Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

Arabic Performance Poetry: A New Mode of Resistance

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

Arabic Performance Poetry: A New Mode of Resistance

Article excerpt

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Introduction

Performance poetry has been introduced to the American and English audiences since the first half of the twentieth century. Although it was, and is still, vulnerable to bitter criticism in the Western academia, its influence in attracting wider audience to the dying genre is undoubted. The reason that might be provocative to the literary scholars is its rebellious nature. This can be observed in using untraditional verse forms, employing vernaculars, and backing elements. Being performed in front of the public audience in unconventional places like bars, clubs, etc., may be another reason for the scholars' disdain. This revolutionary nature may be the reason why performance poetry is admired by wider social circuits than traditional poetry whose readers gradually decrease and its reading sessions become confined to literary scholars and students. However, performance poetry is not revolutionary in form only. Its uncompromising stance against authorities in the Western societies regarding the political and social rights of the minorities, e.g., the Black Art Movement in the USA, illustrates rebelliousness in subject matter. A similar revolutionary experience in Arabic motivates the researcher to delve into the verses of two Egyptian poets who present what can be called the Arabic version of performance poetry.

It is the first time, as far as the researcher knows, to have a study about performance poetry in Arabic poetry. Hisham al-Gakh and Amr Qatamish, the study subjects, are two phenomenal poets who have gained popularity in a very short time. This article depicts how their poetry incites people to rebel against the Egyptian autocratic regime and depicts the high spirits among the Egyptians. Like the majority of Egyptians, they opposed Mubarak's rule and devoted their poetry to resist all forms of injustice, oppression, and corruption.

The study provides some background information about the political, social, and economic conditions prior to 25 January Revolution. These conditions reflected an increasing conflict between the majority of Egyptians and the regime. This majority resisted the dictatorial regime using different opposition tools. One of these is non-cooperation as a means of passive resistance to reject all practices of Mubarak's regime. For example, huge numbers were indifferent about all fake democratic practices because they believed their demands were marginalized. They boycotted all elections as a kind of objection to the systematized process of elections fraud represented in ballot stuffing, voter fraud, and vote buying. Establishing new opposition entities like "kifaya" (Enough), 6 April Movement and The National Association of Change exemplified another method of seeking change away from the so-called domesticated parties.

Hisham al-Gakh and Amr Qatamish represent the youth generation poets who have been inspired by the dream of change. Al-Gakh is affected by his UpperEgyptian roots which left an unmistakable influence in his poetry and performance. On his part, Qatamish uses the sarcastic type of poetry called "Halamantishi" poetry1 as a backbone of his performance. Their performances spread like fire through social media which allowed more audience to follow their works. A close examination of their poetry evidently proves that the two poets use revolutionary form and language along with other backing elements to present their oppositional attitudes against traditional poetry on one hand and the socio-political conditions of Egypt under Mubarak's regime on the other.

As the aim of the article is to show a new distinct Arabic version of what is known in the Western culture, an introduction about the Western poetry form should be presented. The coming section will introduce the Western form through the examination of two of its representatives, namely, Amiri Baraka and Willie Perdomo. The first is considered one of the founders of the form and the other represents the trend until now. …

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