Novels may not be a Western invention—a number of scholars call Ibn Tufail the first novelist; his Hayy ibn Yaqdhan likely influenced Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe—regardless, it was Westerners who turned novel-writing into an industry and brought it, with colonialism, back to the Arab world. (Here you are! A gift!)
Poetry, however, is a different case. Poetry never left Arabia. Today, it’s a big, popular industry (yes, Western poets, eat your hearts out: popular), and the fourth season of Million’s Poet is boasting an audience of 70+ million viewers.
In format, the show is similar to American Idol. Can you imagine Ai, John Ashbery, and Maya Angelou duking it out on stage?
And why not?
For those gender counters in the audience, this is the first season that three women poets have made it to the second round. The poet who wins first place apparently receives 5 million AED ($1,362,000), second place 4 million AED ($ 1,090,000), third place 3 million AED ($ 817,000), fourth place 2 million AED ($ 545,000) and fifth place 1 million AED ($ 272,000).
Now, if I were a poet, I’d stop thinking of New York/London as the center of the world, and I’d learn how to write Nabati verse.
Also read this nice short piece from Punches Telegraph: All Arabs are Poets.