Ever since Tunisians chanted Abu al-Qasim al-Shabi’s ‘If the People Wanted Life One Day’ at President Ben Ali’s crumbling regime, poetry has been a key weapon of the Arab spring, used to taunt regimes refusing to see the writing on the wall - which also turned out to be poetry, graffitied by young artists.
"Poets of Protest" reflects the poets view of the change sweeping the middle east through its intimate profiles of six contemporary writers as they struggle to lead, to interpret and to inspire.
Ahmed Fouad Negm
“When I love I love really well. When I eat I eat really well. When I write I write really well.” Satirical vernacular poet Ahmed Fouad Negm is an Egyptian folk hero, recently dubbed the “voice of the revolution”, but now in his 80s, will he ever write again?
First broadcast: Friday 31st August, 1930 GMT
“The most beautiful poem written this year is ‘the Syrian people will not be humiliated’" Now publishing her seventh collection, Syrian Hala Mohammed’s prose poetry is renowned internationally for its spontaneous language. Her work deals with memory, fear, alienation and loneliness, which is all in evidence as she reflects on the situation in her homeland. But she retains her belief in poetry’s ability to inspire the Arab spring, and has translated her despair into powerful new work.
First broadcast: Friday 7th September 2012, 1930 GMT
“All revolutions begin as poetry” Yehia Jaber, who fought with the Communists during Lebanon’s long civil war, is now one of Lebanon’s most acclaimed poets, celebrated for the bitter, comedic work he often performs like stand-up comedy. He takes us on a journey across Lebanon, and into his past, to explain why this former fighter now battles for change with nothing but words.
First broadcast: Friday 14th September 2012, 1930 GMT
Manal Al Sheikh
“I really hate to say this but this is the truth, there is no Iraq now. “ Poet, editor and activist Manal Al Sheikh says it’s now lethal for her to be a writer in her home town of Nineveh, Iraq. But thanks to Facebook and Twitter she can practice her unique blend of poetry and activism from her Scandinavian exile and continue to inspire her large following.
First broadcast: Friday 21st September 2012, 1930 GMT
“The cause of Palestine doesn’t need emotions anymore, we need minds.” Palestinian Mazen Maarouf was raised in Lebanon, and was recently forced into a double exile in Iceland after criticising the Syrian regime. His third poetry collection, “An Angel Suspended On The Clothesline” was published in Lebanon after he’d left, and we follow him from Reykjavik to Paris as he works on the translation into French. With his work translated into English, French, German, Spanish, Swedish, Maltese, Icelandic and Chinese, this rising poetry star finds himself wandering the world with his only security his notebook.
First broadcast: Friday 28th September 2012, 1930 GMT
“The men that trained the women said: ‘It’s not fair to walk in front of a Sahrawi woman.’ ” Al Khadra – Al Khadra is a renowned Saharawi war poetess, living in the Al Auin wind swept refugee camp in the Algeria. Now in her late 70’s, the oral verse of this illiterate, nomad is vivid testament to three decades of the Sahara conflict. We witness how this extraordinary matriarch survives the hardship and desolation of life in the camp, and see how she keeps her oral poetry alive and attempts to pass on her activism to the next generation.
First broadcast: Friday 5th October, 2012, 1930 GMT
Please see the promo here.