Poetry at Shubbak 2017: In Theatre, Song, Discussions, and Readings

The biennial Shubbak Festival is set to open July 1 at venues around London:

The festival — now coming up on its fourth edition — promises to include work by more than 150 artists, “originating from 14 Arab countries at over 80 events during 16 days.”

The fest is came in response to the 2011 (Arab Spring) protests and uprisings, and now bills itself as engaging “with the turbulent legacy of that period[.]” This engagement is certainly reflected in the focus of its programming. The literature strand, for its part, focuses on dystopias, queer writing, women “outside the Arab literary mainstream,” and writers working “against the grain.”

But there is also a leitmotif of poetry, with Malika Booker hosting a widely varied group of poets: Golan Haji, Mona Kareem, Dunya Mikhail, and al-Saddiq al-Raddi.

Also, opening July 5 is Tahadirected by Amir Nizar Zuabi and written by by Palestinian actor Amer Hlehel. This play follows the life of Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali, who was also the subject of Adina Hoffman’s award-winning biography My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century. From Shubbak organizers:

Forced from his home in Galilee in 1948, Taha and his family must face the reality of war. At a young age he supports his family, immerses himself in literature, teaches himself Arabic – and falls in love. Growing up in a world where stability is only ever fleeting, poetry becomes a comforting constant.

Some of Taha Muhammad Ali’s work, in translation can be found at the Poetry Foundation website.

Also at Shubbak 2017, actress and singer Norah Krief reinterprets “Al Atlal” (“The Ruins”) by Egyptian poet and founder of the Cairo Society for Romantic Poetry, Ibrahim Nagi, accompanied by a trio of musicians. The poem is best-known for its vocal interpretation by the superstar of Arabic song, Umm Kulthoum.

An English translation of “The Ruins” has been attempted by Chris Gratien; the Arabic and a French variant are also available.

Many more details are available at the main festival website, shubbak.co.uk.


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