The second part of our blog looking at transnational poetry in modern Arabia continues to look at the differences between composition of literature of the Arabs who remained in their homeland to write, and those who had settled in other lands.

Arabic poetry may have been classed as so because it is written in Arabic, but this is no longer true. Arabic poetry did not die in Egypt as it was simply not born there, it is the specific genre of Egyptian / Arabic poetry that may have died. As poets from Arabia spread their wings to live in other countries across the Middle East and the southern Mediterranean regions, basic fundamentals of Arabic poetry changed.

New poetic forms were developed such as muswashshahat, poetry that was written with mixed rhythmic stanzas which actually included slang words. This poetry was a blend of cultures, mixing Arabic with Jewish and Christian. Taking this one example you can see that Arabic poetry had changed as the literature came into contact with other culture’s traditions.

Modern Arabic Poetry

Eventually modern Arabic poetry has finally found its place in the world, although there has been a long hard struggle for it to emerge. The poets that followed Shawqi had great conflict with the difficulties that they were faced with.

It was one of the long conflicts that has plagued the world for centuries, that of a battle between the past and the present, or new against old. It was further complicated by the young Arabic poets’ acceptance of modern European poetry and its inclusion into their writing.

Shawqi admired the way the European poets easily rejected the past restrictions of traditional literature to give a new life to their work. During the latter part of his life he was vociferous in voicing his opinions that the modern Arabic poets must do the same to keep Arabic poetry alive and fresh.

Arabic Modernism

Arabic modernism was not created by Egyptian modernism, there was a whole new generation of poets from Iraq that had started to explore new forms of poetry before the Arabs that had settled in Egypt has begun to write and compose.

Al-shi’r and al-hurr are terms for free verse in Arabic and it was these that the new poets were experimenting with. The two biggest pioneers of new Arabic poetry were Badr Shakir al-Sayyab and Nazik al-Malaikah, who both found their new verse was being widely accepted by young Arabs and indeed across the world.

Their popularity was further cemented as they were not considered radicals and wanting to destroy the old traditions of Arabic poetry. These two poets never asked for their contemporary Arabic poets to break away from the old ways.

But it was their new way of writing and new concepts that were the first to be used as building bricks for the new Arabic poets that followed. This new type of Arabic poetry was just as much about having a kindred spirit and empathy with the new poetic forms than the new poetic developments. Transnational poetry of Arabia and Modern Persia is continually developing, such is the nature of transnationalism.