Sunday, October 24, 2010

"poetry cannot be made to fit either religion or ideology" - Adonis

Charles McGrath's article on Poet Adonis whose real name is Ali Ahmad Said Esber illuminates some of the thinking of this internationally well known poet, though in North America, his name is not as famous as it should have been. Few extracts are shown below where this secularized poet talks about poetry, paralyzed culture, and the meaning of reading of poetry:
"He is an outspoken secularist, equally critical of the East and West, and a poetic revolutionary of sorts who has tried to liberate Arabic verse from its traditional forms and subject matter."

"Poetry for him is not merely a genre or an art form but a way of thinking, something almost like mystical revelation. “Poetry cannot be made to fit either religion or ideology,” he said in the talk. “It offers that knowledge which is explosive and surprising.”  
"He went on to complain about what he called the “retardation” of contemporary Arabic poetry, which in his view has become a rhetorical tool for celebrating and explaining the political and religious status quo. In the Islamist scheme, he said, there is not much place for poetry, because Islam assumes that with the Koran knowledge is complete and there is nothing left to add."

"Over lunch, Adonis remarked with a shake of his head that the situation of poetry in the West was not a whole lot better, marginalized not so much by religion or ideology but by the media and pop culture."

“I wanted to break the linearity of poetic text — to mess with it, if you will. The poem is meant to be a network rather than a single rope of thought.” 

“Every artist is an exile within his own language,” he said. “The Other is part of my inner being.” 

“Happiness and sadness are two drops of dew on your forehead,” he writes, “and life is an orchard where the seasons stroll.”  
“Right now we feel Arab culture is paralyzed. We suffer from women’s sense of their lack of freedom, of being deprived of their individualism. It’s impossible for a culture to progress with men alone, without women being involved.” 

Poetry cannot change society,” Adonis said. “Poetry can only change the notion of relationships between things. Culture cannot change without a change in institutions.” But to the criticism that poetry was an insufficiently popular form he replied: “Poetry that reaches all the people is essentially superficial. Real poetry requires effort because it requires the reader to become, like the poet, a creator. Reading is not reception.” He smiled and added, “I suggest you change your relationship to poetry and art in general.”  
Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/18/books/18adonis.html

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