Britain’s Poet Laureate Satirizes Theresa May

May

Scotland’s Carol Ann Duffy is Britain’s poet laureate, an honorary title and British tradition that was first introduced in 1668. John Dryden, one of the greatest English poets, was the first British poet laureate. He occupied the position for two years and was followed over the centuries by a number of poets, who were not necessarily the best of their generation, but they were popular among the people. Loyalty to the crown was not a criteria on which they were chosen.

Henry James Pye, Robert Southey, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Alfred Austin, John Masefield, Cecil Day-Lewis, Sir John Betjeman, Ted Hughes and Andrew Motion had all occupied this post before Carol Ann Duffy. Some poets refused the post, such as Thomas Gray, Samuel Rogers, Sir Walter Scott and Ireland’s Seamus Heaney, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995.

The British royal court of course does not have a role in choosing this poet or that, but the nomination is made by the prime minister based on various recommendations.

We are here to tackle Carol Ann Duffy’s poem, “Campaign,” that was published on the front page of The Guardian newspaper on Saturday. The title is a reference to Prime Minister Theresa May’s electoral campaign and the poem itself is a scathing satire, following in the footsteps of our old poets, after the premier’s embarrassing defeat in Thursday’s national elections.

Duffy described May’s body during the electoral campaign as a “question-mark / querying her lies; her mouth a ballot-box that bit the hand that fed.”

As for her eyes, “They swiveled for a jackpot win. Her heart was a stolen purse”!

Duffy then describes May’s rhetoric as “an empty vicarage,” in reference to her father’s job, with “smashed” windows. Her feet then “grew sharp stilettos”, but she is “awkward” and does not know how to move.

The satire reached its peak when Duffy described May in terms that cannot be published in the newspaper. She said that the PM lost her femininity and grew male genitals, which is morally and socially unacceptable and does not serve the purpose of the poem. In fact, it lessens its artistic value.

The poet however, in her last lines, changes the scene from the visual and tangible, reflected in Duffy’s semi-prose, to metaphorical:

When she woke,

her nose was bloody, difficult.

The furious young

ran towards her through the fields of wheat.

Satire is a foreign genre in poetry, not just in Britain, but in all European and American works. We can say that satire is generally absent in most poetry from around the world, except in Arab works where it enjoys a large share. Satire in western poetry is its worst and weakest genre.

This is why Duffy’s poem, if we can call it such, is a rare, but unwelcome, exception to the poetry of the West.

The fact that it was published on the front page of such a globally popular newspaper is a welcome development and we should “doff our hats” to it as the English say. The Guardian had previously published poems on its front page on several occasions.

It harks backs to the good days of Arab newspapers that were accustomed to publishing poems on their front page, such as Egypt’s al-Ahram which published several Ahmed Shawki poems. Iraq’s al-Bilad published works by Mohammed Mehdi al-Jawahiri throughout the 1940s and 50s.

This will likely never happen again in the Arab world because political news, no matter how weak they are, have dominated the press. In fact, the cultural sections of the newspapers no longer have the courage to tackle the poem as a main subject and their place is now always at the bottom of the page.

Juventus are Entirely Dominant in Italy. When Will their Rivals Step Up?

sport

London – To the majority of football supporters, the Italian game is a fallen giant. Serie A is seen as a fading image of what was once the best league on the planet – an image that remains vivid only in the memories of older generations. Its keenest aficionados will disagree but, given that most people only experience Italian clubs through European competitions, can they really be blamed for holding such a gloomy view of Serie A?

This year has followed a familiar trend, with Juventus the only team still in Europe at the start of April. Napoli were beaten by Real Madrid home and away in the last-16 of the Champions League, while Roma did not even make it to the group stage after their defeat to Porto in the qualifiers. Instead, they dropped into the Europa League, where they lost to Lyon in the last-16. But at least they went further than Fiorentina, who were knocked out in the first knockout stage, and Inter and Sassuolo, who both finished bottom of their groups. Inter, champions of Europe just seven years ago, finished below Sparta Prague, Hapoel Be’er Sheva and Southampton.

Italian clubs have proved disappointing in Europe and the country’s stadiums and academies are still outdated, but there are reasons for optimism. A number of clubs are competing for places in Europe and others have shown signs that they can step up and challenge for the title. Juve continue to raise the bar every season but, if the chasing pack continue to improve, there is significant evidence that Italian clubs are on their way back to the elite. There is now considerable quality, verve and excitement in the league – and more than a glimmer at the end of the tunnel.

Despite Juve’s seemingly comfortable glide towards a sixth successive Scudetto, this season has revealed a tough battle for the top six positions in the league, with fans likely to be on the edge of their seats until the last minute of the last game. At the very top of the table, Juventus sit nine points above Roma and 10 above Napoli, but both clubs possess the technical excellence required to challenge the leaders. They just lack that intangible quality: a “winning mentality”. Juventus have played some of their least entertaining football this season but Napoli and Roma (who have both outscored them in the league) have still been unable to exploit their occasional slip-ups. For instance, Juventus could only draw with Atalanta on Friday night but Roma responded by losing the derby 3-1 to Lazio on Sunday afternoon.

Napoli have shown glimpses of sheer brilliance under Maurizio Sarri this season and are perhaps the only Italian club to have gone out of Europe with pride, after winning their Champions League group and then putting up a hearty display against Real Madrid in the last-16. With one of the most aesthetically pleasing styles in Europe and their place in next season’s Champions League qualifiers all but guaranteed, they look ready to step up in the league and in Europe.

Lazio, who sit seven points behind Napoli with four games to place, are building a fine squad under Simone Inzaghi and have the potential to compete the elite next season. They have recovered well after the Marcelo Bielsa scandal in the summer – when he resigned after just two days in the job – and have the Coppa Italia final against Juventus to look forward to.

Remarkably, the last automatic Europa League place does not belong to Milan, Inter or Fiorentina – who sit in sixth, seventh and eighth – but to Atalanta, the season’s surprise package. Gianpiero Gasperini’s team have provided a blueprint for success for provincial teams who are willing to invest and trust in local talents, which has been sorely in the Italian game in recent years. Indeed, though Atalanta may lack the necessary prestige to keep hold of their most promising starlets – with midfielder Roberto Gagliardini already having joined Inter and defender Mattia Caldara bound for Juventus in two years – Gian Piero Gasperini’s men have been a breath of fresh air and positive ambassadors for Italian football.

The youngest team fielded in Serie A this season belongs to Milan, who have regularly put out an XI with an average age of just 24. Vincenzo Montella has a solid core of young talents – including 22-year-old Alessio Romagnoli, 19-year-old Manuel Locatelli, 23-year-old Suso and 18-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma – and they earned some good experience by beating Juventus to win the Supercoppa Italiana for the first time in five years in December.

The club has an experienced CEO in Marco Fassone and their new Chinese owners say they want to retain their young talents while adding quality to the squad. It will take time and effort, but it’s a project that excites the owners, according to Fassone. “We’ll have a significant budget for the next transfer window,” said the CEO last month. “The goal for the coming years is to build a very competitive and ambitious Milan.”

Inter, also acquired by Chinese owners within the last year, are determined to kickstart their climb back to the top. After numerous managerial tribulations – with Roberto Mancini leaving shortly before the season began and Frank de Boer sacked midway through the campaign – and some dubious investments in the transfer market (namely Brazilian forward Gabriel Barbosa and French midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia), Inter’s main aim should be to restructure the squad in the summer. If their new owners prove competent and ambitious, both Milan clubs could be back on their feet soon.

The Milanese giants have a long way to go if they want to catch Juventus. The Old Lady are the only domestic champions left in Europe this season and are on course to win a treble in the next month. But Milan and Inter – like Roma, Napoli, Lazio and Atalanta – know what they have to do: knock Juve off their perch, both domestically and in Europe.

The Guardian Sport

Recordings Reveal Tawfiq al-Hakim Writer for Children

London- Many people cannot believe that Tawfiq al-Hakim could have been an author of children’s literature.

They cannot believe that the man who wrote “The People of the Cave,” “The Return of the Spirit,” “The Return of Consciousness,” “My Donkey told me” and many other writings that raise philosophical and intellectual questions on thought and existence, spirit and consciousness and address the era’s complicated political and social problems could ever try to write for children.

Notably, writing stories for children requires simplicity of language and style, thought and approach, and necessitates inspiration from a whole different world of childhood, including its freshness and innocence.

It is true that al-Hakim was inspired by children’s song in “The Tree Climber” play, but he had never written stories that could be listed among those in ‘Children’s literature.’

Undoubtedly, the writer of “A Sparrow from the East” and “The Diary of a Prosecutor among Peasant” was aware of the fact that writing for children is not as easy as it seems and this is why he did not publish them back then or maybe he was not sure of their success; such a transfer remains a literary significant risk for a prominent writer.

Al-Hakim once said: “Simplicity is harder than depth. It is easier to write and narrate deep stories and words than to choose the easy style and terms that let the reader feel like I am sitting with him instead of feeling that I am teaching him. This is the problem I have been facing with children’s literature!”

Maybe, for these reasons too he resorted to recording several stories on cassette tapes in 1977 until the Egyptian Dar el Shorouk found and published them so that the Arabic reader could also be introduced to the other side of “Anxiety Bank’s” creativity.

Victims, Executioner on Same Land

How can innocent, tortured spirits live in peace while their oppressors haven’t paid for their acts and may never do? Chilean-American novelist Ariel Dorfman has raised this question in his book “Death and the Maiden”, inspired from a real incident that took place in Chile. It is the story of Paulina who was raped when she was a medical student by a sadist monster on the music of Franz Schubert’s quartet “Death and the Maiden”.

After 15 years, Paulina met him again at her husband’s house, who became a member of a committee investigating crimes of the former regime…what would she do? Nothing. But his confession would be sufficient to calm her soul.

This is what also happened in South Africa; executioners have confessed and writers of reports who led thousands of people to death have received forgiveness from their victims in crowded gatherings. Confessions omit the crime.

However, this never happened in our countries, and victims still live on the same land with executioners, who put the mask of victims.

Many people who have suffered from torture have their discrete stories, which they haven’t revealed yet. According to Dorfman, silence is the ugliest crime ever.

But what about the victims killed under torture in the dictators’ prisons? Why don’t we remember them anymore? Who killed them? We only know big killers.

A witness should always be present to tell all the past’s atrocities with its hidden prisons, fake courts, execution sessions, names of missing persons, accomplice judges, and writers of reports; people who will read about this in the future must also exist. The past will never go on if we didn’t look at its hidden details, reveal them, and most importantly release our spirits from them. Only justice can do all that; only justice can kill our primitive desires of vengeance and the personal attempts to fulfill the missing justice.

American Rock Sensation Bob Dylan Awarded Nobel Prize in Literature

U.S. musician Bob Dylan performs on the second day of the Hop Farm Music Festival in Paddock Wood, Kent

After a little over a decade of being nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, American rock sensation Bob Dylan won one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel— noting that a musician winning the top award in literature is a first.

Mr. Dylan, 75, is the first musician to win the award, and his selection on Thursday is perhaps the most far-reaching choice in a history stretching back to 1901.

After being rewarded with the Nobel Prize in Literature, Mr. Dylan, the poet laureate of the rock era, will have his name shining along those of T. S. Eliot, Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison and Samuel Beckett.

It’s not the first time it has stretched the definition of literature. In 1953, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill received the prize, in part as recognition of the literary qualities of his soaring political speeches.

Mr. Dylan, born in 1941, was credited by the Swedish Academy for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

Awarding Mr. Dylan, although lauded by many who support the academy’s choice, caused heated controversy. Many argue that the musical sensation and lyrical poet – although having presented innovative and raw pieces of art- still doesn’t fit the criteria for the Nobel Prize in ‘Literature’ particularly.

Mr. Dylan, whose original name is Robert Allen Zimmerman, was born on May 24, 1941, in Duluth, Minn. He emerged on the New York music scene in 1961 as an artist in the tradition of Woody Guthrie, singing protest songs and strumming an acoustic guitar in clubs and cafes in Greenwich Village.

Mr. Dylan’s many honors include Grammy, Academy and Golden Globe awards. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, won a special Pulitzer Prize in 2008 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

Fruitless Festivals, Conferences

Festivals

In the past, while the unions of Arabic books, public and private cultural institutions didn’t exist or were in the founding stage, we used to have special magazines that represented real interaction means among poets, writers, critics, and the Arabian reader.

Thanks to a magazine like “Al-Risala” owned by Ahmad Hasan al-Zayat founded in 1933, Arabs met the first free verse poem ‘Cholera” written by the Iraqi poet Nazik Al-Malaika in 1947, which raised debates across the Arab world. Thanks to another magazine like Al-Adab for Suheil Idriss; “Al-Adib” for Albert Adeeb; and later on ‘She’r” magazine for Yussef Al-Khal, Arab readers from all regions knew Iraqi, Egyptians, Lebanese and Syrian poets including Ounsi el-Hajj and Ahmad Matar.

Would modern poetry had spread or realized its biggest revolution or would the Arab Arab reader have heard about those poets and their leading experiences without these national magazines? We doubt that; rather, the new wave of literary works could had been limited within the borders of the poem’s country or needed a long time to reach the other Arab cultural field, like what’s happening during these days.
These magazines were the reason behind the fame of the aforementioned poets in the Arab world.

However, the most important thing is that they have created a sort of real interaction among Arab writers and critics and provoked cultural debates that advanced the cultural and literary movement in a short time; at the same time, they provided the writer with a remarkable knowledge on different cultural schools.

The objective here is not to highlight the achievements of those magazines, but to point to their absence, which triggered a huge need for real interaction among the Arab cultural elite.

Our world is rich of festivals and ceremonies that are retake place with the same figures without significant results. All these events have failed to fulfill the vital beneficial role played by the four or five magazines that brought a fruitful interaction among Arab intellects despite their limited sources and staff; those magazines believed in their cultural message and neglected social appearances.

Unfortunately, all festivals and events that have been held in our days depend on spending huge amounts of money and holding attractive celebrations; however fail in leaving any impact by the end of the ceremonies.

Myth of Centres and Margins

myth

Do ranks still exist in our Arab culture as they were in the sixties and seventies? Are Cairo, Baghdad, and Beirut still the centres of that past blissful time, and are the margins that once included other Arab countries like the Gulf and Morocco, still the same?

Even at the level of the same country, are capitals still the centres which intellectuals from other cities dream to reach in order to spread their fame through newspapers, publication houses, and even friendships and “big names” that grant praising and lauding?

Unfortunately, reality is completely different.

More importantly, did we, the well-educated people of Beirut, Cairo, and Baghdad, know well-enough the culture of Maghreb and the culture of the Gulf or the desert, as some call it? Did we read the whole cultural history of these countries located on the margin?

The centre culture, which is that of the middle class, overpowered the national culture of our countries throughout the thirties and forties of the last century, however, it missed an intellectual, cultural, and literary wealth that was generated in our margin cities.

“Writers of regions” like those of Najaf struggled to prove themselves to the writers of Baghdad; For instance, no one could have heard about Badr Shakir al-Sayyab if he didn’t write in Baghdad the “centre city”.

It may seem that these flaws have remarkably shrunk thanks to the telecommunication revolution, however, thoughts don’t easily change despite the alteration in the materialistic reality that generated them in the first place. Experiences have proved that the change of conditions is not sufficient enough to change a certain phenomenon. It takes a long period of time of education and reeducation, and bitter individual and social struggle for change to take place.

The European centralization, which created the modernization movement, succeeded in dividing the world into ranks of centres and margins, due to its financial and social influence. Nevertheless, this centralization has lost its real defenses in our time, which has led to the emergence of the opposing post-modernization movement that depends on lauding “the other’ and his culture and even praising it.

Yet, many Arab intellectuals seem to reject this post-modernization movement, and insist on repeating and reflecting in their writings and theories the nastiest of what Eastern and Western centralization have generated by excluding the other, whom they consider as a margin-member.

However, we have all learned that the exclusion of others is nothing more than an illusory expression of a sense of self-minority.

History and Popular Speech

How did popular speech breach the British society and isolate it from its European entourage? We used to think that the hypocrite, miserable, and misleading speech only succeeds in our communities that suffer from social and cultural relapse and need a lot of development. But the fact that this rhetoric has found echoes in modern societies, which enjoy high levels of scientific and cultural advancement, is certainly a dangerous matter that will capture the interest of social scientists.

In the thirties, the popular speech of Hitler and Mussolini succeeded in fulfilling its goals amidst a big economic, cultural, and social instability caused by the capitalism crisis in 1929.
But how can we understand the success of the same speech now in Europe, which has undergone many positive changes? What does the current advancement of the right-wing signify in a continent like Europe that spread the values of freedom, love, and tolerance to the world?

We believe that political, social and cultural awareness has witnessed an awful deterioration as a result of the capitalist system far from any external factor like emigration, which exists in Europe for a long time. This decline causes concern, identity loss, and regret, which creates a new social class that comprises people who depend on other people’s decisions and who represent a good investment for the right-wing at a time when the left-wing in the continent has been absent.

However, could these classes be moved in another direction? This depends on the special features of each country and could require a long time to produce a big cultural move that plays the role of awareness.