“Cholera” brings Nazik Al Malaka back to the fore
“Reading Poetry” highlights her experience and leadership in free poetry
Monday – 24 Muharram 1444 AH – 22 August 2022 AD Issue No. [
Cairo: «Middle East»
The book “Reading Poetry” recently published by the Egyptian Book Authority by critic Dr. Mohamed Abdel Muttalib includes a number of readings in selected poems by some classical poets, such as Ahmed Shawky and Elia Abi Madi; But it stops in particular and dedicates a wide space to one of the most important Arab poetic experiences in the twentieth century, which is the experience of Nazik Al-Malaika, the Iraqi poet and academic professor who grew up in a cultural environment between a father who practices zajal systems, and a mother who organizes poetry, and had a great influence on the creative path of her daughter. .
Nazik graduated from the Teachers’ House, and began her scientific journey by obtaining a scholarship to study literary criticism in America, and then traveled there again in 1954 to study comparative literature. Her first book, “The Night Lover”, was published in 1947, and included the poem “Cholera”, which is one of the activating poetry that Nazik called “free poetry.” Then, she released her second book, “Fragments and Ashes” in 1949. Then she published her third book, “The Wave’s Decision” in 1957. She tackled the issue of free poetry in her book “Issues of Contemporary Poetry” published in 1962.
Abdul Muttalib believes that talking about the poem “Cholera”, which occupies a central place in the angels’ experience, must be preceded by talking about a somewhat thorny issue, the issue of “beginnings” around which opinions usually differ. This happened when talking about the beginnings of Arabic poetry, and the beginnings of novels and plays in Arab culture. As some turned to excavating their roots in the heritage, and others turned to the Western arrival and its impact at the beginning of its emergence, and for this reason the issue turned from simplicity to complexity, and turned into an issue that preoccupied the literary community, and it was not easy to reach a decisive ruling in it. Nazik Al-Malaika stated that free poetry appeared on her hand in Iraq, and from it spread throughout the Arab world, and when she mentioned that, she was not aware that there were attempts that had been preceded by some creators, or that she had heard names such as: Ali Ahmed Bakathir, and Muhammad Farid Abu Hadid, Mahmoud Hassan Ismail, and Louis Awad. Some mentioned the Jordanian poet Arar.
The critic points out that the time difference between her first opinion in her poem “Cholera” as the beginning of free poetry, and the other opinion in which she mentioned that there were poets who preceded this system, is the difference between the years 1962 and 1974, the first of which was issued in the first edition, and in the second the fourth edition of Her book “Contemporary Poetry Issues”.
Opinions have varied about the primacy of verse over free poetry. Some refer this rhythmic phenomenon to 1921 in Iraq, and others to 1932 in Egypt. This difference of opinion prompted Nazik to define four conditions for the validity of saying the beginnings of free poetry, namely: that the poet be organized in this way aware that he creates a new rhythmic pattern, and that this new rhythm attracts the attention of the public, and that the poet presents his renewal accompanied by a foundational explanation of what he has done, and that he invites poets to follow him in it, as well as that his call has a clear resonance with creators and critics; Either by refusal or acceptance.
Abdul Muttalib explains that the poem “Cholera” is based on “hearing”; The radio station was broadcasting news of the spread of cholera in Egypt, and how the victims of the epidemic were multiplying day after day, and with the increase in the number of victims, the poet entered a tragic situation that she prepared to express in poetic terms. The beginning of the poem says:
« Night dwelling
Hear the echo of the groans
Deep in the darkness, under the silence, over the dead
Cries rising, turbulent
Sadness flows, it rages
The echo of groans stumbles.”
She says at the end of the poem:
Silence is bitter
Nothing but zoom back
Even the grave digger has no supporter left.”
It is noteworthy that the two central words formed a bleak formative field. The word “night” evoked darkness, blackness, and the quiet hut, while the word “death” evoked its field in the repetition of the same word six times, as well as its aftermath of groans, screaming, sadness, groans and crying. This dark background was effective in modifying the path of the signification from the successive horizontal direction to the dramatic collision on the level of sound and movement; The lines begin with the illusion that the poetic state is on the verge of a soft romantic moment in the first line: “The Night’s Residence” and if the drama makes its first paradox in the clash between silence and screaming.
Abdul Muttalib concludes by saying: It seems that the poetic culture rooted in Nazik’s consciousness made the day an extension of the night, meaning that salvation is an illusory salvation, and this psychological awareness was preceded by Imru’ al-Qays in his commentary when he said:
“And a night like the waves of the sea loosened its dam.”
I have all kinds of worries to be afflicted.”
Imru’ al-Qays’ morning is an extension of his sad night, which dominated the second panel in the poem “Cholera”; As dawn was an extension of the tragedy of the night, this night that dominated the first panel with death, then gave up its control so that the second panel was under the sway of dawn:
“Dawn has come”
Listen to the footsteps of the machine
In the silence of dawn, I scream, see the weeping knees.”
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