‘Prince of Poets’ rekindles grand tradition of classical poetry

“Prince of Poets” has added tremendous value to the Arabic literary canon and provided contestants and viewers with valuable literary criticism.
Sunday 17/02/2019
Stealing the limelight. Tunisian poetess Amani Zaibi performs on stage during the 8th season of the Prince of Poets classical poetry competition. (Prince of Poets)
Stealing the limelight. Tunisian poetess Amani Zaibi performs on stage during the 8th season of the Prince of Poets classical poetry competition. (Prince of Poets)

In Abu Dhabi, “knights of Arabic poetry,” as they are affectionately called by admirers, are engaged in a fierce competition to win the hearts and minds of the public and the jury.

“Prince of Poets,” a classical Arabic poetry competition taking place every two years, is one of a kind in the Arab region and the world.

This season, the winner may well turn out to be a “princess,” because numerous female contestants are stealing the limelight.

Standout performances from Amani Zaibi from Tunisia, Sheikha al-Mtiri from the United Arab Emirates, Ibtihal Triter from Sudan and Rabaa Adawiya Badri from Algeria are putting pressure on their male counterparts, who have traditionally considered poetry to be their domain, adding an extra layer of competition and entertainment to the drama.

Through eight seasons, “Prince of Poets” highlighted poetry’s growing popularity in the Arab world and showcased the region’s diverse poetic traditions.

While poetry is considered a traditional craft, the programme introduced the public to new poets who are gaining a following, bolstered by a collection of poems from the show put out by the Poetry Academy in Abu Dhabi.

Many classical poetry fans in the Arab world said the following “Prince of Poets” has attracted has played no small role in revamping classical Arabic poetry.

While there is some truth to this, the popularity of poetry in the Arab world cuts deeper, representing a core form of expression as old as language itself.

Especially in the contemporary world full of stress and materialism, classical Arabic poetry acts as a refuge, a unique mode of expressing beauty, emotion and insight with characteristic grace.

Of course, this is not a new observation. Poets have always provided medicine for the soul and the most profound answers to existential questions, all with words and rhythms weaved together with immense skill.

“Prince of Poets” has built on that tradition, giving a priceless gift to all Arabic speakers. The programme has added tremendous value to the Arabic literary canon and provided contestants and viewers with valuable literary criticism, furthering insight into the structure and style of classical poetry.

During this season’s final episode, the winning poet will be awarded the Burda — a gown representing Arab historical heritage — but all will join the star of the show in celebrating an entrenched heritage and appreciating how the show has enriched this ancient literary craft.

While the world around us resigns that some art forms are relics of another era, let us be grateful for programmes such as “Prince of Poets” and “Million’s Poet,” which give hope that traditions will grow stronger for generations to come.

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