In Modern Arabic Poetry, Waed Athamneh addresses enduring questions raised from the 1950s to the present as she investigates the impact of past and contemporary Middle Eastern politics on its poetry. Focusing on the works of three prominent poets, Iraqi ʿAbd al-Wahhāb al-Bayātī (1926–1999), Egyptian Aḥmad ʿAbd al-Muʿṭī Ḥijāzī (b. 1935), and Palestinian Maḥmūd Darwīsh (1941–2008), Athamneh argues that political changes in the modern Arab world—including the 1967 war and the fall of Nasserism, the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and, in Ḥijāzī’s case, the 2011 Arab Uprising and its aftermath—inspired transitions and new directions in these poets’ works. Enhanced by Athamneh’s original translations of a number of the Arabic texts discussed, as well as translations published previously, Modern Arabic Poetry brings these poets fully into the purview of contemporary literary, political, and critical discourse. It argues that their individual responses to political changes proceed in three distinct directions: the metapoetic, in which the poet disengages from the poetry of political commitment to find inspiration in artistic (self-)exploration; the recommitted, in which new political revolutions inspire the poet to resume writing and publishing poetry; and the humanist, in which the poet comes to terms of coexistence with permanent or unresolved conflict.
“Calling attention to the eruptions and upheavals in Arabic poetic statement, Waed Athamneh’s Modern Arabic Poetry: Revolution and Conflict guides us, with care and insight, through the poetic lives of three major Arabic-language poets of the later twentieth century: ʿAbd al-Wahhāb al-Bayātī, Aḥmad ʿAbd al-Muʿṭī Ḥijāzī, and Maḥmūd Darwīsh. Athamneh offers a series of close and historically contextualized readings, which, different from the predominant forms of historical, political, and anthropological interpretation, respond to the compelling urgencies of the present in the fallout of the call of the Tunisian poet Abū al-Qāsim al-Shābbī, ‘If people want to live, destiny will respond,’ in its reverberations across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the Arab world.” — Jeffrey Sacks, University of California, Riverside
“Modern Arabic poetry is often burdened unjustly with cliches about political commitment iltizām. Athamneh offers a bold analysis of how three major poets inhabit the almost mythic role of ‘poet of the people’ by reconfiguring and finessing iltizām with their signature approaches. The book examines how these poets delicately deploy their own poetic voices and how they inspire (and are inspired by) their publics to face postcolonial injustices. It’s a timely intervention and a ‘must read’ for scholars and students of Arabic and comparative literature, as well as Middle Eastern studies.” — Samer Mahdy Ali, University of Michigan
“Modern Arabic Poetry: Revolution and Conflict is a study of great promise. It should answer many of the questions about the major literary directions in modern Arabic poetry beyond commitment to Nasser, Arab nationalism, and the question of Palestine in the 1950s and 1960s. It contains some very fine readings of major poems by the authors Athamneh has chosen to focus on. They considerably enhance the presentation of her arguments. The poems themselves are skillfully translated and capture the spirit of modernist Arabic poetry.” — Terri DeYoung, University of Washington
“Modern Arabic Poetry: Revolution and Conflict is a valuable contribution to the existing scholarship about Arab culture. . . . the highly detailed explications of the selected poems in their specific contexts would enhance students’ understanding of Arabic literature at all levels. Scholars in the field would find the explications welcome fresh readings of Arabic poetry.” — Arab Studies Quarterly