World Arabic Language Day will be celebrated through verse tonight at Manarat Al Saadiyat. As part of the Literature and Music Festival organised by the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, poet Ahmed Al Mannaee will perform a selection of work alongside fellow Emirati verse-smith Hamed Al Hashmi. They will be accompanied by oud musicians from Bait Al Oud.
For Abu Dhabi resident Al Mannaee, the fact that the event will be held on World Arabic Language Day is an opportune moment to reflect on his language of choice through works extolling its virtues. “It will be an interesting and mixed programme,” says Al Mannaee. “A lot of the poetry will focus on the Arabic language, the role it plays in society, its beauty, its tones and what makes it stand out from others. There are also works on the UAE, its opportunities and what it offers the people through the leadership.”
There seems to be a surge in interest when it comes to poetry in the UAE, with recitals and published anthologies emerging from local writers. Is this the case?
I definitely feel that this is the case. Really, as a poet in the UAE you get a lot of support from different areas. On the one hand, there is a growing audience who come out to these poetry recitals or performances containing poetry; they are interested and they appreciate the work. On the other hand, there is also kind support coming from the different sections of the Government, such as Abu Dhabi Culture and Tourism.
A growing number of young people are taking on poetry as a form of self-expression. Why do you think this is?
I do see that, particularly from young and upcoming poets. There is definitely this drive to express themselves and talk about issues affecting them and the greater society, through poetry. You can see this through the Nabati [classical Arabic] poetry that is popular today. If you have been following the scene, you will see the wide variety of topics that are being discussed. This is very encouraging for everyone involved. The thing is, people don’t watch the news anymore, but they will remember key topics through poetry. By discussing such essential societal issues through poetry, the poet can deliver important messages to the people.
Is the brevity of poetry what makes it more impactful than, let’s say, the Arabic novel?
Each art form has its own qualities, but the appeal of poetry lies in how concise it is. It is shorter than a novel, and because of that there is a greater focus on delivering the message of the poem as clearly as possible.
An emphasis of World Arabic Language Day is to study and learn the language. How can poetry contribute?
Unlike a novel, poetry is something that can be memorised. It is through that learning and memorisation that people, particularly those who are very young, can increase their vocabulary of Arabic words. Also, because poetry is prevalent here, you always get a chance to practise those words. But at the same time, we as poets need to step up and acknowledge our responsibilities: we need to keep these words alive, and that’s by presenting them in a way that moves people.
The Bait Al Oud concert is at 8pm today at Manarat Al Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island.