Tuesday, November 01, 2011
'poetry towards peaceful coexistence': forums held in Dubai and London
above: a video of highlights from the Dubai Forum and the Mosaic Rooms event in London
Poetry Towards Peaceful Coexistence
An event held at the Mosaic Rooms in central London on 19 October discussed the themes that emerged at The Foundation of Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain's Prize for Poetic Creativity’s literary and intellectual symposium held in Dubai on 16-18 October.
The Dubai forum, entitled "Poetry Towards Peaceful Co-Existence", was held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President of the United Arab Emirates, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, who attended the opening session. The London forum was programmed to complement the subject areas debated in Dubai.
The two events were linked by author and broadcaster Paul Blezard, who flew from Dubai to London, to participate in both Forums. In London he gave a vivid account of what he had witnessed in Dubai. He named two Arab poets who had "just astonished with their performance" and who had received massive applause: 22-year-old Dalal al-Baroud who is from Kuwait and Sudanese TV presenter Rawda al-Haj who is quite well known and whose poetry is "just extraordinary" in its imagery and rhyme forms.
In his opening speech in Dubai, Abdul Aziz Saud Al-Babtain [pictured], Chairman of The Foundation, highlighted the role of poetry in promoting dialogue between civilisations and said that the decision to hold the event in Dubai reflected the Emirate’s leading role in bringing about peaceful coexistence and understanding between people from different cultural backgrounds.
The speakers who took part in the London event were:
• Rosie Goldsmith, journalist and broadcaster, chair
• Sarah Ardizzone, award winning translator
• Sharmila Beezmohun, deputy editor Wasafiri magazine [pictured]
• Paul Blezard, Literary director, The Firebird Poetry Prizes
• Christina Patterson , writer and columnist, The Independent
• Rhona Wells, assistant editor, The Middle East magazine
The Dubai Forum was attended by Arab and foreign academics and poets from five continents. The sessions discussed the impact of Arabic and world poetry on human communication throughout the ages, and there were readings from an international line up of poets including prolific writer and poet Yang Lian from Beijing, who lives in exile in London; Egyptian poet and writer Yaser Anwar; poet and cultural critic Kirpal Singh from Singapore; American poet, essayist and professor Brian Turner and the International Kristal Vilenica Prize 2009 winner Luljeta Lleshanaku from Albania.
Abdul Aziz Saud Al-Babtain, a prominent Kuwaiti poet and businessman, established and fully financed The Foundation of Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain's Prize for Poetic Creativity. He also established The Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain Prize for Imam Al-Bukhari's Grandchildren, an annual prize of U.S. $100,000 to restore the genuine cultural bridges between the Arab Nation and the recently independent Asian Islamic states.
Al-Babtain said: “I am delighted with the response to the Forum in Dubai. Academics and poets travelled from far and wide to take part in the symposium, and the result was three days of inspiring speeches and debate. Speakers were in general agreement with the theme of this year’s Forum – that poetry can play a role in developing cultural understanding in a time of political, social and economic change around the world.”
Al-Babtain, recently appointed as Honorary President of the Verona-based World Poetry Academy continued: “A specific message of Arabic poetry is that to move forward, there needs to be an understanding between cultures and people, and The Foundation will continue with its work to champion the importance of poetry in our contemporary world.”
The "Poetry Towards Peaceful Co-Existence" themes were: ‘The image the of Other in Ancient Arabic Poetry’, ‘The Image of the East in World Poetry’, The Image of the Other in Modern Arabic Poetry and ‘Horizons of Exchange’. The seminars featured renowned academics including Juan Pedro Sala from Spain, Dr. Barbara Makhalak from Poland, Dr. Natalia Klimanin from Russia, and Dr. John-Claude Villain from France.
Paul Blezard [pictured] said: "It was a privilege to be invited to perform poetry in Dubai as the guest of the Abdul Aziz Saud Al-Babtain Foundation. Delegates, professors, poets, critics and publishers from all corners of the Arabic speaking - and writing - world mingled with non-Arabic poets and academics. Their time on stage in Dubai was used to great effect, opening the audiences to regions of the world, modes of thought and poetic forms that were as diverse as they were accomplished.”
Blezard added: “To find myself discussing nursery rhymes as early poetic influences with poets from Albania to Saudi Arabia, and to talk about Dante with Kuwaiti, Sudanese and Egyptian poets makes me think that, while poetry may not cure the world’s ills, it certainly opens up communication, discourse and friendships that will endure across the boundaries of distance, politics and language. The Al-Babtain Foundation should be lauded for providing the opportunity and means for such exchanges to happen.”
Blezard observed: "There are, I am given to understand, still areas and countries in which poetry is the medium of the news, where poets have not only the right - because of their stature and standing within the societies in which they live - but also the responsibility to say the harsh truths that cannot be said more modern mass media forms... poets are allowed to say the unsayable still."
He said: "I was astonished at how controversial some of the poems I heard were against the leaders of the nations from which some of the poets came, against the governments, against the frustrations of the recent revolutions."
Rosie Goldsmith [pictured], who chaired the London event, said: “Poetry Towards Peaceful Co-Existence was an incredibly ambitious topic to debate, and a hugely ambitious aim for all of us who both love poetry and long for peace. Poetry can and should play a part in developing a broader understanding between different cultures, but this is a subject for a much longer debate.”