New Bilingual ‘Barjeel Poetry Prize’ Launches Today

The Barjeel Art Foundation today launches the Barjeel Poetry Prize, an international two-language ekphrastic poetry competition that invites writers to respond to twenty works of Arab art from the 20th century:

From the website:

Art and poetry have a long history of mutual inspiration; the Barjeel Poetry Prize aims to encourage fresh engagement with Arab paintings from the Barjeel collection, and to celebrate Arab art in its myriad forms by inviting poets to respond to it in two languages.

How to respond to the painting of your choice is open to interpretation. The relationship between poem and painting could be direct or tangential; you may choose to engage with the work, the painter’s story, or to address what the art evokes in you. The conversation the poem has with the painting can challenge and/or echo it.

Six leading poets will judge the prize’s six different categories. These include the Young People’s Poet Laureate of the United States Naomi Shihab-Nye; Arab American Book Award-winning poet Hala Alyan; Ted Hughes and RSL Ondaatje Prize shortlistee Tishani Doshi; winner of the Young Writer Award from Al Qattan Foundation Asmaa Azaizeh; Rathbone Folio Prize-winning poet Raymond Antrobus; and leading Syrian poet Golan Haji, author and co-translator of A Tree Whose Name I Don’t Knowwith Stephen Watts.

The prize is open to poets and aspiring poets worldwide through September 30, 2020. Each category will have a $500 first-prize winner and a $250 runner-up winner. These winning poems will also be published in the literary magazine Rusted Radishes and displayed in the Barjeel museum beside the paintings with which they converse.

Winners will be announced the first week of December 2020.

Information on each category is available at the following:

1) Arabic-language poem (adult), judged by poet Asmaa’ Azaizeh

 2) Arabic-language poem (14-18), judged by poet Golan Haji

3) English-language poem by authors of Arab heritage (adult), judged by poet Hala Alyan

4) English-language poem by authors of Arab heritage (14-18), judged by poet Naomi Shihab Nye

5)  English-language poem by authors internationally (adult), judged by poet Tishani Doshi

6) English-language poem by authors internationally (14-18), judged by poet Raymond Antrobus

The twenty works of art are available to view at the Barjeel Foundation website. Submissions will be accepted through the Moksha website at

The prize is being co-administered by Zeina Hashem Beck, Hind Shoufani, and M Lynx Qualey, the chief editor of this website.