Tag Archives: poetry

Yemeni Protests and Poetry

Dr Justice posted a short piece on Yemeni poetry as it synthesizes with the protests there.


And here we see the long history of Yemeni political poetry coming brilliantly to fruition in a sort of Gesamtkunstwerk of poetry, music, dance, and fist-pumping all in one, performed recently in Taghyir Square, outside the University in San`aa. You would have to go back to the Berlin of the Weimar republic to find any comparably excellent mix of artistry and insurrection. And even that is not really comparable, since Brecht and his buddies performed in the relative safety of fashionable caberets — not in the public square, surrounded by the police.

Dr. Justice has a neat video posted, and I don’t want to steal his thunder, so watch it there.

But on a related note, here’s what I’m fairly sure is the Yemeni national anthem. But it might not be. Anyway, there’s a guy wearing traditional garb, and it’s pretty cool.

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Poet Update

If you’ve been waiting with bated breath to hear if Hessa Hilal aka Remeya won the Million’s Poetry contest in UAE, I’m afraid that it seems the final round has been postponed due to the untimely death of Ahmed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, half-brother to the ruler of the UAE.

I have not been able to find out yet when it has been rescheduled for, but apparently the rounds usually take place on Wednesdays.

Interestingly, the sheikh, the boss of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund, was found dead in Morocco the other day. 40 years old. Yikes. Or 41. Either way, young.

Sheik Ahmed was ranked No. 27 on Forbes list of the world’s most powerful people last year.

Sheik Ahmed’s fund, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, is believed to have assets of between $500 billion and $700 billion, ranging from Citigroup bonds to a stake in Gatwick Airport in London.

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Saudi Poet Attacks Conservatives in Verse

Hissa Hilal, a Saudi Arabian housewife, made waves with her poem criticizing certain religious scholars. Jezebel has a story here. And the UAE paper, The National has an article here.

From the former:

Hissa Hilal, a Saudi housewife and a contestant in an American-Idol-style poetry competition, read an incendiary 15-verse poem that criticized clerics who issue ever-more-restrictive fatwas, and referred to clerics as monsters “wearing death as a robe, cinched with a belt.”

And for Hilal’s efforts, the judges scored her 47/50, and she progressed to the finals. She’s guaranteed a prize of at least $270,000.

Of course, there have been death threats. But, Hissa told the Abu Dhabi paper The National, “Like anyone who receives a threat to scare him or her, I take it seriously, but only slightly.”

Meanwhile, one cleric whose unofficial fatwa, or religious opinion, inspired Hissa to her rhetorical feat is back-tracking. Sheikh Abdul-Rahman al Barrak, a fellow Saudi, released a statement on his website last month calling for anyone who allows or even supports the mixing of the sexes to be executed, because, in The National’s translation, “he is allowing what is not allowed, and therefore he is a kafir (apostate) who left the religion and should be killed if he does not change his opinion.”

Now al Barrak says his edict was “misinterpreted” by his students and “inaccurately” posted.

and from the latter:

ABU DHABI // A housewife who was the subject of death threats after reciting a poem on the Million’s Poet television show that attacked “ad hoc fatwas” performed a similar poem this week – and reached the final.

Hissa Hilal, a Saudi, said her work was inspired by what she called “subversive” fatwas, specifically one issued by Sheikh Abdul-Rahman al Barrak, a Saudi cleric, on his website last month.

Her recital on the Abu Dhabi TV show last week sparked controversy in Saudi Arabia, especially on internet forums. According to reports, many viewers praised her for her courage, but others attacked her for criticising clerics and reciting her poems in public. One website called for her death.

But Ms Hilal defied the threats, delivering a similar poem on Wednesday’s show – and she received the highest score of the round, 47 out of 50.

Sheikh al Barrak’s fatwa had called for the execution of anyone who says mixing of sexes is allowed in Islam because “he is allowing what is not allowed, and therefore he is a kafir who left the religion and should be killed if he does not change his opinion”.

The poem performed by Ms Hilal last week loosely translates as: “I have seen evil from the eyes of the subversive fatwas in a time when what is lawful is confused with what is not lawful;

“When I unveil the truth, a monster appears from his hiding place; barbaric in thinking and action, angry and blind; wearing death as a dress and covering it with a belt [referring to suicide bombing];

“He speaks from an official, powerful platform, terrorising people and preying on everyone seeking peace; the voice of courage ran away and the truth is cornered and silent, when self-interest prevented one from speaking the truth.”

The Saudi newspaper Al Watan reported that a member of the Ana al Muslim (I am the Muslim) website – which has previously posted videos about al Qa’eda operations – called for Ms Hilal’s death. One member was quoted by the newspaper as posting the message: “Can anyone tell me her address?”

Sheikh al Barrak told the newspaper that his fatwa had been misinterpreted by his students and was posted on the internet inaccurately.

He said he meant the fatwa only to refer to men and women mixing in private places, alone.

Ms Hilal said yesterday: “Like anyone who receives a threat to scare him or her, I take it seriously but only slightly.”

She said her family had asked her to restrict her poems to “ordinary” issues. But she added: “I want peace for everyone, Muslims and others. We are all living in a global village, so we cannot live without each other.”

Here’s a YouTube clip of Ms Hilal reading her poem:

The latest news I could find on the poetry competition was this article in ArabNet5.com, dated Mar 27th, (in Arabic), which says the next round will take place “next week.” Looks like they write the poem now, starting the 27th and have until Wednesday to finish it.

Good luck, Ms Hilal! Whether or not you win this competition, you’ve inspired a lot of people.

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My mom won’t use the internet herself, but she will call me up and ask me to look up something for her. So it was with this poem, which I had never heard before, but which I think is awesome, so I’m posting the whole thing here.
The author is Lascelles Abercrombie.

The Box

Once upon a time, in the land of Hush-A-Bye,
Around about the wondrous days of yore,
They came across a kind of box
Bound up with chains and locked with locks
And labeled “Kindly do not touch; it’s war.”
A decree was issued round about, and all with a flourish and a shout
And a gaily colored mascot tripping lightly on before.
Don’t fiddle with this deadly box,Or break the chains, or pick the locks.
And please don’t ever play about with war.
The children understood. Children happen to be good
And they were just as good around the time of yore.
They didn’t try to pick the locksOr break into that deadly box.
They never tried to play about with war.
Mommies didn’t either; sisters, aunts, grannies neither
‘Cause they were quiet, and sweet, and pretty
In those wondrous days of yore.
Well, very much the same as now,
And not the ones to blame somehow
For opening up that deadly box of war.
But someone did. Someone battered in the lid
And spilled the insides out across the floor.
A kind of bouncy, bumpy ball made up of guns and flags
And all the tears, and horror, and death that comes with war.
It bounced right out and went bashing all about,
Bumping into everything in store.And what was sad and most unfair
Was that it didn’t really seem to care
Much who it bumped, or why, or what, or for.
It bumped the children mainly. And I’ll tell you this quite plainly,
It bumps them every day and more, and more,
And leaves them dead, and burned, and dying
Thousands of them sick and crying.
‘Cause when it bumps, it’s really very sore.
Now there’s a way to stop the ball. It isn’t difficult at all.
All it takes is wisdom, and I’m absolutely sure
That we can get it back into the box,And bind the chains, and lock the locks.
But no one seems to want to save the children anymore.
Well, that’s the way it all appears, ’cause it’s been bouncing round
for years and years
In spite of all the wisdom wizzed since those wondrous days of yore
And the time they came across the box,
Bound up with chains and locked with locks,
And labeled “Kindly do not touch; it’s war.”


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