‘In Times of Corona’ featured participants from the UAE, KSA, Sudan and Germany
Abu Dhabi, 25 April 2020: The Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) initiative The Poetry Encyclopedia hosted a virtual poetry session, ‘In Times of Corona’, recently, featuring a group of leading poets and intellectuals from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Germany. The session was streamed live on The Poetry Encyclopedia Facebook page.
‘In Times of Corona’ highlighted the roles of poetry and culture in times of crisis, as well as changes in literary productivity as a result of the isolation imposed by the current global situation. The participants also touched on the importance of poetry as a cultural bridge linking societies. The session included recitals of poems, and was moderated by the prominent Germany-based writer and translator Mustafa Al Suleiman and attended by His Excellency Dr. Ali bin Tamim, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre.
“Poetry is a form of expression that embodies the Arabic linguistic and cultural identity, but it is also universal. Since ancient times, all cultures have used poetry to address the human values that we all share, transforming simple words into epic dialogue and helping to create peace and optimism in difficult times,” said His Excellency Abdullah Majed Al Ali, Executive Director of the Dar Al Kutub Sector at DCT Abu Dhabi. “This session comes as a part of our new raft of digital initiatives introduced by DCT Abu Dhabi to combat the isolation resulting from the safety measures of social distancing. We remain committed to nurturing the cultural and literary creativity of the community despite the current situation.”
Participants included Emirati poet Khalil Ailabouni, author of many published poems including ‘Hour Zero’, ‘The House is My Battlefield’ and ‘Times of Challenge’, who shared his life experiences, including his memories around the impressive transformations that accompanied the establishment and union of the United Arab Emirates.
The session also featured Sudanese minister of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, poetess Rawda El Hajj Mohamed Othman, winner of the 2005 Poet of Souk Okadh Award.
During the poetry session, Othman commented: 'In the tough tests of life, poetry wins. Our planet is asking us to remain silent, giving room only for the voice of art, and allowing poetry to become the sound of Earth, singing for its pain and hope. Poetry is the sound of life through time.”
Also taking part was Emirati poet Amal Al Sahlawi, a classical Arabic poetry specialist and member of the digital forum Untitled Seasons. Al Sahlawi commented: 'Art and poetry are human necessities, which allows for recording and interpreting such crucial times. Poetry acts as a source of hope in a way that no material means can offer.”
Saudi Poet Jassim Al-Sahih is a member of the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts, and of the Literary Club in the Eastern Region of the Kingdom. The author of several poetry collections, including Beyond the Throat of the Singer, Close to The Sea, Far from Blue and So That the Planet Doesn’t Tilt’, ended his participation in the evening with some poetic verses: “No matter how dark the sky becomes, there shall remain a brightening star called poetry. If the temples became empty of visitors, the souls shall never be free of prayers”.
The Poetry Encyclopedia virtual session moderator, Mustafa Al Suleiman, praised DCT Abu Dhabi for its commitment to holding such events to spread culture and knowledge despite the pandemic. He highlighted its efforts in bringing scholars from different parts of the world together to encourage cross-cultural collaboration.
The Poetry Encyclopaedia is an innovative digital project contributing to the preservation and promotion of Arab culture and knowledge. One of the largest interactive online literary platforms, The Poetry Encyclopaedia offers wide-ranging poetry collections as well as hundreds of dictionaries and books on heritage to aid researchers and scholars. The platform is regularly enriched with new material, and its user-friendly design provides advanced browsing and search options. The Poetry Encyclopaedia aims to vitalise the literary landscape in Abu Dhabi and establish the emirate as the cultural lighthouse of the Arab world.