. The late Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani had a cult following across the Arab world, and his romantic poems have for decades constituted standard covert currency between lovers.

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