ABU DHABI // More than 50 million viewers are expected to tune in tomorrow night to the showdown of a poetry competition that will make each of the five finalists a millionaire. The finals of The Millions Poet, now in its third season on Abu Dhabi Television, will be held at the Al Raha Beach Theatre, and for the first time since the show was launched they will include a female poet, Ayda Al Jahani, from Saudi Arabia.
Tomorrow night's winner will walk away with a Dh5million first prize. The runner-up receives Dh4m, the third placed poet gets Dh3m, with Dh2m going to the fourth and Dh1m for the fifth and last finalist. The amounts reflect a dramatic increase in prize money - last year's winner received Dh1m. The show, which became the highest rated on prime-time television in the region during its first and second seasons, has revived interest in Nabati poetry, which is recited in colloquial Bedouin dialect and dates back to the 4th century. One of the oldest forms of Arabic poetry, it was seen as a dying art before the The Millions Poet became a success.
Mrs al Jahani says she initially faced resistance to competing from some relatives and from members of her tribe. "But they eventually accepted it and some even sent me messages wishing me the best," she said. The primary and secondary schoolteacher from Medina, who has been writing poetry since she was 12, is also confident she has the ability to win over the judges. "I hope to reach the berag. That is the only reason I came on the show," she said.
The berag, meaning flag in Arabic, is a metaphor for winning the title. One thing is certain tomorrow night: the winner will be from Saudi Arabia. After the Kuwaiti poet Mohammed Al Mouazeri Al Rashidi was voted out of the penultimate episode last Thursday, five Saudi poets, including Mrs al Jahani, were left to compete in the finals. The other four are Ziad Hajeb bin Naheet, Ayed Al Dhafiri, Fahed Al Shahrani and Mohammed Al Tamimi.
"It is a great honour for us, and it is going to add a special flavour to the final show," said Mr al Dhafari. "In the end, it does not matter who wins, because the biggest win will be for our country." He added that because the nature of the show, the best poet will not necessarily be the winner. "You can write a poetic masterpiece, but if you don't go on stage with the mindset of a competitor, it will be very difficult for you to win."
One of his rivals, Mr al Tamimi, agreed that the finals are about more than simply composing the best poem, and said the spotlight is something he still is not used to despite having been writing poetry for more than 15 years. "The moment that I stepped on the stage for the first time with the realisation that millions of people are watching me is one that I will never forget," he said. "Even if I lose, I will still feel like I won because I had the opportunity to meet and also compete with great poets, and in the end, the show is an indicator that Saudi culture and Nabati poetry are still alive and of high calibre."
The finals will start tomorrow at 10.30pm, and each contestant will each recite one poem of their choice, and another with the topic and rhythmic structure set by the show's organisers. Viewers can vote for their favourite poet until the end of the show. Their input will count for 40 per cent of the finalists' scores, with the jury's votes making up the other 60 per cent. Admission to the Al Raha Beach Theatre, which can hold 2,000 people, will be free and Hussein al Jasmi, the popular Emirati singer, will perform after the results are announced.
A special pre-taped children's version episode of the show will air next Thursday at 10.30pm on Abu Dhabi Television. Children as young as seven will be competing. firstname.lastname@example.org