Muhammad al-Maghut’s Verse-less Poem

By Huda J. Fakhreddine
Submitted to Session P4794 (Form and Language in Arabic Poetics, 2017 Annual Meeting
Lit
All Middle East;
Arab Studies;
At their inception, the free verse poem and the prose poem in Arabic were motivated and inspired by non-Arabic influences, primarily English and French. Nevertheless, they developed into distinctly Arabic forms, where the foreign influences were selectively and rather haphazardly engaged and where the Arabic labels, prose poem (qas??dat al-nathr) and free verse poem (qas??dat al-taf??la) did not align with their French or English counterparts. This paper will place the Syrian poet Muh?ammad al-M?gh?t’s (1934-2006) poetic intervention in the context of 20th century Arabic modernism, focusing especially on his unique position among the proponents of the free verse poem and the prose poem and on his contribution to the debates around the modern Arabic poetic forms, particularly the prose poem. When al-Magh?t’s first poetry collection Huzn f? daw’ al-qamar (Sorrow in the Moonlight) was published in 1959 by the press of Shi?r journal, it was received as an anomaly. Although considered by many to be the pioneer of the prose poem in Arabic, al-M?gh?t intentionally distanced himself from the avid theorizing for the prose poem in which many of the Shi’r poets were engaged. He evaded labels and categorizations, and intentionally avoided subscribing to a poetic agenda or even using the term prose poem to describe his work. He wrote poems that were free of meter and rhyme but that played off of the conventions of the classical qas??da. This paper will examine al-M?gh?t’s deliberate recoil from theory and the significance of his “verse-less” poetry in the context of Arabic modernist poetics.