Friday 2 April 2010

Hissa Hilal and the Power of Poetry

AltMuslimah (31 March 2010) explores the rise of Hissa Hilal, the Arab housewife featured on Abu Dhabi TV’s Million’s Poet the televised poetry contest in which participants compete for $1.3 million. Hilal's most recent poem, The Chaos of Fatwas, about clerics who issue inhumane fatwa's, has lead to denunciation by many clerics:

"In an interview with, Hilal explained why she is horrified by these manipulations of religion. “My relationship with God is strong,” she said, “It’s a loving relationship. I always say that when I am alone at night there is a rope between me and God towards the light.” She reminded me of the hadith, “God is wide in mercy and always compassionate.” Hilal has written many poems and prayers that reflect this idea.

“When I recite poetry,” Hilal said, “I feel power[ful].” Poetry has always held a prominent place in Arabic society. It has been used by people of all capacities for the purpose of entertainment, praise, requesting aid, raising social issues, and provoking change. Poetry, for the Arabs, is the mouthpiece of the people.

Fighting words are, however, not what won Hilal her spot in the final rounds. The contestants on Millions Poet are judged for their recitation, performance, and content. Hilal’s poetry is diverse and colorful. Since the age of 11, she has been writing in both the classical Arabic and colloquial styles of poetry. “Not all of my poetry is an act of protest … My poetry has to do with my issues. My poetry is strong,” she proudly said. “You will find in it my children, my nation. My poetry has life in it. My poetry has struggles. My poetry is about people, and love. It has some stunning touches, loving touches. It has touches that demand our [attention] in issues. Thanks to God, my poetry is strong,” she repeated."

image source

The Times (24th March 2010) - Veiled Saudi poet Hissa Hilal on course to win £864,000 TV poetry prize.

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