Artists 2010 – Al-Bahr – the White Sea of sound

Abbas Beydoun

Abbas Beydoun (born in 1945, near Sour, Lebanon) sees poetry as a laboratory for language experiments. He represents an avant-garde trend that has revolutionised Arabic poetry by developing the prose poem and has been a beacon for younger generations of poets.
Beydoun's poetry, which now comprises more than a dozen collections, is characterised by simple, reduced language with complex and multi-layered images and metaphors. There is no unity or continuity of style in his work; he is constantly experimenting with new styles, techniques, levels of imagination and kinds of language. His work also encompasses a wide range of themes, from traumatic experiences of war to meditations on everyday life to confrontations with the labyrinth that is the human psyche.
For Beydoun, writing poetry means creating an oppositional space. His maxim is that you have to look behind the scenes, drag what is hidden into the light and say what has not been said. Poetry should reveal, shake up and by all means shock.
Beydoun lives in Beirut, where he has worked as Cultural Editor of the Lebanese daily newspaper as-Safîr since 1997.
Publications (a selection):
al-Waqt bi-djur’âtin kabîra (Time in Big Mouthfuls), Dâr al-Fârâbî, Beirut 1982.
Sûr (Tyre), (Mu’assasat al-abhâth al-’arabîyya), Beirut 1985.
Hudjurât (Rooms), Dâr al-djadîd), Beirut 1992.
Li-marîdin huwa-l-amal (Sick Hope), Dâr al-masâr, Beirut 1997.
Lufidha fî-l-bard (Spat Out Into the Cold), Dâr al-masâr, Beirut 2000.
Abbas Beydoun at ZVAB

Alaa Khaled

Alaa Khaled (born in 1960 in Alexandria, Egypt) defies boundaries. After studying biochemistry, he worked as a poet, essayist and novelist. He is tireless in his endeavours to break out of every constriction and restriction, doing away in his writing with the formal boundaries separating genres and moving between them. As a poet he is at home in the prose poem. His journalism has a literary character, while his prose has poetic and journalistic touches. Khaled is a determined opponent of any norms that force the individual into prescribed patterns of thought and behaviour. Thus, his understanding of himself as "I as subject" runs as a thread through his entire literary work.
Khaled is also well-known as the editor of the cultural journal "Amkenah", founded in 1999, which enjoys a high reputation throughout the Arab world. "Amkenah" ("Places") sees itself as a forum for a linguistically and artistically unconventional real-life confrontation with the "place" as a concrete space, but also as a a concept of ideas.
Khaled's reportage “Everything Happens Quietly With No Surprises” (Alexandria 12/2004) was nominated for the Lettre Ulysses Award in 2005.
Publications (a selection):
al-Djasad âliq bi-maschî’at hibr (The Body Depends on the Will of the Ink), Dâr Misrîyya, Cairo 1990.
Kursîyyân mutaqâbilân (Two Opposing Chairs), Dâr Scharqiyyât, Cairo 2006.
Tusbihîna ala khair (Goodnight), Dâr Scharqiyyât, Cairo 2007.
Khutūt ad-du’f (Lines of Weakness), Dâr Sharqîyyât, Cairo 1995.
Alam khafîf ka-rîschat tâ’ir yantaqilu min makânin ila âkhar (A Pain as soft as the Feathers of a Bird Silently Flying Around), Dâr Sharqîyyât, Cairo 2009.

Monzer Masri

Monzer Masri (born in 1949 in Latakia, Syria), poet and painter, places himself deliberately not at the centre, but the periphery. He lives in the coastal city of Latakia, far away from the cultural hurly-burly of Damascus. As a poet, too, Masri goes his own way. Since emerging as a poet at the end of the 1970s, he has consistently maintained his artistic independence from the poetic ideas of his generation.
He rejects expectations imposed from outside in terms of form and content. He writes a kind of "counter-poetry", poetry which names and lays bare the subjective in defiance of conventions about what should be permitted.
His demand is that poetry should not lie, it should be honest. Hence his dispensing with linguistic decoration and unusual words, images and themes. Instead, his poems are devoted to the concrete, objective world, the detail and the everyday and are reminiscent in their gestures of narrative prose.
For Masri, poetry is what imparts sense. Its aim is to help an apparently chaotic world to find new meaning. Consequently, he sees his role as a poet as creating meaning and, in this way, smoothing the way for others in their search for the meaning of their existence and for happiness.
Publications (a selection):
Âmâl schâqqa (Hard Hopes), self-publication, 1978.
Baschar wa-tawârîkh wa-amkina (People, Stories, Places), published by the Syrian Culture Ministry, Damascus 1979.
Andhartuki bi-hamâmatin baidâ’ (I warned you through a white dove) Joint collection with poems by Monzer Masri, Maram Masri and Mohammad Saideh, published by the Syrian Culture Ministry, Damascus 1984.
Mazharîyya ’ala hai’at qabdat yad (A Vase in the Form of a Fist), Dâr Riyâd ar-Rayyes, Beirut 1997.
asch-Schây laisa batî’an (Tea is not Slow), Dâr Riyâd ar-Rayyes, Beirut 2004.
Mina-s-a’b an abtakira saifan (It is Difficult to Invent a Summer), Dâr Riyâd ar-Rayyes, Beirut 2008.

Zakaria Mohammed

Zakaria Mohammed (born 1950 in Nablus, Palestine) returned to his homeland in 1994 after 25 years in exile, and now lives in Ramallah. He is a freelance journalist, editor, and writer of prose and poetry. For many years he was the deputy editor of Mahmud Darwish’s cultural journal al-Karmel.
As a poet, he is a master of concision. Constantly searching for what is absolutely essential, he consistently throws all the unnecessary ballast of ideas and language overboard in the process of writing, until he gets through to the core of the matter. As he says, “It isn’t what’s written that makes the poem, but what is left out.” It is a matter for him of achieving silence.
Mohammed weaves unspectacular everyday moments together with philosophical considerations into poetic texts of great intensity and compression, the characteristic style of which is gentle and sensual in tone. His works are reminiscent of still lifes which radiate a meditative calm and invite the reader to pause, be silent and reflect.
Publications (selection):
Qasâ’id akhîra (letzte Gedichte), Palästinensischer Schriftstellerverband, Beirut 1981.
Aschghâl yadawîyya (Handarbeit), Dâr ar-Rayyes, London 1990.
Al-Djawâd yadjtazu Üsküdar (Das Pferd passiert Üsküdar), Dâr surâh, London 1994.
Darbat schams (Sonnenstich), al-mu’assasa al-arabîyya li-d-dirâsât wa-n-naschr, Beirut 2002.
Hadjar al-baht (Zauberstein), Dâr an-nâschir, Ramallah 2008.