Arab poet makes rare visit to UH
The UH Honors Commons was filled with verses of leading Arab poet, Adonis, in a unique public appearance hosted
by the UH English department.
“Today’s guest Adonis is considered the most important living Arabic language poet, and one of the Arab world’s most significant philosophers,” said associate professor Hosam Aboul-Ela at Monday’s event. “It is in no way an exaggeration to call him a leading international thinker and one of the most watched poets in the world.”
Adonis, whose birth name is Ali Ahmad Said, was born in 1930 in Qassabin, a small village in Syria. He studied literature and philosophy at Damascus University shortly after Syria became an independent postcolonial state — after being a French protectorate. As a student, he became interested in radical politics and joined the Syrian National Socialist Party.
Adonis was among Syrian and Arab activists who felt that liberation from colonialism should mean societal liberation. This ideology put him at odds with authorities and eventually led to his exile to Beirut, Lebanon.
In Lebanon, Adonis associated with reactionary Arab elites and began his life-long journey of speaking truth to powerful Arab officialdom and pointing to the debilitating role of the more backward elements in contemporary Arab Society, Aboul-Ela said.
Adonis’ experiences eventually led him away from party politics and made him an independent thinker.
Adonis founded an avant garde poetry journal, called Simply Shi’r, in Beirut by fellow poet Yusuf al Khal. Later, Adonis founded a second journal called Mawaqif, meaning “positions” in Arabic.
As the editor, he promoted liberalism in Arabic poetry. Adonis’ poetry and journal opened opportunities and options to Arab poets.
An excerpt from his journal, Mawaqif, reads, “Culture is creativity. It is not using tools, but inventing them. Culture from this standpoint is a struggle, unity of thought and action, inventing the world, life and man, with his goal in mind: to change the world and to transform life and man; a culture that is also a revolution.”
Adonis has received a long list of awards and prizes from all over the world. He has been nominated for the Nobel Prize three times.
“The lecture was outstanding and I hope we will have many more such opportunities at this campus,” said Hildegard Glass, chair of the modern and classical languages department. “To me, it is of particular interest to bring in people from other cultures to initiate and continue a dialogue from which we will all benefit.”