x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Prince of Poets contestant back after Egypt protest

Hisham al Gakh recited his poem Tahrir Square after returning from the anti-government protests in his homeland.

ABU DHABI // After skipping last week's episode to be in the heart of anti-government protests in his homeland, Hisham al Gakh translated his experience into verse on Prince of Poets on Wednesday night.

Applause thundered through the hall and Egyptian flags fluttered above the bleachers at Al Raha Beach Theatre as he began reciting his poem Tahrir Square.

The opening verse, "Hide your old poems all of them, and write for Egypt today a poem as it [Egypt] is" was beautifully worded, the judges agreed.

"However, the following verses have a bit of poetry slouchiness, so I advise you to enhance the language," said Dr Abdelmalik Murtad, a member of the jury.

Another jury member, Dr Ali bin Tamim, called the opening salvo magnificent.

"But the event is big and is developing with surprising speed, and it is bigger than the poet's persona. Therefore this big scene cannot be controlled, and therefore the poet needs to have a lot of patience, because the event is huge and cannot be written in stages," he said.

Al Gakh continued the second verse: "No silence after today forcing its fear, so write peace, Egypt's Nile and its people."

The fifth verse triggered tears in the eyes of the audience and a quiver in the poet's voice, as he recited: "We used each other to warm ourselves and we would see you [Egypt] smiling, so we would forget its [the streets] freeze."

The crowd's enthusiasm returned as he said: "Don't let them tell you that I'm a rebel who betrayed the trust or forgot about it ... "

Dr Salah Fadel, a jury member, described the poet as a good representative of "those revolutionary people", but added that the "incredible scene" in Egypt needed more poems to tell its story.

"The jury consists of poetry experts and I completely respect their opinion," al Gakh said after the episode. "What I said in the poem is exactly what I felt and saw and meant to say."

He had planned to recite a romantic poem, but the events in Egypt drove him to come up with the new piece, he said.

Al Gakh became a popular participant on the show after he criticised Arab leaders and blamed them for the division of the Arab world in his poem Al Ta'asheera, or The Visa, which he recited several weeks ago.

"I'm a symbol now for the Egyptian people, and my place was to be with them," he said.

Al Gakh is waiting for public voting to finish next week to see whether he has qualified for the next episode.

hdajani@thenational.ae