The University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies‘ First Annual Arabic poetry festival opens today. Details on the events & locations are here; below, organizer Samir Amar Setti answers a few questions about the event.
ArabLit: When I saw the note about SOAS’s “first” annual Arabic poetry festival, I thought…first! What has SOAS been doing all these years? And then, how did the first one get started?
Samir Amar Setti: Absolutely, as a new student to SOAS, I was surpised that no initiatives were taken to promote Arabic poetry. That’s why I have decided to go for it myself! In an institution like SOAS I’m sure there will always be a large audience interested in Arabic poetry, even after we leave university. It’s not as much about who will be organizing it, it about getting it started and keep the tradition going. This festival will be the first, hopefully with many to come!
AL: The first night also will include an open-mic event, correct? So people (from anywhere in London? primarily SOAS students?) will bring their own poems in Arabic & English? Or just Arabic is fine?
SAS: Indeed. We don’t want it to be a one sided event. I’m sure many of our guests would love to use the opportunity to share some of their poetry. You can be from any part of London, any university or even from every corner of our planet and can take the mic, entertain and share with us. Because the event focuses mainly on Arabic poetry, we’d prefer it to be in Arabic, but that’s not something we’re too worried about. Our guest’s poetry will be translated to English, so it’s an even for all those who enjoy poetry, whatever language it may be in.
AL: What sort of audience are you hoping for? Who should attend this event?
SAS: It’s an open event, and we’re looking forward to see everyone who shows interest in our society. May you be a student, a worker, a fireman, you’re all welcome!
AL: Why did you decide to do a ticketed vs. a free event?
SAS: As we are bringing poets for different corners of the Arab world, we need to cover their travel expenses and accommodation. Guests will have a lovely dinner too.
AL: Can you tell people a little about the poets/their significance? Which poet or poets are you most looking forward to?
SAS: Adnan Al Sayegh for instance is a poet in exile and we all know that being in exile for a poet will influence his poetry and the emotions he will translate in poetry.
Earlier this year I had the priviledge to listen to Abdullah Al Shamahi recite his poetry on a live occasion.
The real reason why we chose these poets is because we wanted to have a full representation of the Arab world in the event. Of course there won’t a poet from every Arab country, but most regions are represented.
Samir Amar Setti worn in Kiev to an Algerian father and a Ukrainian mother. He grew up in Belgium and Algeria. Because of that, he speaks five languages fluently. But, he says, “it’s in the years I spent in Algeria…[when] I really developed a strong interest in Arabic Poetry in particular. Today I’m a student of History and Development Studies at SOAS where I’m also involved with the Islamic Society and the recently launched Arabic Poetry Society.” Setti also writes articles for commentmiddleeast.com.