Saturday, December 27, 2008

Millions Poet

It sounds like a legpull, devised by a young Trinity bard disgusted by the vulgarity of life as epitomised by Louis Walsh, Simon Whatisname etc but it is as real as a TV talent show can be: “Millions Poet” is a TV show sponsored by the Culture Ministry of the United Arab Emirates and broadcast live throughout the Arab speaking world on television every Thursday night. There is a panel of five judges drawn from the world of academe and poetry publishing. Winners are chosen by SMS. The prize is not only the glory of the title but a cash prize of 5 million Dirhams (about 950,000 euro or two thirds of a Nobel prize). The competition has been going for some years now and it looks like we’ll never get to read the winners in English translation or see Millions Poet being won by any of the brilliant Arabic poets who sometimes get published in English. The poets are restricted to writing Nabati poetry – a traditional Bedouin form. (“Nabati poetry, in contrast to Classical Arabic poetry, is written in the everyday dialect of the Peninsula and reflects daily life of everyday people. It has a simple, direct and spontaneous style.”) Arabic Slam in other words.

In the latest episode “The only Libyan participating in the competition, Almabrook Othman Abu Derheyba, received high praises from the judges for his beautiful and soulful verses praising women and their place in society as wives, mothers, sisters and daughters.” It’s a pity they don’t have Carol Ann Duffy or Sarah Maguire as one of the judges. It’s a pity we don’t have our own “Poet Idol”. Any ideas on the perfect four member jury?


  1. "...praising women and their place in society as wives, mothers, sisters and daughters.” Oh Lordy, how did I know the poets taking part would be all male and writing like that?

    As for a jury: Germaine Greer, Adrienne Rich, Eavan Boland and Margaret Atwood. They might sort them out.

  2. I guess in the interests of accuracy I ought to mention that women are allowed, but what do you think their chances are? Here are the original articles I came across: