Adonis: Poetry is Only Written by Atheists

Photo credit: Ghazi Gheblawi (I hope you don't mind!)

The Syrian poet Adonis (Ali Ahmad Said Asbar) appeared last night in one of the culminating events of the London Poetry Festival. Adonis read along with translator Stephen Watts and fellow poet Yang Lian.

Fortunately for us curiosity-seekers, British-Libyan poet/surgeon/blogger Ghazi Gheblawi was in attendance, and he wrote down several of his impressions and a number of interesting quotes. Poems, Gheblawi said, were read in English, Arabic, and Chinese.

During the question and answer period, Adonis apparently declared (in response to a question) “there is no relation between poetry and religion,” and said, perhaps a little dubiously, that in Islamic history there isn’t one religious poet.

He clarified, according to Gheblawi, by saying, “Even the Sufi poets, like Ibn Arabi, they were not Islamically religious as they created a new kind of religion.”

Adonis concluded by saying that poetry is written solely by the atheist (which seems to be contradicted by the above statement about “a new kind of religion,” but such the poet’s license of paradox).

The two, Adonis and Lian, will also appear—Emirates Lit Fest organizers have revealed—in Dubai next March.  Other London Poetry Fest alums heading to the Dubai festival include Simon Armitage and Nathalie Handal.

More: The author Jennifer Sears wrote for this site about Adonis’s New York talk: Adonis at Alwan: Always More Beauty to Be Seen

Also: I finally got my copy of Khaled Mattawa’s new translation, Adonis: Selected Poems in the mail from Yale University Press. As soon as I finish my review of Darwish’s Journal of an Ordinary Grief…. (A few of Adonis’s poems, translated by Mattawa, are available free online.)

And: Gheblawi’s posts to Twitter, with his permission this time (thank you again, Ghazi! I owe you!):

Ghazi Gheblawi

Gheblawi: Adonis and Yang Lian poetry event at Southbank Centre #poetryinternational

Gheblawi: introducing the Guests Arab poet Adonis and Chinese poet Yang Lian and chaired by poet and translator Stephen Watts #poetryinternational

Gheblawi: Adonis is reading his poetry now and Stephen Watts is reading the English translation #poetryinternational

Gheblawi: Actually that was Adonis reading the Arabic translation of Yang Lian poem about Tiananmen massacre #poetryinternational

Gheblawi: so the poetry reading will be in three ways Arabic, English, Chinese interesting #poetryinternational

Gheblawi: Adonis will read the Arabic translation of Yang Lian and Stephen Watts reads the English translation of both poets #poetryinternational

Gheblawi: Stephen Watts brilliantly reads an English trans. of a long poem by Adonis called ‘9/11/2001 BCE’ #poetryinternational

Gheblawi: Adonis poems are translated from Arabic by American-Libyan poet Khaled Mattawa #poetryinternational

Gheblawi: guests and audience were moved with Stephen Watts’ reading of Adonis’s poem #poetryinternational

Gheblawi: Yang Lian reading a poem in Chinese about Chinese history and culture called ‘Missing’ #poetryinternational

Gheblawi: all Yang Lian poems are translated from Chinese by Brian Holton #poetryinternational

Gheblawi: Stephen Watts asks ‘is the language you write with is a state of internal peace’ #poetryinternational

Gheblawi: Adonis ‘Poetry is like love if we reach their meaning, and we are lucky we can’t, we will stop loving and poetry’ #poetryinternational

Gheblawi: Adonis on a question on poetry and religion ‘there is no relation between poetry and religion’ #poetryinternational

Gheblawi: Adonis ‘in islamic history there is not a one religious poet’ #poetryinternational

Gheblawi: Adonis ‘even the Sufi poets like Ibn Arabi they were not islamically religious as they created a new kind of religion’ #poetryinternational

Gheblawi: Adonis ends by saying “poetry is only written by an atheist!” #poetryinternational

Gheblawi: Adonis, Yang Lian and Stephen Watts at SouthBank Centre #poetryinternational

Gheblawi: that was the end of my coverage of this brilliant event Adonis, Yang Lian and the amazing Stephen Watts #poetryinternational