“Some Arab poets are more popular than Adonis– Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian poet, for instance — but none are more admired. A pioneer of the prose poem, he has played a role in Arab modernism comparable to T. S. Eliot’s in English-language poetry. The literary and cultural critic Edward Said calls him “today’s most daring and provocative Arab poet.” The poet Samuel Hazo, who translated Adonis’s collection “The Pages of Day and Night,” said, “There is Arabic poetry before Adonis, and there is Arabic poetry after Adonis.”
Experimental in style and prophetic in tone, Adonis’s poetry combines the formal innovations of modernism with the mystical imagery of classical Arabic poetry. He has evoked the anguish of exile, the spiritual desolation of the Arab world, the intoxicating experiences of madness and erotic bliss, the existential dance of self and the other. But what defines his work, above all, is the force of creative destruction, which burns through everything he writes. “We will die if we do not create gods/We will die if we do not kill them,” he once wrote, echoing his favorite poet, Nietzsche.”
I remember how everyone in our Arabic class used to light up whenever we got to read an Adonis poem. But since this is a <i>New York Times</i> piece, there is of course discussion of repression, fixed elections, fundamentalism (all of which are themes the newspaper is incapable of not bringing up when talking about the Arab world, regardless of the topic) and an insistence that Adonis’s secular views are “unpopular,” which seems to contradict everything else they say about him.
An Arab poet who dares to differ. (Site requires registration.)