ABU DHABI // "If English is the language of business and work, French is the language of love and romance, and Russian is the language of politics, then Arabic is the unrivalled language of poetry. What is poetry if not the embodiment of the tongue of the Arabs?"
With these words of Mohammed Khalaf al Mazrouei, the director general of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach), Abdullah al Qubasi, the director of communications introduced the fourth season of Prince of Poets, the classical Arabic poetry contest that airs tonight at 10.30pm.
The programme has enjoyed the participation of more than 7,000 poets from 30 Arab and foreign countries, according to Adach.
"Poetry has continued to be the spiritual bridge that connects us to ourselves and to former generations whose immortal achievements are still alive in our memories," said Sultan al Amimi, the director of the Poetry Academy.
The contest is limited to poets between the ages of 18 and 45 who compose poems in classical Arabic. Traditional poems and free verse are accepted, but prose poems are not.
In the wake of two awards last year - best creative programme at the AIB Festival in Britain and best programme at the Gulf TV Festival in Bahrain - the producers are keen to showcase additional features this season to keep the programme fresh.
"This motivated us further to work and bring about many of the changes that you will share with us during this edition" Eissa al Mazrouei, the director of special projects at Adach, said.
"As a literary, cultural competition concerned with classical poetry, it has become No 1 and the most powerful with the largest audiences. The change of the broadcast time from summer, as was the case in the previous years, to winter will help attract more millions of [viewers] who taste the classical Arabic poetry."
Sponsored and produced by Adach, the competition winner is awarded the title of Prince of Poets and Dh1 million in cash. In addition, the poet will receive two awards: the Burdah of the Emirate and the Seal of the Emirate.
The four runners-up will receive lesser cash prizes, and their work will be published in a text and audio collection.
Competitors will go through four stages. The first consists of five episodes with four poets competing in each episode. They are judged by a panel as well as the viewing audience. The highest-rated poets qualify for the second stage.
In the next three episodes - the second stage - five poets compete in each episode, with the same judging format. The highest-rated poet moves on and the four remaining poets compete for viewers' votes throughout the week in order to qualify for the semifinal.
Stage three - the ninth episode - features six poets. The judges' votes are worth 60 per cent of the contestants' scores, with half given in this episode and half in the finale. Viewers have one week to vote, and their points carry a weight of 40 per cent.
In the final stage, only five poets compete. Results will be tallied and the winner of Prince of Poets will be announced on February 23.