Adonis Diaries

Archive for August 1st, 2011

Adonis on How to Read ‘Real’ Arab Poetry

I am disseminating this article posted by mlynxqualey on July 17, 2011. I erased the commentary. I will add a few comments.

Poetry that reaches all the people is essentially superficial.

Real poetry requires effort:  it requires the reader to become, like the poet, a creator. Reading is not reception.”

Replying to one translator-poet Khaled Mattawa’s students who said that poetry was an insufficiently popular form, Poet Adonis s added, “I suggest you change your relationship to poetry and art in general.”

Elliott Colla translated Adonis’  “Ambiguity” in the new journal Asymptote.

Adonis writes (via Colla):

“Ambiguous is how a reader describes a text that he cannot grasp, or that he cannot master in a way that turns it into a part of what he knows…

Since Islam, Arab society has lived in a world of complete certainty…

In this manner, poetry, the verbal weapon of the Bedouins, was transformed into an instrument serving the mind, not unlike how a spoon serves the mouth.

The value of a tool-instrument lies in our trust and ability to rely upon it. It lies in the confidence we place in it: We lift the spoon to our mouth everyday without thought or effort. We wear shoes everyday without thought or effort. So too are we supposed to read and understand a poem: without thought or effort.

So poetry becomes a form that we can consume, like a Popsicle or pop song, without thought or effort. But why clarity?

Because clarity is a necessary function of the oral arts.  Oration is a form of articulation that imposes on the speaker a distinctive rhythm, a directness, simple words and clear ideas.

And the need for clarity was further solidified by Arabic poetry’s status as a “science”.

Arabic poetry began, like every science, to describe reality in terms of minute detail and what is adequate, and its primary value became tied to its use and benefit.

In this way, poetry began to move within an intellectual-rational framework, that is, it became a kind of reiteration, a mold, a subject to study and apply, something concerned with presenting “the truth” more than something concerned with innovation and invention.

Those were the “old” poets.  What is “real” poetry?

…The poet is a poet only on one condition: only insofar as he sees what others do not and that he discover and push forward.

And who is reading poetry?

…the reader who proceeds from memory, custom and received tradition, far from the spirit of constant advance and discovery, carries on in his thinking when faced with a poem as his body carries on when faced with a substance to consume: he does not consider himself the owner of the thing until he has consumed it. This kind of reader is good for everything but poetry.

The difference between reader and poet is a form of complementarity that compels the reader to become another creative genius, another poet. (End of quote)

What did I understand?  Even this short exposure, general in nature and needing many detailed example for proper comprehension, was good enough at the third reading for me to comment.

Most of us, start our hand at writing “poems”.  We believe that holding a diary to expressing our confused ignorance about our feelings, life and the universe, is a dangerous enterprise, it reveals our weaknesses, though life is ours and we are the stronger in hope and plans…

As we try to emulate the poems of our favorite poets, the feelings are gone, the diary is gone, our perseverance is gone, our emotions are hidden even deeper, and we missed the train.

What would have happened if Rimbaud failed to publish his work at this young age? Passed this great opportunity, Rimbaud lived in obscurity, nothing of value resurfaced.

A Poem is an excellent means to describing the confused emotions and feeling, describing the confusion, and not making sense of why we are confused. There are many different other expression forms to explain “what make sense”: Poetry is not one of them.

The good poems of pre-Islamic period were beautiful:  They were frank, bold, individualistic, and described accurately the environment and the customs.  They told stories and were downright slutty, as direct as folk songs.

The pre-islamic tribes didn’t enjoy a steady and timely communication with urban civilization, and the only innovation was displayed in more dramatic description of emotions…

After Islam, poems were inclined to becoming lyrical, general, sticking to the new culture of One God, and the sharia or the religious laws.  It became very difficult to be inventive since individuality was a dangerous tendency that was proscribed.

Poets needed the support of princes and emirs to survive in this most valued and appreciated job: memorizing poems was still a great tradition among people, and reciting poems was the best means to being recognized.  Poetry became an industry, with consensus standards, and becoming inventive and innovative in poetry style and topics was not profitable.

Even the most “revolutionary” poets had first to prove that they mastered the traditional style and language before they ventured into their own style. The content of poems didn’t vary much.  The urban poets mocked the life-style of the nomadic tribes, but could not resist boasting of belonging to a tribe, even a faked tribe of his own invention, though they have not linked with the tribe for decades and forgot entirely how to survive in a nomadic environment. For example, Abu Nawas.

You could read in a single poem many topics, and get confused what is the purpose of the poem, if not for targeting my doors, hopefully one of the topics will strike a chord in a rich provider.

For example, Abu Tammam, a 10th century poet, could be considered a modern poet: He focused on satisfying the wants of society, particularly, the caliph and princes who expected decent poems that won’t antagonize the perception of a divine authority.

So how modern poets, after Islam, could circumvent the restrictions if not taking refuge in sciences, and borrowing new terms that didn’t exist, and trying to explain the terms in poetical forms?

In translating poems, it is vital that the context be explained extensively in a note, unless it is a poem written by a youth, expressing the confusion in his emotions and feelings.

Carla Bruni? Current wife of President Sarkozy? Who’s that?

I am reading the French book  “Carla: A secret life” by Besma Lahouri.  This article is focused on a single chapter: a biography of Carla before she married the French President Nicholas Sarkozy.

Carla Bruni is 176 cm tall and spent 10 years as model.  She was born with a silver spoon: The family live in a castle in the cap Negre, and the Paris apartment is vast of 2,000 sq. meter, a famous paint hanging in every room. Carla’s mother, Marisa, is a professional piano player; she accompanied young Carla for a session of photos shoot and waited patiently:  It is good to have passions! Once, Carla earned her first check for a fashion show in New York and misplaced the check.

“I think Carla was  not into fashion:  She preferred to wear jeans, though she could afford the latest dress mode. Carla was fascinated by the cruel and glamor environment of fashion and modeling business.  The top models were earning a living, Carla loved her job” recalls the stylist Chantal Thomas who knew Carla at age 17.

A previous head editor to Vogue said: “I was the only working mother for the bunch of young girls squatting in my apartment in Paris.  They drank beer, smoked joints, and always emptied the fridge.  As I step in, Carla was bombarding me with questions on fashion:  She wanted to know it all on that profession.”

Photographer Thierry Le Goues was an assistant when Carla showed at at age 16 at the Pin Up studio.  On week-ends, Thierry was free of using the photo equipment and Carla was volunteer. Thierry said: “Carla studied during the week and posed for me on week-ends. These week-ends were sort of vacation period for me: Carla posted for hours on without any complaint.  Everything seemed easy to her”  Four years later, Thierry is shooting at the Island Saint-Barth in the Caribbean and meet Carla who had dropped architecture studies and working as model.  He shoot Carla nude, jogging on the beach of white sand, totally at ease. On the way to dropping Carla at the hotel, they saw a car burning. Carla jump out and demand to have a photo taken on the top of the burning car.  Morgan clothing company hires Carla two weeks later”.  Carla is one of the hardest working models:  It is 5 am at the Touquet, it is raining and the temperature is minus 3 degrees, but Carla never emitted a complaint.  Once, during a shoot at he Ritz kitchen, Carla was drenched with buckets after buckets of water, and she never batted an eye-lid.

“Carla is beautiful in movement. She has this feline atypical gait, but on the podium she moved perfectly. Her face was never judged to be front page, and Carla never got front page on the US Vogue. Consequently, it was very hard to incite top photographers to shoot her for front page. The best I could do is using Carla for swimming trunk season collection or for nude picture” would say Odile Sarron.  Famous fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier said: “Carla is a professional great model, but not a top one.  She is not a classical beauty; was rather a personality.”

For example, the beauty of Carla did not strike a chord to Christian Lacroix and Jean-Jacques Picart, but an assistant suggested the name of Carla.  They invited professional Carla for a session of “go and see”, meaning to come with her book.  Carla is on time, but waited for an hour to be presented.  As she stepped in the office she said: “Buon giorno. sono Carla. Finally, it was time” Picart replied “You are manifesting inflated impatience”, and Carla to retort: “At every single show of yours, I would call my agent and ask her whether Mr. Lacroix contacted me. This time around you are meeting me.  You’ll see.  Your robes on me will appear far more beautiful”.  Carla made her charm and seduction number and she walked the podium for Lacroix for many years.

Carla confided: “I was not the type of attracting model hunters.  No one stopped me on the street to take a photo of me.  I made all the necessary steps to coming forward…”  Picart said: “Carla never exhibited the image of a victim: She was always under control.  She viewed herself as the most beautiful and most talented and worked the hardest on this image.”

In 1996, Jean Paul Gaultier was in full preparation of his fashion show and he needed to screen dozens of models to be the head-leader.  He demanded to bring in red-headed models.  Carla showed up in a red wig and winked to Gaultier. “Carla is not my type of beauty, but I could not refuse: she was a true kitten.” said Gaultier who is currently dressing up Carla as First Lady.

Carla is refined, a classy woman, who would never get drunk or behave wrongly at working sessions or on the job.  She is constantly focused and ready to jump at occasions. Carla is simply hard working, a perfectionist, and good at detailed.  Carla knew how to surround the support of all the backstage personnel.  The personnel would give Carla priority over other models if not ordered to taking care of particular models. Journalists claim that Carla was their best client: She befriended them and knew by instinct the location of the cameras.

Photographer Marc Hispard recounts: “I had Carla painted all over with letters for a shoot.  I received an urgent message to visit my wife at the hospital. The head editor summoned me not to leave before I finish the job. Carla stepped in and said: “I am ready to wait until Marc returns.  Six hours later, Carla was waiting still, as I left her”

Carla was lucid of the venomous comments circulating in the fashion industry.Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge adored the top model Laetitia Casta. They referred to Carla as the air hostess. Carla used to hide under a table and read and eat her sandwich in peace. Always with a nice comforting word for the personnel. Carla is always clean, not any body odor, fingers manicured: An impeccable model. She folded meticulously the robes she tried on a chair.

Carla had a bunch of star boyfriends such as Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger (on and off for 8 years)…who aided in her notoriety. She used to tell her bosses: “When light stops loving me, do warn me.”  At the age of 29, she decided to retire from modeling: She was too proud, ambitious, and aware of what it takes not to be relegated to second grade model. She took into singing and luring famous men as boyfriends for short duration, not exceeding three years.

Carla frequently told friends: “I will be a famous person.”  At the age of 40, Cecilia divorced the French president Sarkozy after he was elected. Carla jumped to the occasion. She called her best girlfriend and said: “Guess who is my new boyfriend?”

How Carla managed to hook the president? How she is performing as First Lady? It is another job, and she intend to learn it to perfection.  This is another story, to be continued.

Note: At a private diner that Carla arranged to meet with the president, she came wearing ballerina, for the shorter president.

Note 2:  You may read Carla’s 8-year love affair with Mick Jagger




August 2011

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