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Springtime of the poets

[photo]
Participants were asked to submit poems on childhood memories in Arabic, French and English.

Click on photo above for larger version.

June 6, 2012—

LAU’s School of Arts and Sciences hosted the awards ceremony for the Spring Poetry Prize on Wednesday, May 16 at LAU Byblos. The event took its inspiration from and followed the framework of Le Printemps des Poètes, an annual international francophone celebration of poetry.

In accordance with this year’s theme, “Enfances,” participants were asked to submit poems on childhood memories. Students of all majors were welcome, as were submissions in Arabic, French and English.

“I am a geneticist by training, and what genetics has taught me is that each of us has his/her own set of skills and talents that we build on,” said Dr. Philippe Frossard, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at the awards ceremony.

“We want to help to make poetry widespread, and send a message that the School of Arts and Sciences is supportive of poetry and the arts,” he added.

A total of 10 poems in Arabic, 21 in English and five in French were submitted and subsequently evaluated by a selection committee. The committee comprised LAU faculty members and Lebanese poets and writers, including the renowned novelist and critic Alexandre Najjar.

Wael Roumieh, who won the Arabic language Spring Poetry Prize, described childhood as the foundation of one’s emotional and intellectual constitution, and writing about it
as both gratifying and challenging.

Roumieh’s opening lines — “They say that childhood passes you by quickly / But it is the essence of the journey” — capture the mood of his piece, which pays tribute to childhood as life’s overture.

“To me, writing is a mirror through which I express everything I experience,” Roumieh says. “It’s not just a creative and beautiful art — it’s a way to stretch my mind on a piece of paper.”

For Bechara Maroun, winner of the French language prize with “Promesses de Vacances” (holiday promises), writing is vital. “I need it to face my everyday life,” he says.

Maroun’s poem, a sensory recollection of various images from the poet’s childhood, is marked with nostalgia and naiveté.

“It is the first poem I write after publishing my first poetry book, so it symbolizes a new era of writing for me,” says Maroun.

Dr. Tamirace Fakhoury, assistant professor of political sciences and international affairs and organizer of the event, echoes the idea that poetry is more than self-expression. “When we started this, we wanted poetry to be a transformative tool, creating links across departments and between students,” she says.

Fakhoury, who published her first poetry book at the age of nine, believes that poetry can depoliticize volatile topics and act as a vector of social cohesion.

“This event proves that poetry is capable of bringing together people who otherwise might not agree on a single thing,” she explains.

Country Program Manager for the British Council Fatme Masri, who spoke at the event, agreed. Citing 12 Angry Lebanese, a theatrical experiment-cum-documentary that follows an all-male group of Lebanese adult inmates as they undergo drama therapy, Masri argued that “literature and the arts can indeed act as tools for conflict resolution and social cohesion.”

Comedian and performing art specialist Zeina Daccache, who led the project, engaged 40 prisoners in the drama workshop, which finally culminated in their staging a performance in the Roumieh prison where they are detained.

“Daccache humanized these prisoners. She changed people’s perspective of them, and changed the way they see themselves,” said Masri at the awards ceremony.

Masri drew parallels between Daccache’s “therapeutic” approach to art and the “Theatre of the Oppressed,” a theatrical experiment developed by Brazilian theatre practitioner Augusto Boal in the 1960s.

Boal’s work, Masri noted, attempted to catalyze social and political change by actively involving audiences in the dynamics of performance, prompting them to explore and transform the reality they live in.

Such human approaches to poetry and the arts are universal, whether in Lebanon or Brazil, said Dr. Vahid Behmardi, assistant professor of Arabic and Persian literature at the Department of Humanities and coordinator of the Arabic poem category deliberations.

Though poetic forms, metaphors, and socio-political contexts will vary from one literary setting to the next, Behmardi concluded, “since feelings are universal, so is poetry.”
 


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