x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

The personal act of poetry alive in Abu Dhabi

Poetry evenings in Abu Dhabi attract a mixture of talent.

Farah Shamma, poet.
Farah Shamma, poet.

Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi's poetry evenings attract a mix of student poets, some of whom have already published work, as well as faculty and professionals.

For Eissa Al Raeesi, the head of the Culture and Student Services Department, it was the encouragement of students that lead him to recite the poetry he has been writing since he was in high school.

"It feels good to get back into poetry," he said. "I focus on political and human relations, mainly. At the beginning, I wrote at home and kept my work personal."

Farah Shamma, from Palestine, was first published four years ago, at 13, in Canada.

"Poetry for me is a method of expression," said the 17-year-old. "And during the poetry nights, speaking to a public audience made me feel I had to have a bigger message. I speak about Arab culture and also personal stories. Poetry is something precious."

The poetry evenings, which began a year ago and wrapped for the season last week and resume in September, are about bringing together people from diverse communities and cultural backgrounds, said Professor Jean-Yves de Cara, the executive director of the Sorbonne Abu Dhabi.

"They are united by the same love for poetry which is, like music, a universal language," he said.

For 24-year-old Wael Tahnan, from Syria, the poetry nights provide an opportunity to deliver "thoughts and fantasies".

"I started writing at age 14 in Syria," he said. "I always felt that when I write, I have no limits," he said. "Poetry is a very personal act. I have been published in newspapers in the UAE and Syria. I write about myself in order for people to appreciate it. Poetry is magical."

The poems are read in either French or Arabic with written translation. No earphones are supplied so the experience can be more natural.

For Saif Suleman, a 21-year-old Emirati, it was encouragement from family and friends that pushed him to develop his writing skills.

"I was about 13 when I started writing. My father, grandfather, aunts, all my family are poets and when I started, I kept it to myself. I read for the first time for my father and since received plenty of encouragement," he said. "I now write in both French and Arabic and I read my poetry on YouTube also, mostly about my country and traditions."

Since the start of the poetry recitals, each student said their confidence level has grown.

"We are now known as 'the poets'," joked Shamma.


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