ABU DHABI // Heavy demand for places on its second programme of nabati poetry workshops has prompted the Abu Dhabi Poetry Academy to seek an upgrade in status with a view to becoming a fully fledged institute of higher education. The academy, which at the moment concerns itself solely with nabati poetry, opened for registration on Tuesday, and by yesterday 18 students of both sexes had signed up for the three-month bout of bi-weekly evening lectures, courses and workshops starting on October 1.
"There is increasing public interest in nabati poetry, and the interest we are seeing demands that we expand the courses on offer," said Zainab Amer, academic co-ordinator for cultural activities at the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach), which set up the academy - one of its largest cultural initiatives. "We need approval from the Ministry of Higher Education to be able to grant accredited diplomas in poetry studies," she added, "and we will lobby for that eventually, maybe during our third or fourth term of running the programme.
"Meanwhile, we have plans to develop a bigger curriculum, and include other forms and areas of poetry. Right now, we are taking it step by step, and concentrating on nabati." The academy is the only cultural institution of its kind in the Arab world, set up specifically to preserve and promote nabati poetry, as well as to highlight popular UAE culture at the international level. "The academy was set up following the strong interest we witnessed in poetry competitions like Million's Poet and Prince of Poets," said Ms Amer, referring to the television talent competitions, which are also Adach projects.
"The obvious interest in a cultural and traditional piece of our heritage like nabati poetry, led to the academy, which allows beginner poets to learn about the foundations and characteristics that make up nabati poetry." Young people had shown the most interest, said Ms Amer, adding that there was no specifically nabati provision at local or regional universities. Sultan al Amaimi, director of the academy, said: "The high number of applicants we are receiving shows the popular place that nabati poetry enjoys in today's society."
Khaled al Junaidi, 34, is a writer and cultural critic who registered yesterday and said he would benefit both professionally and personally from the course. "It is a school that develops talents and provides a place for a poet's creativity, but at the same time, if will give me appreciation of the work of the great poets." Mr al Junaidi, who comes from Yemen, will also use what he learns to hone his own poetry.
"Some are born with the talent to write beautiful works of poetry, but all have to learn the basics. That's why I'm signing up at the academy," he said. Hessa al Jallas was one of 27 people who attended the academy's first nabati programme, from April to June this year. "Poetry is a hobby for me and I enjoy reading it a lot," she said, "but I also write poems that I have never dared to try to publish, because I am never sure if I'm writing nabati poetry correctly."
Through the workshops offered at the academy, which introduce students to the style and structure of nabati poetry, as well as providing courses in appreciation, research and critique, Ms al Jallas was able to pinpoint the mistakes in her previous attempts at poetry composition. "We worked with prominent poets, and began understanding the rhythms and metres and balances in the verses we are composing, that differentiates nabati poetry from all other styles of Arabic poetry," she said.
"Learning the basics gives the poet the chance to develop what was once a hobby into a professional pursuit, written in a more refined style and structure." Ms Amer said that children as young as 10 had shown interest in learning about nabati poetry, which is considered an important part of Emirati heritage. The intensive programme, which covers three academic standard levels and is presented through workshops and lectures by established poets, is open to anyone over the age of 14, regardless of previous qualifications.
"Almost 80 per cent of our applicants are university students, and not just Emiratis but Syrians, Jordanian, Algerians, and people from Pakistan and Mauritius and Sudan," said Ms Amer. "Nabati poetry is known as 'the poetry of the people,' so really, all are welcome." Registration continues until September 30, from 9am to 4pm, at the headquarters of the academy in the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation.