Paratext to the Poetic Practice of Sal?m Barak?t

By Esraa Al-Shammari
Submitted to Session P4794 (Form and Language in Arabic Poetics, 2017 Annual Meeting
All Middle East;
19th-21st Centuries; Arab Studies;
Prolific, refined poets usually posit a daunting pressure on scholars, translators, and serious readers alike. Sal?m Barak?t (b. 1951) is a prominent Syrian poet, novelist, and essayist of Kurdish descent who is mostly overlooked or briefly mentioned in discussions of modern Arabic poetry due to three main reasons; first and foremost, his poetic practice is burdened with nuanced, raw, incomprehensible, and subversive language; second, his heightened use of anthropomorphic elements creates a sense of uneasiness; last, his non-Arab descent clouds his language with the music of his distant Kurdish heritage. Barak?t’s language renders him a misfit within established Arabic poetics and estranges him from modern Arabic poets as he toys with language and form and rejects the label of modernism as a discontinuation with the bygone age altogether. This paper examines Barak?t’s poetic practice through his relentless unlearning and abuse of language as a means for disrupting the poetic form. To this purpose, this paper is used as a space to translate a poem titled “al-?a?al” (Partridge) and textually analyze it within the context of its d?w?n biš-šib?k th?tih?, bi-th-tha??lib allat? taq?d ar-r?? (With the Nets Themselves, With the Foxes that Lead the Wind, 1987). This poem exhibits Barak?t’s mastery of prosimetrum, free verse and prose poem alike, and is thus representative of Barak?t’s poetic practice. This paper will also make use of an essay by Barak?t titled “madh?hib al-ma?n?” (Destinations of Meaning) in which he presents his clear cut commentary on poetic practices. This essay will be tied with the analysis of the poem in question to show how Barak?t’s project, in theory and in practice, centers on the disparaging, the wounding, and the destabilizing of the simple, obvious language.