Competition is on to find most talented Arabic poet
Now in its fifth season, Million’s Poet is the ultimate contest for the UAE’s aspiring wordsmiths. The Arabic-language reality TV competition was set up in 2006 to celebrate ‘nabati’ poetry – a tradition that dates back to the 16th century and is a cultural cornerstone. And with a prize pool of Dhs15 million (Dhs5 million of which goes to the outright winner), there’s a lot more at stake than literary respect.
Someone who knows a thing or two about putting a good poem together is May Kutbi, a Saudi Arabian poet known across the region for her keen use of imagery and a distinct lyrical style. In town to promote a campaign with lifestyle website www.anazahra.com, we asked May about the unique secrets behind her art. Do you believe anyone has the ability to write poetry? Not everyone can write. Not everyone has the ability touch people’s hearts with their writing. It’s born with the person – it’s not something you can learn. Maybe you can teach yourself to use it more, to enhance the talent, but not more than this.
Are there any tips you’d offer to people looking to get involved? If they have the talent of writing, they just need to read a lot of poetry. And they shouldn’t just focus on one area – even if it’s a type of poetry they don’t like very much, they should know everything about poetry, explore and be exposed to various styles. Some people are rigid about one style or one school of thought and that’s not right.
What schools of thought have you learned from? Old-age poetry from the Arab world, as well as modern, Western poetry. A lot of Indians, a lot of Russian poets also. And not only poetry, but also novels, because you need this scope of culture and arts and everything around you – it inspires you.
Who’s the single most influential writer you’ve learned from? The Lebanese writer Khalil Gibran. His writing is very spiritual. It really touches you – he picks inside people and tries to explain how this creature, the human being, thinks and lives and sees life. It’s almost as though he’s sitting on a cloud and looking down on people, going inside their heads and writing about them.
What do you hope to achieve through poetry? I’m trying to help the ladies from the East spread their feelings freely, in a creative way. Each one of us has her dreams, her ambitions in life and her passions for love, for giving, for raising children, for finding love with the right man. Poetry gives you a way to deliver these messages in a creative, sensual way.
What do you hope people will take from your poetry? I would like them to feel free to accept themselves without feeling like anyone is going to judge their ambitions. I just want them to break the barrier of fear. We have this a lot in the Middle East and the Arab world, this attitude of ‘what would people say?’ I want to break this and take them to another dimension, another world where they can overcome the obstacles of society and what it’s going to say. You can still be from a conservative society and be free and express your feelings. To find out more about Million’s Poet and to submit your entry, go to www.almillion.net by July 31.
Fancy yourself as a poet?
For those who want to get their poetry heard, Arabic-language series Million’s Poet aims to find the most talented Arabic poet. It was first broadcast in 2006 and follows the talent-show format of shows such as American Idol, with contestants writing and reading their own nabati poetry on air. The winner is chosen through a combination of the judges’ evaluations and audience votes.
Last year’s series featured the first female finalist, Saudi housewife Hissa Hilal, who prompted fury from Islamic extremists after she read a poem about ‘ad-hoc fatwas’. She eventually came third; 30-year-old poet Nasser al Ajami from Kuwait scooped the Dhs5 million first prize.